Beat is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.
How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.
How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.
To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.Show less
With minimalistic sounds, a great set of vocals and some brilliant songs, we are met with the controversial, but legendary album that is John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan. Recorded in typical Bob Dylan style - as much as physically possible in one day—between the October and November of 1967, the album shows a change. This album was released after Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits and most importantly, it followed the famed magnum opus of Blonde on Blonde. So our question is, what happened? How did we go from one extreme to another?
Well here it is.
Bob Dylan's famed motorcycle accident of 1966 set him out for a bit, gave him time to recover and more importantly, time for the wife and children— time away from the tour. Bob Dylan was not in the best of physical shapes in 1966, having been on the brink of death more than once. Truth be told, nobody thought he'd make it.
But, in 1967, a healthier looking, glowing Bob Dylan graced the cover of his brand new album, welcoming himself back to the music scene—with John Wesley Harding. A new, relaxing sound reflecting his new lifestyle and his new inner-peace. To be honest, we are all lucky he made it and we are all happy to see he now looks much healthier and far happier than he did on say, the cover of The Royal Albert Hall Bootleg album.
The King of Folk gives us an entire album of harmonica sounds and guitar sounds with a subtle drum beat in the background. The Folk Rock sound is slower yes, but his vocal chords sound much better after that break. This almost entirely acoustic album must have made the folkie fans of Bob Dylan very happy.
As one of the greatest albums ever recorded to Rolling Stone Magazine, John Wesley Harding serves as a timeless reminder that comebacks are possible even after the most dire of circumstances.
Again, we won't be covering every single song (or will we?) or I'll be keeping you here all day (I have a lot to say about these songs), but we will do a fair majority (or I'll do all of them, not caring for your time).
We'll be covering the most iconic to the most enigmatic songs of his career, as Bob Dylan takes you through his new inventive image. Bob Dylan said himself that on this album, he's trying not to "use too many words" and so, he invents this image completely different to the character of Blonde on Blonde, giving him time to recollect before he hits us with the vocal soul of Nashville Skyline a year and a half later.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the King has officially returned...
'John Wesley Harding'
Opening with the title song is a good idea and Bob Dylan shows us why. The song, recorded on the 6th of November 1967, is a short number which —according to Dylan—was supposed to be longer. The lyrics are fairly simple, telling the story of a character who's name Dylan misspelled - who also existed in real life. The song doesn't really have an introduction, but it gets straight into Bob Dylan showing off his new perfect folk-voice:
"John Wesley Harding was a friend to the poor
He traveled with a gun in every hand."
I wager you to try and sing that second line there like Bob Dylan sings it. I know, it's not possible. The intonation of his voice is so different to his previous albums that if you listened to this song and if you listened to say "Obviously Five Believers," you would not be able to tell they were the same person. Bob Dylan really can do anything with that voice.
The last line of the verse goes:
"But he was never known to hurt an honest man."
This line is sung so brilliantly, he goes up and down throughout the line and really does become a show off with that incredible voice of his. The way he sings the words "honest man" gets me every single time—it is really a beautiful sound.
Again, I would wager anyone to try and sing this line as good as Bob Dylan sings it:
"With his lady by his side he took a stand"
The way he sings "he took a stand" is amazing because he slightly drags out the word "stand" and the intonation creates beautiful amounts of atmosphere, adding a new dimension of incredible vocals to the song.
On this song Bob Dylan presents to us a brilliant sound that continues through the album, his voice can go high and it can go low - it has incredible intonation and in years, it is the best it has ever been.
One of my personal favourite lines of this song is:
"But no charge held against him could they prove..."
As you can tell, I've got a big appreciation for Bob Dylan's voice on this album and I think it is possibly the best its been through the 60s. He really does hold that note on "prove" a little longer than usual and makes it sound really good.
At the end of the song, Bob Dylan finishes with some more showing off of his incredible vocal chords:
"He was never known to make a foolish move."
