"Let's build a wall, against the cynical acts"

- The Dodos

John Wesley Harding (album) by Bob Dylan 

This album At A Glance
John Wesley Harding
John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan (1967)
Overall rank: 938th   Overall chart history
Average Rating: 
78/100 (from 542 votes)
  Ratings distribution
Accolades: Top albums of 1967 (21st)
Top 100 albums of the 1960s (97th)
Top 1,000 albums of all time (938th)

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Bob Dylan bestography

John Wesley Harding is ranked 10th best out of 65 albums by Bob Dylan on BestEverAlbums.com.

The best album by Bob Dylan is Highway 61 Revisited which is ranked number 20 in the list of all-time albums with a total rank score of 74,876.

Bob Dylan album bestography « Higher ranked (872nd) This album (938th) Lower ranked (1,020th) »
Nashville SkylineJohn Wesley HardingLove And Theft

Members who like this album also like: Blonde On Blonde by Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan and Revolver by The Beatles.

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John Wesley Harding rankings

John Wesley Harding ratings

Average Rating: 
78/100 (from 542 votes)
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Showing latest 5 ratings for this album. | Show all 542 ratings for this album.

Date logged
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10/08/2018 14:41
09/25/2018 17:48
09/22/2018 12:03
09/21/2018 19:26
09/20/2018 17:44

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John Wesley Harding comments

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From rockinsteve 07/18/2018 03:04
Very nice acoustic set of songs by Mr. Dylan. The remastering on this one is wonderful. Bob's vocals are very clear as is the backing instrumentation. The bass really stands out. Bob really hit a groove with his story telling and conjured images with this one. Just a fantastic sounding cd!
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From JimagineL 05/17/2018 00:50
A good Bob Dylan output, throwing back at his more traditional style after Blonde on Blonde. Some distinguishable tracks here, the obvious one being "All Along the Watchtower", we should all thank Bob Dylan for creating this song to mister Jimi Hendrix to master later on.
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From Reppu1976 03/15/2017 23:23
The true counterpoint of Sgt. Pepper's
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From garycottier 04/01/2016 19:37
Dylan's first album since his motorcycle accident in late summer '66. It has a much lighter tone in terms of it's music, but the same certainly cannot be said of the lyrics. This is dark stuff. Ghostly, eerie, even frightening, involving all sorts of characters from, damsels(or is that witches)in distress, unscrupulous landlords, chronic gamblers, and misunderstood loners. The music, though as I said lighter, suits these stories perfectly. The title track opens the album, followed by, as I went out one morning, and the haunting atmosphere really grabs you. The most famous song on the album is off course the stunning, all along the watchtower, which Jimi Hendrix would turn into an apocalyptic rock masterpiece, Dylan's version is not so heavy, but certainly more spooky. I like the fact that hardly any of the songs features a chorus, and I think that adds to the mystery of it all. Other highlights are, the ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas priest, dear landlord, and the wicked messenger. As the album nears it's end, suddenly on the last two tracks, the tone changes. It's lighter, even throwaway, but the pop blues of, down along the cove, and, I'll be your baby tonight, gives us a sneak preview of where Dylan will go next. To the country. John Wesley Harding, is a great Dylan album, just don't listen to it with the lights off. Actually, do. Excellent.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +2 votes (2 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
From Brandon8 03/28/2016 02:44
Perhaps a bit of a step back at the time but at the end of the day another solid Dylan album. All Along the Watchtower is one of his best songs.The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest was good enough to name a metal band later on. The rest is solid worth a listen.
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From Dravahh 01/29/2016 18:16
An underrated album if you ask me!
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From briggs54 06/24/2015 18:07
Dylan, right at par.
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From gtroda 01/25/2015 19:00
The first album after Dylan's "classic" period. The first one that wasn't an unquestioned masterpiece since his debut. It took me a little longer to get into it than the albums that came before but it does reward repeated listens. There are fantastic songs here like I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, The Ballad of Frankie Lie and Judas Pries, and of course All Along the Watchtower.
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From Skinny 10/06/2014 13:09
It's funny that most of the comments here allude to this being below par for Bob, and not on the same level as some of his other recordings. Personally I think that's absolute hogwash - this is Dylan at his very best; Dylan the mythologiser, Dylan the storyteller, Dylan the philosopher.

