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The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964)

por Bob Dylan

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The Times They Are a-Changin' is the third studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on January 13, 1964 by Columbia Records. Whereas his previous albums Bob Dylan and The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan consisted of original material among cover songs, Dylan's third album was the first to feature only original compositions. The album consists mostly of stark, sparsely arranged ballads concerning issues such as racism, poverty, and social change. The title track is one of Dylan's most famous; many feel that it captures the spirit of social and political upheaval that characterized the 1960s.

Some critics and fans were not quite as taken with the album as a whole, relative to his previous work, for its lack of humor or musical diversity. Still, The Times They Are a-Changin' peaked at No. 20 on the US chart, eventually going gold, and belatedly reaching No. 4 in the UK in 1965.

Songs
The Times They Are a-Changin' opens with the title track, one of Dylan's most famous songs. Dylan's friend, Tony Glover, recalls visiting Dylan's apartment in September 1963, where he saw a number of song manuscripts and poems lying on a table. "The Times They Are a-Changin'" had yet to be recorded, but Glover saw its early manuscript. After reading the words "come senators, congressmen, please heed the call", Glover reportedly asked Dylan: "What is this shit, man?", to which Dylan responded, "Well, you know, it seems to be what the people like to hear".

Dylan recalled writing the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the moment. In 1985, he told Cameron Crowe: "This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced of course by the Irish and Scottish ballads … 'Come All Ye Bold Highway Men', 'Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens'. I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time."

The climactic lines of the final verse: ""The order is rapidly fadin'/ And the first one now/ Will later be last/ For the times they are a-changin'" have a Biblical ring, and several critics have connected them with lines in the Gospel of Mark, 10:31, ""But many that are first shall be last, and the last first."

A self-conscious protest song, it is often viewed as a reflection of the generation gap and of the political divide marking American culture in the 1960s. Dylan, however, disputed this interpretation in 1964, saying "Those were the only words I could find to separate aliveness from deadness. It had nothing to do with age." A year later, Dylan would say: "I can't really say that adults don't understand young people any more than you can say big fishes don't understand little fishes. I didn't mean "The Times They Are a-Changin'" as a statement … It's a feeling."

"Ballad of Hollis Brown" was originally recorded for Dylan's previous album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. That version was rejected and the song was eventually re-recorded for The Times They Are a-Changin'. Described by Clinton Heylin as a "'tragic tale of independence and free will' culled from the folk idiom", it is a grim, rural Gothic story of a father killing his starving family ("There's seven people dead on a South Dakota farm").

"With God on Our Side" was first performed at New York's Town Hall on April 12, 1963 (which also happened to be Dylan's debut appearance at that venue). Although Dylan claims it is an original composition, the melody to "With God on Our Side" bears a striking resemblance to "The Patriot Game", the lyrics of which were written by Dominic Behan and the melody borrowed from the traditional Irish folk song, "The Merry Month of May". Behan called Dylan a plagiarist and a thief, in an attempt to goad Dylan into a lawsuit; Dylan made no response. "The Patriot Game" was originally introduced to Dylan by Scottish folk singer Nigel Denver. Scottish songwriter Jim McLean recalls Dylan asking him in late 1962: "'What does it mean, 'Patriot Game'?'... I explained—probably lectured him—about Dr. Johnson, who's one of Dominic's favourite writers, and that's where Dominic picked up [the] saying: 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.'" Music critic Tim Riley writes: "'With God on Our Side" manages to voice political savvy mixed with generational naivete" as it "draws the line for those born long enough after World War I to find its issues blurry ('the reasons for fightin'/I never did get') and who view the forgiveness of the World War II Germans as a farce."

Dylan follows "With God on Our Side" with a soft, understated ballad: "One Too Many Mornings". "It's the sound of someone too smitten by love to harbor regrets, grown too independent to consider a reunion," writes Riley. One of the more celebrated songs on The Times They Are a-Changin', Dylan would dramatically rearrange it on his legendary 1966 concert tour for a full electric band.

"North Country Blues" tells the story of a mining company's decision to outsource its operations to countries where labor costs are cheaper than in the U.S.A. ("It's much cheaper down in the South American towns/Where the miners work almost for nothing".) The song marks the first time Dylan wrote a narrative from the point of view of a woman: the ex-wife of a miner whose work has disappeared. This song has been described by many critics as Dylan's portrait of his hometown, Hibbing, Minnesota.

Dylan first performed "Only a Pawn in Their Game" at a voter registration rally in Greenwood, Mississippi. The song refers to the murder of Medgar Evers, who was the Mississippi leader of the NAACP. Civil rights activist Bernice Johnson would later tell critic Robert Shelton that "'Pawn' was the very first song that showed the poor white was as victimized by discrimination as the poor black. The Greenwood people didn't know that Pete [Seeger], Theo[dore Bikel] and Bobby [Dylan] were well known. (Seeger and Bikel were also present at the registration rally.) They were just happy to be getting support. But they really like Dylan down there in the cotton country."

The melody for "Boots of Spanish Leather" was inspired by Martin Carthy's arrangement of the English folksong "Scarborough Fair" (also the melody of an earlier Dylan composition, "Girl from the North Country"). Dylan learned Carthy's arrangement during his first trip to England in late 1962. After finishing his obligations in England (including a brief appearance in a BBC drama, Madhouse on Castle Street), Dylan traveled to Italy looking for his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, apparently unaware that she had already returned to America (reportedly the same time Dylan left for England). While in Italy, Dylan created an early draft of "Boots of Spanish Leather". Salon.com critic Bill Wyman called the song "an abstract classic and one of the purest, most confounding folk songs of the time".

