on 15 February 2010
Love does not have to be sugary and sweet, as it too often is in pop/rock music. Here, the ever detached rock God Bob Dylan gives us the perfect take on hard love, love as seen from the loser, and it sounds more heartfelt than any 'you're the best thing' or 'since I met you' love albuM. But only Dylan could still pour out the affections from his heart in the next song or even the next line. Whoever the women were he was singing about are very, very privileged to have inspired the greatest love album, and probably one of the best 30 or so pop albums of any genre ever recorded.
The order of the tracks is one of the album's greatest strengths. It starts off going straight into the personal, emotional sound giving us a taste of his mood, without opening up his heart too much, yet, but Tangled Up In Blue is a belter of an opening track and tells us of the quality we've to expect in the rest of it. Simple Twist of Fate is possibly even better, though many of these tracks will compete to be people's favourites, there's hardly anything in terms of quality between most of them. Then with track 3 comes the first really affecting song, You're A Big Girl Now, with the sad love song feel all over it, Bob has finally opened up about the hurt he's feeling. The effect is stunning, it's like 'wow, here it comes, Bob's finally pouring his heart out', and the song itself is beautiful. It's followed with the angry, biting Idiot Wind, this is the embodiment of the slagging off stage after a bitter break up, only it's written by probably the best lyricist we've ever known - it's a cracker! Then comes the album's shortest track, with a slightly different tempo, more upbeat and far lighter, still openly personal, but a pure love song, full of awe and praise for a loved one. This is like a kiss when you expected another slap.
Side 2 (as it was) resets the mid west country tone, given in Tangled Up In Blue, this time with a slower, ambling blues number. For me this is the weakest track on the the album because it doesn't really fit in, but would have sounded goos on Desire, which was more bluesy. It's back up tempo with a touch of Robert Service like adventure and romance in the 2nd track, a drawn out square dance type of number about a mythical Jack of Hearts. It pads out the album, but also it sets up the great contrast we get with the next track, my favourite track and one of the album's real highlights. Few songs by anyone have ever sounded as poignant as If You See Her Say Hello. It is so personal, and even Bob's voice sounds like he means this one more than the others - this song almost hurts to listen to, but it is so utterly beautiful. Shelter From The Storm is just undiluted genius, this track more than all the others shows a master at the very height of his craft, in mid muse and sailing, this reminds you the man was born with a luscious gift and we are the lucky ones he shares it with. Buckets of Rain is a typically assured Dylan sign off, bitter sweet, and remeniscent of his mid 60s love songs such as I Want You and She Belongs To Me. There is enough class on this album to make a handful of classic albums had he wanted to carry on in this extremely rich muse he was in. Easily my most played album, once you love it, you can't be without it for long.