Beginning with the opener and title track, Dylan weaves a series of telling tales about his life and his career as told through the point of view of others. The title track is no more about John Wesley Hardin than it is about Dylan the protest-singer, or at least the one which the media chose to portray. It may seem like a simple tale of a Robin Hood-esque noble outlaw, but the song itself acts as a metaphor for Dylan's own exploits, or at least some exaggerated version of them as dreamed up by those raving, quasi-religious "followers" he was so reluctant to acknowledge in the first place. In the final verse he appears to switch to something more accurate, at least in terms of his opinion of himself and the way he could confound expectations and hopes others had of him ("no charge held against him could they prove"). And why, of all people, choose John Wesley Hardin anyway? The man was apparently so mean that he once killed a man for snoring (though this probably didn't actually happen), so why choose his name for a tale about a noble outlaw? My opinion is that Dylan chose Hardin for his reputation as a self-mythologiser, a man who would wilfully embellish his stories in order to make them more exciting, just as Dylan has been wont to do. (Anybody who seriously believes Chronicles to be a work of accurate autobiography needs their head checked.) Dylan even looks like a noble outlaw on the cover, enhancing the idea that he sees himself as Hardin, or at least the Harding of this song and this album. What people often dismiss as a series of cute folk tales and ditties, ones which I've been told pale in comparison to his apparently more focused and passionate paeans to love or justice, are arguably his most personal (or, perhaps more accurately, his most self-referencing) works, those in which he puts himself smack bang in the middle of the story, even as somebody else entirely.

And we see this happen throughout the record. Dylan is the lonesome hobo who has served his time for everything except begging on the street (or is he? Would he really admit to not trusting his brother?), who in turn is the accused drifter. He is both the joker (whose wine is drunk by businessmen and whose earth is dug by ploughmen, without gratitude or recognition of his worth) and the thief (who understands that life is but a joke). Whilst he is defiant in the face of accusations (he is no martyr), he feels the pressure of expectation, the guilt that perhaps he played along and performed his role, even going so far as to bowing his head and crying in the (imagined) presence of St. Augustine (who wasn't, in fact, martyred - perhaps more mythologising on Dylan's part).

Perhaps the album's two most striking moments, the parable 'The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest' and the piano-driven 'Dear Landlord', appear to be about Dylan's relationship with his management. Judas Priest tries to force Frankie to accept his offer "before (it) all disappears"; Frankie, in his attempts to join Judas in his beautiful home, dies of thirst. Did Dylan sell his soul? Is that what he's admitting to? Or is it just a precursory warning about the trappings of fame, about mistaking paradise for that home across the road? But later, on 'Dear Landlord' (frequently thought to refer to God, but that reading doesn't wash with me, it seems far too confrontational for that), he warns that he's "not about to move to no other place". Perhaps he likes the home after all. "If you don't underestimate me", he states to the Landlord, "I won't underestimate you" - perhaps a grudging respect, or just a necessary compromise.

Not all of the album's songs are so dense with cryptic tales and biblical imagery (in fact, on first inspection, not many of them seem remotely cryptic at all, but that's another story). Album closer 'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight' is a simple love song, much more in line with the stuff he'd record on Nashville Skyline, often regarded as this album's sister. That may be true musically (both definitely take their cues from roots and country music), but thematically the two couldn't be more different. Here we have Dylan the shapeshifter, the defiant myth-buster, the mischievous myth-maker, whereas on Nashville Skyline we see Dylan the hopeless romantic. And the music here is much more sparse, darker, naked. On Nashville Skyline there's a certain decadence musically, Dylan basking in the Nashville sound, with all its twangs and rhinestones. Here Dylan lays his soul bare, over fittingly austere accompaniments, often nothing more than a few shuffling guitar chords. Where The Band - whose Music from Big Pink I see as more of a sister album to John Wesley Harding than anything else - used roots music as something expansive and out-of-time (sounding at once centuries old and yet of the present, as though it has no time of reference at all, the musical equivalent of a tree that stands for hundreds of years), Dylan here uses roots music as something small and insular, music to share stories around the campfire to.

Which is, essentially, what this album is. It's Dylan sharing his stories around the campfire, his fears and his guilt, and his pride in forever confounding expectation. This is Dylan the man, and Dylan the myth. This is Dylan the honest, sharing his thoughts as nakedly as he ever would, so long as you're willing to dig a little.

Or maybe - just maybe - this is Dylan the deceiver, singing simple folk tales for his followers to dig into forever more, in futile search of some deeper meaning that simply isn't there. Maybe - just maybe - I've been duped, and this album does, in fact, pale in comparison to his earlier works. And maybe - just maybe - the little neighbour boy was right; "nothing is revealed".
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From swhaze 08/20/2014 17:58
And once again Bob's shifted gears on us. Gone are the electric guitars that so inflamed the Newport audience. At the height of psychedelia, Bob the rebel comes out with what in the 90s would be considered an Unplugged band.
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Best Albums of 1967
1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
2. The Velvet Underground And Nico by The Velvet Underground And Nico
3. The Doors by The Doors
4. Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
5. Forever Changes by Love
6. Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles
7. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn by Pink Floyd
8. Songs Of Leonard Cohen by Leonard Cohen
9. Axis: Bold As Love by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
10. Disraeli Gears by Cream
11. Strange Days by The Doors
12. Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane
13. Days Of Future Passed by The Moody Blues
14. The Who Sell Out by The Who
15. Something Else By The Kinks by The Kinks
16. Safe As Milk by Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band
17. I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You by Aretha Franklin
18. Chelsea Girl by Nico
19. Goodbye And Hello by Tim Buckley
20. Younger Than Yesterday by The Byrds

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