According to Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin, "When the Ship Comes In" was written in August 1963 "in a fit of pique, in a hotel room, after his unkempt appearance had led an impertinent hotel clerk to refuse him admission until his companion, Joan Baez, had vouched for his good character." Heylin speculates that "Jenny's Song" from Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera was also an inspiration: "As Pirate Jenny dreams of the destruction of all her enemies by a mysterious ship, so Dylan envisages the neophobes being swept aside in 'the hour when the ship comes in'."[11] Dylan's former girlfriend Suze Rotolo recalls that her "interest in Brecht was certainly an influence on him. I was working for the Circle in the Square Theatre and he came to listen all the time. He was very affected by the song that Lotte Lenya's known for, 'Pirate Jenny'."

"The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" tells the story of a hotel barmaid who died after being struck by a wealthy white man. The song was inspired by Dylan's reading a newspaper account of the incident which took place in a hotel in Maryland, in February 1963.

The closing song of the album, "Restless Farewell" takes its melody from the traditional Irish-Scots song "The Parting Glass". Dylan's lyrics have an edge due to the way that Newsweek had treated Dylan. In a profile of the singer, published in October 1963, Dylan was portrayed as someone who had lied about his middle-class origins. Furthermore, it was implied that Dylan had plagiarised the lyrics of his best-known composition, "Blowin' in the Wind". Stung by these untrue allegations, Dylan composed a song about the pain of having "the dust of rumor" flung in his eyes. He swiftly recorded the work a few days after the Newsweek profile appeared on October 31, 1963. The album ends with Dylan's vow "I'll make my stand/ And remain as I am/ And bid farewell and not give a damn".

Outtakes
The sessions for The Times They Are a-Changin' produced a large surplus of songs, many of which were eventually issued on later compilations. According to Clinton Heylin, "perhaps the two best songs, "Percy's Song" and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune", would not make the final album, failing to fit within the narrow bounds Dylan had decided to impose on himself."

"'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' ... along with 'Eternal Circle' ... marked a new phase in Dylan's songwriting", writes Heylin. "It is the all-important link between the clipped symbolism of 'A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall' and the more self-conscious efforts to come the following year. A celebration of song itself, 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' was also an admission that there were certain songs 'no voice can hope to hum'."

Riley describes "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" as "a hymn to music's instrumental spectrum ... it's about the heightened awareness of nature and reality available to performer and listener in the course of a highly charged musical experience". The song is also rich in natural imagery, often in surreal, musical terms ("The cryin' rain like a trumpet sang/And asked for no applause"). Steven Goldberg writes that the song depicts nature "not as a manifestation of God but as containing God within its every aspect". The Byrds released their own celebrated version of "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" in 1965 on their critically acclaimed second album, Turn! Turn! Turn!

"Percy's Song" is sung from the point of view of a man who visits a judge in a futile, last-ditch attempt to save his friend from a severe prison sentence. It is based on a tune taken from "The Wind and the Rain", a song introduced to Dylan by Paul Clayton. "'Percy's Song', along with ... 'Seven Curses' and 'Moonshine Blues', showed that Dylan's command of traditional themes, housed in traditional melodies, remained undiminished by the topicality of other efforts", writes Heylin. Fairport Convention recorded their own celebrated rendition of "Percy's Song" on their critically acclaimed third album, Unhalfbricking.

Written sometime in late 1962 or early 1963, "Only a Hobo" was also recorded during these sessions but ultimately set aside. Described by Heylin as "a superior reworking of [Dylan's earlier composition] 'Man on the Street' that took as its source the 'Poor Miner's Lament'", the song is sung from the point of view of a sympathetic narrator who stumbles upon a homeless man lying dead in a gutter. Rod Stewart later released his own celebrated version of "Only a Hobo" on the critically acclaimed Gasoline Alley in 1970. Dylan himself re-recorded "Only a Hobo" for Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II, only to reject that version as well. He eventually released his own version in 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991.

Dylan also recorded demo versions for publishing purposes of several songs on the album. The demos, recorded for his first two publishing companies, Leeds Music and M. Witmark & Sons, were available for many years as bootlegs and were officially released by Columbia Records in October 2010 on The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 – The Witmark Demos: 1962–1964.
1 vote jlafarga001 | Jul 24, 2020 |
INFORMATION-This album contains the following tracks all written by Bob Dylan:
1 The Times They Are A-Changin', 3:15
2 Ballad of Hollis Brown, 5:06
3 With God on Our Side, 7:08
4 One Too Many Mornings, 2:41
5 North Country Blues, 4:35
6 Only a Pawn in Their Game, 3:33
7 Boots of Spanish Leather, 4:40
8 When the Ship Comes In, 3:18
9 The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, 5:48
10 Restless Farewell, 5:32
  Lemeritus | Jan 11, 2014 |
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If The Times They Are a-Changin' isn't a marked step forward from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, even if it is his first collection of all originals, it's nevertheless a fine collection all the same. It isn't as rich as Freewheelin', and Dylan has tempered his sense of humor considerably, choosing to concentrate on social protests in the style of "Blowin' in the Wind." With the title track, he wrote an anthem that nearly equaled that song, and "With God on Our Side" and "Only a Pawn in Their Game" are nearly as good, while "Ballad of Hollis Brown" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" are remarkably skilled re-castings of contemporary tales of injustice. His absurdity is missed, but he makes up for it with the wonderful "One Too Many Mornings" and "Boots of Spanish Leather," two lovely classics. If there are a couple of songs that don't achieve the level of the aforementioned songs, that speaks more to the quality of those songs than the weakness of the remainder of the record. And that's also true of the album itself -- yes, it pales next to its predecessor, but it's terrific by any other standard.
 
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