Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan Review

Freewheelin’ the Voice of a Generation may be, his work on sophomore album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan shows an exhibition of tightly wound sound. These are not the coasting notes of a man not trying. These are inherited strings and chords that hope to improve on the eponymous debut. Bob Dylan’s application and later rebellion against the tepid waters of acoustic guitar tracks is a beautiful crescendo, and it starts with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. His acoustic blues are categorised well, and with a chirpy reservation that does not touch on the later moments of fighting against the powers that be. This is Dylan at his most free and his happiest. His least critical album, but one of his essentials. 

There are still the cries of protest lingering around, but his main focus is one of growth. His opening track is still the most promising of all his pontification. Blowin’ in the Wind is one of many masterstrokes from Dylan’s discography. That first coupled line, the meaning behind it all and the reaction a listener has is so unique. It is a charming aspect of Dylan’s creativity, that he can process the winding roads of life in just two lines. The rest of the track dedicates itself to that idea of life being a non-entity in search of salvation. It is no surprise that the song of salvation is featured so prominently, with its Biblical inclinations clearer, but broader. Effectively, Dylan shifts his writing from the specific to the general, and the tonal change it creates leads to some masterful songwriting. 

Much of that is found later in the album too. That lonely traveller style can be heard on Down the Highway. It is dependent on the lyrics more than anything. Those quick strums of the guitar are used as nice bridges between dialogue, but for most of the song, listeners are reliant on the meaning of the lyrics. Although a forced focus on the lyrics works for what Dylan has to say, it is not his most inspired singing. It is no Like a Rolling Stone, and the heavy folk tones are hard to swallow on a few tracks throughout. Even then, they are recognisable, likeable and listenable. That is a trio Dylan has a knack for, and he rarely offers a track that is not up to scratch. The core of the album sees the strongest moment, with A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall outlining the abilities he has for longer-running songs.  

But it is not all mystifying quality from the freewheelin’ hero at the heart of the album. Masters of War feels more like an early prototype for the lyrically quick turns of phrase to come from Highway 61 and Blood on the Tracks. Following that with Down the Highway and the weaker side of Dylan is revealed. His weaker side is still incredibly strong. Even at his lowest artistic ebb twenty years later he would provide fine lyrics and finer songs. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is not up to scratch when compared to other, later offerings. But to compare Dylan to himself makes little sense, for his worst offerings are still leagues above the rest of those in the genre. How many artists can write and perform with a sombre outlook on the hard times of life at such a young age? Incredible, but there was still plenty of room to grow for the man who sang of the hard rains of life.  

2 thoughts on “Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan Review”

  1. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – forgotten?

    You’re kidding?

    It’s the first masterpiece, the foundation stone of an unparalleled body of work.

    And regarded as such by most Dylan fans.


    1. There’s nothing in this article to suggest this was a forgotten album. In fact, in most of the paragraphs, my whole point is that Bob Dylan’s later, best works depends on this The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, because it is the great cornerstone of his discography and unforgettably important in leading to the likes of Highway 61 and The Times They Are A-Changin’. Thanks for reading, though! It’s a masterstroke from the man himself, although I’ve got a bit of a preference to Blonde on Blonde and Desire myself.


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