The way he sings "foolish move" really does bring closure to the song as he moves the notes down just a little in order to finish the verse. He ends the song perfectly, which only makes you want to listen to it all over again.
The song "John Wesley Harding" was covered by McKendree Spring in 1969 and this version actually sounds alright compared to other covers.
'As I Went Out One Morning'
This pensive classic is almost mystical in the way it moves. The vocals and the harmonica echo early Dylan and yet the song sounds brand new. The guitar is subtle, strumming in the light background with Bob Dylan's vocals being soft, but powerful—building and rising throughout the song and dropping again to create atmosphere. With a character called "Tom Paine" and a "Girl" who both enchant and colour Bob Dylan's voice with the story. It serves to be one of the most incredible songs on the album. The song was recorded on the same day as the song "John Wesley Harding," as Dylan would have it no other way.
When you're talking about this album, you can never go without mentioning the classic "As I Went Out One Morning," it is a dark, brooding song with a brilliant overall sound. Some real thinking went into making this song what it is. It is a classic and it is timeless.
Bob Dylan opens the vocals with:
"As I went out one morning to breathe the air around Tom Paine's..."
His vocals are smooth and pensive, it is burning with energy that needs to be let out - yet, the movement of the story is so powerful because of this atmosphere that is created. Again, I use the word "mystical" to describe this song.
In the same verse he sings:
"I offer'd her my hand; she took me by the arm..."
The way he sings this part is beautiful. His power that is being released when he holds the words "my hand" and then drops his voice to "she took me by the arm". It is a display of incredible vocal ability and he does show off that voice very well.
One of the best parts of the song is:
"I beg you, sir, she pleaded from the corners of her mouth."
The amazing way he vocalises "pleaded" is incredible and his intonation again, is incredible. He makes sure you hear the words and yet, there aren't very many. This album seems to be as much about the voice as it is the lyrics.
To my knowledge, there has only ever been one live performance of this song with Bob Dylan and the Band in 1974. But I also know that covers by Rainbow Press and Stan Ridgway have also been produced in their time and they are, thoroughly okay. I think none of them really catch the essence of Bob Dylan's classic though. It seems to move enchantingly and they simply don't do that.
'I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine'
"I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" is one of my favourite songs on the album and serves to be one of those songs where Dylan returns to through-and-through folk rock, much to the content of the entirety of Greenwich Village.
The song was recorded on the 17th of October 1967 and then released with the album later that year. The song stands alone as being one of the greatest written songs in history—it has a beautiful remedy for bad dreams and sounds just divine. But, then again, I think it's supposed to.
This is a song with incredible imagery, it's sad and has a tinge of repent to it. It is coloured with guilt and the mastery of the vocals is unbelievable. It opens with the harmonica and sounds awe-inspiring in its tone and ability to create a story in what is, a short song for Bob Dylan.
The lyrics kick in with:
"I dreamed I saw St. Augustine alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters in the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm and a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls whom already have been sold."
The way Bob Dylan sings this is incredible. He holds various notes and makes the lines sound slightly longer and more beautiful, this song sounds almost lullaby-like in its greatness. My personal favourite part of this verse is the third line—his voice becomes slightly more powerful and yet, keeps that subtlety which is a big theme on this album. The intonation of the fourth line fits perfectly with everything in that verse, my God, it sounds amazing.
My personal favourite line of the song is:
"Come out, ye gifted kings and queens and hear my sad complaint..."
It really is a great line and it is sung perfectly. "Hear my sad complaint" is a descent that I don't think a lot of singers could do with their voices back then. It is a true achievement of the vocals on Bob Dylan's part and the fact that the section of the line just before it is quite a bit higher means that his vocals are in great shape for this album. It really is good to see him back on track after a stumble—he comes back and does it better than everyone else.
The last lines of this song get lower:
"Oh, I awoke in anger, so alone and terrified
I put my fingers against the glass and bowed my head and cried."
