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The album that set the benchmark in confessional songwriting,
This review is from: Blood On The Tracks (Audio CD)
It has been thirty years since "Blood on the Tracks" was released and of all of the albums recorded by Bob Dylan it is the one that has most increased in stature simply because every album produced since then has failed to rise to this level. I think the reason for this is mainly because it was born in a creative burst of pointed lyricisim as his marriage to Sara Lowndes collapsed, with all the songs written in two months in the middle of 1974. I would no more expect any personal turmoil to provide similar inspiration any more than I would have expected any of the songs on this album to rise to the level of social rhetoric found in his greatest songs of the Sixties.
In "Blood on the Tracks" Dylan also turned his back on his greatest backing band, returning to his artistic routes on an album that is largely acoustic-based. The songs run the emotional gamut from sorrow and regret to bitterness and pain. At the same time, despite the obvious point of origin for most of these songs, this is not an openly confessional album (cf. Courtney Love's "America's Sweetheart"). After all, we are talking the lyrics of Bob Dylan, which means cryptic riddles and allegories abound all laid out in ten classic tracks:
"Tangled Up in Blue" is the best song on the album and the ambguity about the characters and relationships Dylan sings about has only increased over the years with the shifting lyrics in various performances. The cover version by the Indigo Girls remains my favorite Dylan cover.
"Simple Twist of Fate" is another great four-word phrase in a song that represents the most overtly personal song on the album. The stark instrumentation only serves to highlight the heartbreak of the existentialist lyrics and the mournful sound of the vocals.
"You're A Big Girl Now" is a ballad on the end of a relationship and a sort of benediction in that clearly the woman is right to move on, but Dylan is still haunted by their physical encounters. You would think that this would have been the logical final track for the album, but it is not.
"Idiot Wind" is song on the album that most reminds me of an earlier Dylan composition, namely "Like a Rolling Stone," the pair being a set of put-down songs. The difference is that while both song lash out in lots of directions, this one keeps coming back to a certain "babe." This is another song that has changed over the year for various reasons that could well inspire a doctoral dissertation.
"You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" is a rather upbeat track, despite the descending chord progressions, and is usually considered a song hopeful of reconciliation rather than one eulogizing the breakup.
"Meet Me in the Morning" stands out musically as the most blues oriented track that always struck me as cleansing the palatte for what was coming next on the album.
"Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" is a 8:50 story song that basically wears down the listener's insistence that this is a biographical album. It also has a line that Dylan seems to sing with nic epitch and without affection, to wit, "and Lily had already taken all of the dye out of her hair." Pay attention next time through to that one phrase.
"If You See Her, Say Hello" probably represents the emotional low point of the album, with lyrics reflecting a singer who is crushed and embittered by the end of the relationship, turning his anger in on himself.
"Shelter from the Storm" is a song of simple beauty, based on three chords and a simple melody, underscoring a profound sense of loss. The song provides an avalanche of symbols and metaphors, but actually seems to end on an optimstic note.
"Buckets of Rain" provides a fitting finale, suitably depressing lyrics against a rather upbeat melody as irony once again abounds. After this song there is no where left to go.
"Blood on the Tracks" is listed by "Rolling Stone" magazine as the #16 record on the list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, between #15 "Are You Experienced?" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and #17 "Nevermind" by Nirvana. It is one of ten Dylan albums on the list, behind #4 "Highway 61 Revisited" and #9 "Blonde on Blonde." This For pretty much the complete story on the making of this classic album, check out "A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks" by music journalist Andy Gill and guitarist Kevin Odegard, who played on the five tracks recorded in Minneapolis. You can also listen to "The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3" to hear the original version of "Tangled Up in Blue," "Idiot Wind," and "If You See Her, Say Hello" recorded in New York City in September to compare with the Twin Cities versions from December of 1974.