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Dylan Was Living On the Edge.
on December 17, 2003
Bob Dylan's third album, The Times They Are A'Changin', is probably his most openly cynical album every recorded. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Dylan's second album, features downbeat songs, as well ["Masters of War," "Hard Rain's A' Gonna Fall," "Talkin' World War III Blues," along with others], but featured some upbeat love songs, as well. The Times They Are A'Changin' is the next logical evolution upward from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan--as Freewheelin' was a haphazard folk album--serious and pessimistic but also light and funny--The Times They Are A'Changin' is focused and has a distinct purpose--illuminating the political and social problems of "the times" in an open and straightforward manner. Though there are a few love ballads on the album ["One Too Many Mornings" and "Restless Farewell"], mostly there is nothing but derisive political statements. On "With God On Our Side," Dylan sings, "Now we got weapons of the chemical dust. If fire them we're forced to, then fire them we must. One push of the button, and a shot the world wide. But you never ask questions when God's on your side." Though "With God On Our Side" is a direct shot, he's never been more upfront with his disdain than on "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." Throughout the album, Dylan says many painfully honest assertions about the United States, and I really can't believe he got away with it. He was walking on the edge, as anyone who has heard the album can attest, and it isn't surprising that he toned down his cultural antipathy on his next album, Another Side of Bob Dylan, though does not do away with it completely [see "My Back Pages"]. Though there are many sarcastic and negative songs on The Times, there are also a couple nice songs. For instance, "When The Ship Comes In," is one of the nicest songs he's ever recorded--lyrically the best of the album: "A song will lift as the mainsail shifts and the boat drifts on to the shoreline. And the sun will respect every face on the deck, the hour that the ship comes in." It is, in fact, the most important song this time around--actually prophesying of the hour when the times, indeed, will have changed.