The way he sings "bowed my head and cried" is incredible—he gets to the lowest point in the whole song to bring it to a close and this makes his voice sound amazing. It is a magical song with some incredible lyrics and really, this is Bob Dylan at the height of his career.
I have heard a cover of this by Joan Baez and it is thoroughly average (sorry Joan, I am not a fan of your cover that much), but I do like the cover done by Eric Clapton.
The song was also performed live at the legendary Isle of Wight Concert and appears as part of the disc collection on Another Self Portrait - the tenth bootleg. It is Bob Dylan and it is pure brilliance.
'All Along the Watchtower'
Famously covered by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, this Bob Dylan song was first recorded for the album on the 6th of November 1967 and appears as the A-Side to I'll Be Your Baby Tonight on the released single. It is said to be one of Bob Dylan's greatest songs and really, I couldn't leave it out of this article.
Bob Dylan gives us one of his most iconic songs and one of his best efforts on the album. The story, the characters, the tone, the urgency of this song— it beckons you to listen to it. It is straight up and down, through and through, a folk rock classic. It begins with the guitar and the harmonica, with that absolute iconic introduction before the lyrics kick in. When you hear that, you know you're listening to "All Along the Watchtower."
"There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief..."
These lines are perfect to open the song and create that pensive atmosphere through Bob Dylan's irresistible vocal harmonies. Especially when he sings the part "I can't get no relief"—it is beautiful as an experience, to listen to.
Personally, these are my favourite lines of the song:
"But you and I, we've been through that and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."
The way Bob Dylan sings "so let us not talk falsely now" is brilliant because his voice is really reflecting the situation. His voice goes low and then a bit higher for the next part of the line. He's bringing character voice to the song, which is a brilliant feature of a lot of Dylan albums, especially this one.
Even though I may think Bob Dylan's version is the best you can get, I will share the Jimi Hendrix experience's version as well:
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - 'All Along the Watchtower'
This is a really good cover of the song, but still—Bob Dylan's is the best. I know Bob Dylan also thought that Jimi Hendrix's version was better than his, but unfortunately—I do like and respect the sound of Dylan's a bit more. Be that as it may, enjoy the sound of Jimi Hendrix and the Experience, who did a cover so famous it actually beat Bob Dylan's version on the charts and on the Rolling Stone Magazine greatest songs of all time.
I think the best thing about this song though, if we notice, the end of the song goes right back to the beginning. It's amazing:
"Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl..."
You can literally go right back to the beginning of the song afterwards and it will make sense. Bob Dylan beckons you to replay the song and this is how. It is very clever.
The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
I said I wouldn't cover the whole album, but I think we've all figured out that this is not the case. I have lied to you all and I'm sorry - I couldn't choose the songs I'd leave out so, at this point - I am lying terribly. I hope you can understand because of how incredible this album is. Anyways, let's get on.
Recorded on the 17th of October 1967, The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest serves to be one of my favourite songs on the whole record. As track five on the album, this is the long ballad we've all been waiting for. Also, a small fact: the heavy metal band "Judas Priest" are named after the character in this song. This song doesn't have much of an introduction but it sounds a lot like Bob Dylan is telling us a story through his folk-rock vibe and his minimalistic voice. It's a beautiful song with a simple guitar in the background.
Let's take a look at the stellar lyrics to this song, it opens with:
"Well, Frankie Lee and Judas Priest, they were the best of friends
So when Frankie Lee needed money one day, Judas quickly pulled out a roll of ten
And placed them on a footstool, just above the plotted plain,
Sayin', take your pick, Frankie Boy, my loss will be your gain."
I love the opening lyrics to this song because they're deceptive and Bob Dylan's voice almost tries to stay static throughout so that you don't guess what's going to happen to Frankie Lee halfway through the second part of the song. He keeps you guessing through the incredible use of voice and now, I would like to show you my favourite parts of the song:
Here's one of them:
"It's not a house, said Judas Priest, it's not a house it's a home."
