Band: Bob Dylan
Album: John Wesley Harding
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Dylan's trip to Memphis in 1967 after recovering from a motorcycle accident resulted in his most country album to that point. Similarly, he developed his mid-career style of writing, wherein every line was shorter and more potent. Cliche as it may sound, the record is something of a turning point in a career filled with them.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's a stretch to call this a great album. There are some good songs, certainly, and the record's writing is a sea change for Dylan. But, really, the songs aren't great.
Best song: "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" is interesting in structure and composition and "All Along the Watchtower" is a classic.
Worst song: I don't care for "Down Along the Cove"
Is it awesome?: Not really.
You know what's sad? I still have three more Dylan albums after I finish this one. All said, there are 10 Dylan albums on the 500 list (11 if you count "The Basement Tapes"). That's one every five weeks. Ick.
In one of the magazine's "What I Learned" features, Ray Charles said this:
When you write a good song, it will be good even if it's sung by somebody with a bad voice.
I doubt he was saying that about Bob Dylan, yet that single sentence sums up Dylan so well. Dylan's verbosity was toned down for this record, but he still managed to concoct an absolute classic track for the album, "All Along The Watchtower." Dylan's voice in the song is nothing of worth; He sounds frail, nasal and downright annoying. But the song rises above Dylan's voice. The song's biblical allusions and easy chord progression make for a great record and it's one of Dylan's best.
Of course, the staying power of "Watchtower" actually is in its ability to be covered by just about anyone ans remain a classic. The Dave Matthews Band -- a group I despise -- does "Watchtower" and it is their best song. Tom Petty has played it and is among the best versions. And, of course, Jimi Hendrix' version remains the one by which all versions are measured.