ON THIS DATE (49 YEARS AGO)
May 27, 1963 – Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 5/5
# Allmusic 5/5 stars
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is the second studio album Bob Dylan, released on this date in May 1963 by Columbia Records. It reached number 22 in the US (eventually going platinum), and later became a number one hit in the UK in 1964.
Freewheelin’ was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2002. The citation read: “This album is considered by some to be the most important collection of original songs issued in the 1960s. It includes “Blowin’ in the Wind,” the era’s popular and powerful protest anthem.” The following year, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 97 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (this ranking would later be changed to number 98 in the published book version of the list).
Whereas his debut album Bob Dylan had contained only two original songs, Freewheelin’ initiated the process of writing contemporary words to traditional melodies. Eleven of the thirteen songs on the album are original compositions by Dylan. The album kicks off with “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which would become one of the anthems of the 1960s, and an international hit for folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary soon after the release of Freewheelin’. The album featured several other songs which came to be regarded as amongst Dylan’s best compositions and classics of the 1960s folk scene: “Girl from the North Country”, “Masters of War”, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.
With this album Dylan emerged from the cloak of Woody Guthrie and proclaimed his own unique talent. No longer detached–the set was originally entitled Bob Dylan’s Blues–he personalized his songs, famously rejecting four from the final draft in favor of others reflecting his newer muse. Protest songs were given a wider resonance–the text of “Masters Of War” remains sadly relevant decades later–while his love songs are haunting but universal statements. Dylan injected black humor into the talking blues and railed against injustice in all forms, with a perception encompassing the anger of a generation. Freewheelin’ is a landmark in the development of folk and pop music.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, the record that firmly established Dylan as an unparalleled songwriter, one of considerable skill, imagination, and vision. At the time, folk had been quite popular on college campuses and bohemian circles, making headway onto the pop charts in diluted form, and while there certainly were a number of gifted songwriters, nobody had transcended the scene as Dylan did with this record. There are a couple (very good) covers, with “Corrina Corrina” and “Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance,” but they pale with the originals here. At the time, the social protests received the most attention, and deservedly so, since “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Masters of War,” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” weren’t just specific in their targets; they were gracefully executed and even melodic. Although they’ve proven resilient throughout the years, if that’s all Freewheelin’ had to offer, it wouldn’t have had its seismic impact, but this also revealed a songwriter who could turn out whimsy (“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”), gorgeous love songs (“Girl From the North Country”), and cheerfully absurdist humor (“Bob Dylan’s Blues,” “Bob Dylan’s Dream”) with equal skill. This is rich, imaginative music, capturing the sound and spirit of America as much as that of Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, or Elvis Presley. Dylan, in many ways, recorded music that equaled this, but he never topped it.
All songs written by Bob Dylan, except where noted:
“Blowin’ in the Wind” – 2:48
“Girl from the North Country” – 3:22
“Masters of War” – 4:34
“Down the Highway” – 3:27
“Bob Dylan’s Blues” – 2:23
“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” – 6:55
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” – 3:40
“Bob Dylan’s Dream” – 5:03
“Oxford Town” – 1:50
“Talkin’ World War III Blues” – 6:28
“Corrina, Corrina” (Traditional) – 2:44
“Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” (Dylan, H.Thomas) – 2:01
“I Shall Be Free” – 4:49
Some very early first pressing copies contained 4 songs that were ultimately replaced by Columbia on all subsequent pressings. These songs were “Rocks And Gravel”, “Let Me Die In My Footsteps,” “Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand” and “Talkin’ John Birch Blues”. Copies of the “original” version of “Freewheelin'” (in both mono and stereo) are very rare and fetch hefty sums on the collectors market.
The original track listing was as follows:
“Blowin’ in the Wind” – 2:46
“Rocks and Gravel” – 2:21
“Let Me Die In My Footsteps” – 4:05
“Down the Highway” – 3:10
“Bob Dylan’s Blues” – 2:19
“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” – 6:48
“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” – 3:37
“Gamblin’ Willie’s Dead Man’s Hand” – 4:11
“Oxford Town” – 1:47
“Corrina, Corrina” (Traditional) – 2:42
“Talkin’ John Birch Blues” – 3:45
“Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” (Dylan, Henry Thomas) – 1:57
“I Shall Be Free”