This line is incredible because Bob Dylan tries to imitate how excited Judas Priest would be to say this and he sings it with a slight bounce in his voice. It is one of the strange climbs of the song which doesn't fit with the rest but colours the song perfectly in order to convey the story.
"For sixteen nights and days he raved but on the seventeenth he burst
Into the arms of Judas Priest, which is where he died of thirst."
This is where Frankie Lee dies and Bob Dylan takes the vocals down ever so slightly to convey this at the end of the second line. He takes that small pause after "Judas Priest" and before the second half of the second line in order to get the listeners to listen in more. It is a beautiful achievement of the vocals and the storytelling interwoven is brilliant.
The song is sometimes called "almost-spoken" and that's the whole point - this song is a story of two people and, in the style of the folk singers before him, Dylan imitates the campfire ballad in the best way on this album. This is a legendary song with a strong myth behind it.
Fine. I am doing every single song on the album, but go ahead and listen to the album and tell me if you can really choose between them. We're almost on my favourite song, but here—we stick around on my third favourite song on the album.
"Drifter's Escape" is an amazing achievement of soulful vocals and brilliant harmonica efforts. This song sounds slightly more powerful than the other songs on the album in terms of how its been designed. But on this song, you respect the vocals, and intonation and the way he sings so beautifully.
The song was recorded on the 17th of October 1967 and was released as the B-Side to I Threw It All Away as a single. It's awesome, so let's get into it.
The guitar and harmonica open the song in early Dylan fashion and when Bob Dylan's vocals kick in, you can really here them. Like you really hear them:
"Oh, help me in my weakness, I heard the drifter say
As they carried him from the courtroom and were taking him away
My trip hasn't been a pleasant one and my time, it isn't long
And I still do not know what it was that I've done wrong."
The way he sings that first line is unbelievable. "Oh help me in my weakness" is dragged out a little in order to introduce the character to us. The whole verse has a mysticalness about it, like the drifter is trying to enchant you with the way Bob Dylan sings about him. His voice goes low at the end of each line and then on the fourth line of each verse, he goes low a little later on so that you hear the tension and closure at the end of every stanza.
Let me tell you my favourite line from the song:
"The trial was bad enough but this is ten times worse."
The way he sings the word "enough" should be the thing that makes you listen to the song on repeat. He sings it with such power and conviction. And then, when he goes low for "but this is ten times worse" it sounds awesome, because it sounds lower—but it isn't that low at all. He just made the sound of "enough" stronger, more powerful to make a good approach to the closure of the song.
Funnily enough, this song was first performed live in the April of 1992 and well, he performed it after that on the NET—it sounds pretty good still.
I would also recommend listening to the Patti Smith and the Jimi Hendrix covers of this song, because I can't lie—they are pretty good.
Yes, I lied about not doing every song, can we move on from that now? Don't blame me, I like this song...
Not released as a single, this song is one of the under-appreciated achievements of this album. It is quite clearly part of the blues/rock genre with that scale and that beat at the beginning of the song before Bob Dylan's vocals kick in. Bob Dylan also proves his voice on this song as he uses power and intonation yet again to colour and characterise the emotions of the verses with guilt, sadness and even pleading. But seriously, this song is something of legend. Let's get on with it then.
The piano that opens the song with the drums makes for a beautiful introduction before the lyrics kick in and Bob Dylan gives it all that smooth blues stuff:
"Dear landlord, please don't put a price on my soul."
You cannot lie when you say that you shiver when he says "please don't put a price on my soul" because that blues chord is absolutely brilliant. I absolutely love it and it colours every single verse. It's Bob Dylan's brilliant voice that really makes the song - the way he slightly holds the blues 7th for "soul" is just enchanting.
They don't make music quite like this anymore. Just take a look at my favourite lines:
"Dear landlord, please don't dismiss my case
I'm not about to argue, I'm not about to move to no other place..."
