Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bob Dylan: Blood On The Tracks

"A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It's hard for me to relate to that. I mean, it, you know, people enjoying that type of pain, you know?"

-Bob Dylan in an interview with Mary Travers.

Blood On The Tracks marked Bob Dylan's return to form, even if he did declare himself a, "creature devoid of form", in the song, Shelter From The Storm. Released in January of 1975, Dylan's 15th studio album would reach #1 on the Billboard Charts and #4 on the UK charts, and in 2003, the album ranked #16 on Rolling Stone magazines 500 greatest albums list.

Despite Dylan's refusal to admit that any of the songs are autobiographical, the recording and release of the album coincides with the painful and bitter split with his wife Sara Dylan. It has been cited by fans, critics, and music lovers alike, as one of the greatest break up albums of all time.

Blood On The Tracks opens with the classic Tangled Up In Blue, which peaked at #31 on the Pop charts. Tangled Up In Blue is an impassioned and beautifully crafted song about two lovers who's connection seems to defy time and space in any linear fashion. Despite the depth of love that these two feel towards each other their relationship is doomed by fate or circumstance, and despite all best efforts, there's nothing the two can do about this, except to take consolation in the knowledge that they will cross paths again one day.

Simple Twist of Fate is the second track on the album. The theme of fate again, plays an important role in the vision of Dylan. This song is by far the saddest and most alienating of the ten tracks. The narrator provides the tale of two doomed lovers first in the third person, then switching to first in the final verse. The voice is that of a man at the end of the line, lonelier than he ever thought possible.

You're A Big Girl Now continues exploring the painful depths of lost love.

The fourth track, Idiot Wind, takes the tone of the album in a different direction, and providing the blueprint for the angry love song. The song is a brutal verbal attack unleashed by a snarling and angry Dylan that hadn't been heard from since Like A Rolling Stone.

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, is the last track of side A on the original vinyl version of the album. Again, Dylan changes the tone of the album by throwing in this playful gem. Again, the same themes are approached that he did in the previous tracks, but in this one there is not only a sense of hope but even the possibility of reconciliation.

With Meet Me In The Morning, Dylan taps into the twelve bar blues and gives the listener a funky little number to open the second half of the album.

Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts, is the most complex story on the album. The song feels more like a short story recited over a country and western tune, than a song in any traditional sense, or even in comparison to what Dylan delivers on this album.

If You See Her, Say Hello is the eighth track and with it, Dylan returns to the slow, languid, pace he began the album with. In this song, the narrator has reached a state of acceptance with the hand he's been dealt and the fate of his love affair. This track was also featured at the end of an episode of Showtime's Californication.

Shelter From The Storm which might be the strongest song on the album, combines the themes and storytelling of the previous tracks put approaches them in a different way, using the voice of biblical prophet similar to the songs on John Wesley Harding.

Bucket of Rain, the final track on this album, is a nice closing piece and a good counter point to the heaviness of the previous track. Bucket of Rain, the final track on this album, is a nice closing piece and a good counter point to the heaviness of the previous track.

And what would any classic Dylan album be without a myth story to accompany it. Blood On The Tracks was originally recorded in New York City in September of 1974. Just before Columbia Records was due to release the album, Dylan pulled the plug and elected to re-record some of the tracks. In December of 1974 Dylan backed by studio musicians recruited by his brother David, Bob re-recorded five of the songs on the album. Since its release fans and critics have speculated on the reasoning. Some have cited that the original version of the album was monotonous with two many songs in the same key and with the same languid rhythm. I have also heard the story that Bob and others found the original recordings of the album to be too raw and personal, citing that on the New York version of Tangled Up In Blue you can hear the buttons on Dylan's coat sleeve taping against his guitar while he's playing.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I think it's a great album, and so too, it appears, do some college professors. They're using it to teach the mechanics of poetry!