BOB DYLAN – ” The Times They Are A-Changin ” Classic Albums Released January 13th 1964

Posted: January 13, 2021 in MUSIC
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“The Times They Are a-Changin’” is the third studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released in January 1964 by Columbia Records. Some critics and fans were not quite as taken with the album as a whole, relative to his previous work, for its lack of humour or musical diversity. Still, The Times They Are a-Changin’ entered the US chart at No20, eventually going gold, and belatedly reaching #4 in the UK in 1965.  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.

Produced by Tom Wilson, it is the singer-songwriter’s first collection to feature only original compositions.  Whereas his previous albums Bob Dylan and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan consisted of original material among cover songs, 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 felt that it captured the spirit of social and political upheaval that characterized the 1960s. The message isn’t in the words, …. I don’t do anything with a sort of message. I’m just transferring my thoughts into music. Nobody can give you a message like that.
~Bob Dylan (to Ray Coleman, May 1965)

Dylan’s third album reflects his mood in August-October 1963. It is also a product for his need to live up to and expand on the role he found himself in, topical poet, the restless young man with something to say, singing to and for a new generation. Dylan began work on his third album on August 6th, 1963, at Columbia’s Studio A in New York City. Once again, Tom Wilson was the producer for the entire album. Dylan had, by the time of recording, become a popular, influential cultural figure. Eight songs were recorded during that first session, but only one recording of “North Country Blues” was ultimately deemed usable and set aside as the master take. A master take of “Seven Curses” was also recorded, but it was left out of the final album sequence.

Another session at Studio A was held the following day, this time yielding master takes for four songs: “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, “With God on Our Side”, “Only a Pawn in Their Game”, and “Boots of Spanish Leather”, all of which were later included on the final album sequence.

A third session was held in Studio A on August 12th, but nothing from this session was deemed usable. However, three recordings are taken from the third session eventually saw official release: “master” takes of “Paths of Victory”, “Moonshine Blues” and “Only a Hobo” were all included on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 released in 1991. In 2013, “Eternal Circle” and “Hero Blues” were included in the 1963 entry of The 50th Anniversary Collection 1963.

Sessions did not resume for more than two months. During the interim, Dylan toured briefly with Joan Baez, performing a number of key concerts that raised his profile in the media. When Dylan returned to Studio A on October 23rd, he had six more original compositions ready for recording. Master takes for “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “When the Ship Comes In” were both culled from the October 23rd session. A master take for “Percy’s Song” was also recorded, but it was ultimately set aside and was not officially released until Biograph in 1985.

An alternate take on “Percy’s Song”, a “That’s All Right” (Arthur Crudup)/“Sally Free and Easy” (Cyril Tawney) medley and “East Laredo Blues” were released in 2013 on the 1963 entry of The 50th Anniversary Collection. Another session was held the following day, October 24th. Master takes of “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and “One Too Many Mornings” were recorded and later included in the final album sequence. A master take for “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” was also recorded, but ultimately left out of the final album; it was eventually released on Biograph. Two more outtakes, “Eternal Circle” and “Suze (The Cough Song)”, were later issued on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991. A final outtake, “New Orleans Rag”, was released in 2013 on “The 50th Anniversary Collection”.

The sixth and final session for The Times They Are a-Changin’ was held on October 31st, 1963. The entire session focused on one song—“Restless Farewell”—whose melody is taken from an Irish-Scots folk song, “The Parting Glass”, and it produced a master take that ultimately closed the album.

There were to be 6 recording sessions alltogether for The Times They Are a-Changin’.

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 humour 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.

On October 26th, 1963, three days after recording the final song for The Times They Are a-Changin, Dylan held a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. That night, he performed eight songs from his forthcoming third album, as well as several outtakes from the same album sessions (including “Percy’s Song”, “Seven Curses”, and “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”). Columbia recorded the entire concert, but it was decades before a substantial portion of it was officially released (in fact to date the concert in its entirety has not been released). Nevertheless, the performance was well received by the press and audience alike

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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