The Times They Are A Changin'
Release Date: January 13th, 1964
Words by: Nick Bornholt
January 14th, 2013
In great art one finds an outward, cosmic sort of elegance; an unforced natural beauty, wholly noticeable, it's the majesty of an oak tree – ineffable but logical, it is beyond re-creation and imitation, bordering on perfection. When searching for great art in the music scene, one finds a true master in Bob Dylan.
The Times They Are a-Changin' is the third studio album in what will go on to be a truly prolific collection. Written during mid to late 1963 it was recorded under the guidance of Tom Wilson for Columbia and released to the world on the 13th of January, 1964 – making for one hell of a new year. The album wants for nothing lyrically or stylistically; packed to the gills with blood boiling criticism of societies shortcoming, pointing the finger squarely at an unjust ruling class- just sharpening their knives for the military industrial feast they are about to unleash on the world. The Album kicks of with its title song The Times They Are a-Changin' which needs no introduction, it became the rallying tune of a movement bent on changing the world for the better, and serves as the simple but poignant start of the journey that one takes with this album. We move on to Ballad of Hollis Brown a goose bump inspiring rendition of tragedy in Eb Minor, the lingering Appalachian blues haunt the listener throughout, opening ones eyes wider to the albums theme.Ineffable but logical, it is beyond re-creation and imitation, bordering on perfection.
We then move on to the criticism of American exceptionalism manifest by the folky Irish vibes of With God on Our Side set to the tune of The Merry Month of May, and perhaps more than a little inspired by the lyrical work of Dominic Behan's Patriot Game; before sliding into what seems like a repeat of the opening track, as familiar chord structure eases the listener into One too Many Mornings. The fifth song and final track of the opening side of the LP is where things really get glorious- North Country Blues with its ABCB simplicity rolls us across the Mesabi Ranges of Dylan's childhood, personifying the woe-begotten tale of the American steel industry through its female narrator, it is Dylan at his best. On the flip side of the LP things begin with a return to the boil over in society, as Medgar Evers is remembered, and the bourgeoisies criticised for their manipulation of everyone riding 'the caboose of the train' in Only a Pawn In Their Game. The musical styling of the album steps into a slightly more complex realm in the next song Boots of Spanish Leather an ode to Raggle-Taggle Gypsy this love tale of the open seas sets the listeners mind on a journey, it is beyond beautiful: it's a sunset, it's the northern lights, it's as near perfect as music gets. The nautical inspired theme continues onto the next track When the Ship Comes In, this sister song was said to have been penned in a moment of fury after Dylan was denied entry to a hotel (because he looked like a vagabond) needing Joan Baez to vouch for him before he could take a room, we should all thank that uptight hotel clerk. With the album winding down we move onto a song as tragic as it is amazing, 'I took it out of a newspaper and changed the words' said Bob Dylan of this tale of racism and injustice at the hands of Billy Zatzinger, a man who took the life of the songs namesake in The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll and only served 6 months for his crime, his villainy appropriately immortalized by Dylan. We move on to the albums final track, not just a name but a feeling, as one approaches the end of the road Restless Farewell returns to the plucky Celtic rhythm's found earlier in the album, with a reworking of the Scottish folk ballad The Parting Glass; the song is the perfect way to ease the listener from the turmoil, anguish and outright beauty poured through us by this very fine collection of songs.
Writing a description of this album is no small task, its like trying to describe an epic road trip to a friend that stayed at home- you just have to live it. You have definitely heard one track from the ten listed above, maybe even a few, but if you haven't journeyed through this album form start to finish then do yourself a favour – take a seat, turn up the volume, ease the treble and experience the master at work.