I love the blues seventh of "case" and the way he sings "I'm not about to argue" is just so powerful, I swear his voice could knock you over if you listen too closely. The climb of "please don't dismiss my case" is absolutely beautiful and the smooth hold of "move" and "place" are just as enchanting. I swear this song is magical and we all know it, don't we? The final line of the song "I won't underestimate you" is low and offers a sense of closure without being complete. I love it, it sounds amazing.
Just listening to this song is a different experience for this album, it has that blues vibe that most of the other songs don't have. You should really take some time out to listen to this one a few times. It is so very good.
'I am a Lonesome Hobo'
I officially, as I stated in the introduction, don't care about your time. You're stuck here now. It's officially too late, you've been brought into the John Wesley Harding universe and now, it's impossible to get out if you've made it this far. Just don't bother trying. Strap in because we haven't even hit my favourite song on the album yet.
*Laughs in John Wesley Harding*
The song was recorded on the 6th of November 1967 and then released with the album later the next month. The harmonica that opens the introduction to the song before the vocals is beautiful and is so damn smooth that it sounds satisfying as hell. Bob Dylan really has a way with this album. The key change in the middle of the verses when it hits that seventh (at least I think it's a seventh), and then comes back to the original key is a really good feature of this song and I think that Bob Dylan's singing voice is one of the greatest things about this song. You'll enjoy it, I know you will.
A set of truly iconic lyrics open the song:
"I am a lonesome hobo without family or friends."
It's syllabic, it's powerful, it's charged with emotion and experience and it is telling us a story. The way he sings the lines "family or friends" is probably the best part of the whole thing.
Between the verses, the harmonica comes back to enchant the song and well, it works really well, echoing the kind of stuff Dylan did in Bringing it All Back Home. But his vocal chords seem a bit more grown up now (don't worry, we'll get to BIABH as well, eventually. If we make it through John Wesley Harding alive and well).
I love these lines of the song:
"I had fourteen-karat gold in my mouth
And silk upon my back..."
He almost shouts them in guilt and well, again, it's syllabic but not that much so. He shouts the first line louder than most of the other lines in the song and yet, he keeps the "silk upon my back" line descending back into the rhythm and level of the rest of the song until he shouts "back" at the end of the line. He's trying to emphasise the "rags to riches" situation with his voice. It is beautiful.
The last lines to the song offer some sense of closure to the story, allowing the harmonica to take over once again:
"Stay free from petty jealousies
Live by no man's code
And hold your judgment for yourself
Lest you wind up on this road."
It is almost like a warning that Bob Dylan gives to the listener. He brings the singing lower so that it sounds a little bit more pensive and dark. Ending the song here is really evocative because it leaves the listener with something to think about after the song is over—it is an incredible feature of his music and he seems to do it sporadically throughout his career.
The singing is so pronounced and controlled, he has a brilliant vocal talent and it is definitely prominent here. If you ever doubted him, here's the reason not to.
'I Pity the Poor Immigrant'
From now on, we're just doing all the songs. I think we've cleared that up at this point. Again, we haven't even hit my favourite song on the album, but it will come in time.
One of the most respected songs and yet, the most under-appreciated and little known songs of Bob Dylan, "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" is a ballad and a guilty-tinged elegy to the immigrants all over the world. I don't try and find meaning in Bob Dylan's songs just by the words, the way the song sounds and the way its sung is also of major importance (turns to look at Clinton Heylin).
This song is beautiful, the lyrics are amazing and the song itself is so well-designed I couldn't begin to describe. But we all I know will be describing... Right now.
The song opens with a haunting harmonica sound and Bob Dylan's vocals get underway after a introduction of the drums:
"I pity the poor immigrant who wishes he would've stayed home..."
Beautifully controlled, I love the way he sings "pity" and "immigrant", then descends the vocals slightly to "wishes he would've stayed home". There is an amazing amount of technicality in this song that needs to be heard and appreciated. The song is filled with complex vocals.
Allow me to share my favourite parts of the song with you:
"Who eats but is not satisfied
Who hears but does not see
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me..."
When he sings the first line of this set I seriously cannot believe he can do that with his voice. He makes it a little louder but still keeps the subtle beauty of the song.
The way he descends with "and turns his back on me" is something that is a brilliant achievement of the vocals. The low then the slightly higher then the even lower so that the verse closes perfectly.
The "and" being low with the "turns his" a little higher and the descending "back on" and the level out with "me"—it is a beautiful thing to analyse. So damn beautiful. I really do think he is a master of vocal talent and has an incredibly versatile voice.
I know that Joan Baez covered this song on her own album of all Dylan songs, but again I wasn't too impressed. If you want a really good version of this song listen to the 1995 MTV Unplugged Session of it recorded by Bob Dylan himself. His voice is just as strong and it sounds just as amazing. I am very impressed.
'The Wicked Messenger'
In Nashville on the 29th of November 1967, one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs was recorded and, consequently became my favourite song from the whole John Wesley Harding album—"The Wicked Messenger" stands as one of the greatest feats of music ever.
Here's a fun fact for you: in university, I read a book called The Wicked Messenger.
This song was one of the songs that got me through my undergraduate degree and seriously, it may be short but the song is so good. It is a simple song with a subtle guitar in the background, making the vocals stand out more than ever. There's a bass line that again, is soft and descending - it makes the song bounce ever so slightly and gives Bob Dylan's voice a hint of darkness to it. The song itself is something of legend and has become renowned amongst fans everywhere for its references (or believed references) to Dylan himself.
"The Wicked Messenger" has an incredible amount of technical control and clean sounds this song has is amazing and I love the way Bob Dylan sings on this one. His voice almost sounds like he's trying to tell you something about yourself - also, telling you something about him as well, all whilst telling you a story. It requires a round of applause.
The harmonica that opens the song and the lyrics that follow are brilliant whilst the song seemingly bounces almost darkly:
"There was a wicked messenger
From Eli he did come
With a mind that multiplied
The smallest matter..."
The first two lines go in time to the music, syllabically and with extreme control. It hits you and it's brilliant. When he says "he did come", he descends so slightly and ascends again just in time for "the smallest matter". The music staying static in the background but his voice, ever-changing.
"When questioned who had sent for him
He answered with his thumb
For his tongue it could not speak, but only flatter."
The way he sings "he answered with his thumb" is almost aggressive, but it fits the song perfectly. As soon as that line finishes, he moves on to the lighter third line of the set—ascending for "could not speak," but levelling out his voice in time for the end of the verse.
Just check out this part of the song:
"He stayed behind the assembly hall,
It was there he made his bed
Oftentimes he could be seen returning..."
The way he sings the second line of this set is beautiful. "It was there" descends slightly and we get the low bounce of "made his bed" just in time to re-ascend to "Oftentimes he could be". It's perfectly timed to make way for the seventh-like note of "seen returning..."
Another set of great lyrics from this song are:
"Until one day he just appeared
With a note in his hand which read
The soles of my feet, I swear they're burning."
The third line of this set is brilliant as he holds the word "soles" amazingly. I believe that that is a play on words for the other kind of sole, but that's for another time. The sound of this line is brilliant because he almost sounds like he's shouting it like a statement everyone needs to hear. Just listen to the way he states "I swear they're burning." The vocals of this song will blow you away, I guarantee you.
Another set of lyrics I like in this song are:
"Oh, the leaves began to fallin'
And the seas began to part
And the people that confronted him were many..."
The way he sings "seas began to part" with that descent of notes to the lowest point at "part" is such a characteristic of the song that we don't expect him to break the syllables to hold "part" a little longer than we're used to. But Bob Dylan doesn't do what's expected, he's completely unpredictable.
And there's this part which is also awesome:
"And he was told but these few words
Which opened up his heart
If you cannot bring good news, then don't bring any."
Bob Dylan really gives it all when he sings that second line of this set. The "opened up" is an ascent whilst all the other notes are lower, the versatility of his voice being shown off and then, he doesn't really close the song. He leaves it open on the last line for you to figure out what happened next.
It's a feature of storytelling that Bob Dylan perfectly weaves into the song through voice, not bringing the last line any lower to offer closure. He wants you to think about what it means.
This song is seriously something to be revered and possibly is one of the greatest songs ever recorded.
I would cover another line but that's actually the entire song. Wow, I actually covered the whole song, let's just move on to the next one shall we?
'Down Along the Cove'
"Down Along the Cove" is one of those songs I haven't actually got a lot to say about since it's such a short song at only about two and a half minutes long. With Bob Dylan on the piano, this song was recorded on the 29th of November 1967 and has a slight jumping beat to it, making it possibly one of the fastest songs on the album. Fun fact: Bob Dylan did this entire song in one take. Yes, just one take. It is written in a blues style and seems to be some sort of love song addressed and about a woman who comes to see him.
The song opens with the lyrics:
"Down along the cove
I spied my true love comin' my way..."
This is repeated again for the next part of the verse, but I love the way he sings the first line. It almost bounces in his voice like he's trying to hold back his immense power. The bluesy nature of his voice has an amazing sound in this song and I really adore it because it's subtle, but it's also got some throttle behind it. Especially when it descends on "coming my way," that is something beautiful to hear.
Down Along the Cove is one of those songs that changes the tune for the album and you'll find out why when you hear the final song on the album. There's something really nice and bouncy about "Down Along the Cove" and it's sound is perfectly fitted to Bob Dylan's bluesy voice. I love the entire minimalist style of this album but please, we have to have more appreciation for the song that manages to change the album's tone after "The Wicked Messenger."
I hope I can show you why this is, and sorry "Down Along the Cove" were so short, I kind of think I'm taking up all your time with "The Wicked Messenger" here.
'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight'
This song, also fairly short, is actually a really cute song to listen to. The harmonica carries this song I think, it presents us with the rhythm and the pace and the way the song is supposed to sound. Bob Dylan is debuting his almost-Nashville Skyline vocals as well, so we get two new things on this album. As of yet, we haven't had the harmonica carry the song in John Wesley Harding, but this one really establishes it. The sound of this song is so slow and steady, Bob Dylan's love song works as a great piece of closure to the album. (I bet you're really thanking God that this is the last one on the album, right?)
The lyrics open:
"Close your eyes, close the door
You don’t have to worry anymore
I’ll be your baby tonight."
Bob Dylan's vocals are soft and subtle and they are absolutely lovely. It's a nice addition to the album because you don't have to read too much into it. It's not one of those deep and pensive songs, it is instead a sweet love song that has all the affections of something folkie and something almost bluesy. The way he sings "I'll be your baby tonight" is something of beauty because he doesn't put too much power behind the voice, but he puts some of his blues stuff into it instead. It sounds great. It really does.
I love this part of the song which is the only part he puts real power into with that blues bridge:
"That big, fat moon is gonna shine like a spoon
But we’re gonna let it
You won’t regret it..."
The way he sings and puts power into "you won't regret it" is amazing because the whole song just ascends into the conclusion of the final verse with "kick your shoes off, do not fear"—I think it's a beautiful way to close the album.
"I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" has been covered by the likes of UB40 (a cover I personally did not enjoy, sorry Mum) and it has also been covered by numerous other people including Emmylou Harris (who was awesome at it), Rita Coolidge and even Norah Jones. This song is a truly great one and deserves more appreciation.
John Wesley Harding is an unforgettable album filled with timeless classics, under-appreciated songs and deep cuts. It has a brilliance in its working with that minimalistic sound. Some people do not like it, but they'll get used to it eventually. I love the sound of this album because Bob Dylan's bluesy/soul vocals are brought to the forefront and I feel like I can really hear him. My favourite song on the album is "The Wicked Messenger," what's yours?
I hope you enjoy this album as much as I do.