Bob Dylan's 'Blood on the Tracks' is one of the most talked about albums of all time and having recently discovered it's contents I can now understand why.
To me Bob Dylan was the whining voice that played incessantly in my frequent visits to hippy run record shops in my punk days of youth. An endless drone that seemed directionless and empty.
Now, at the grand old age of 37, I decided it was about time that I investigated the work of the great man and what a work this is.
Essentially folk / blues in it's make up, this is a collection of songs of intense quality and breathtaking emotion. Dylan is on spectacular form and delivers each track with the depth of feeling that suggests he was personally involved with the story line of each one.
This is one of the finest albums I have ever heard and has been played to death since I bought it. I defy anyone not to connect with one or two of the songs and would describe it as educational and essential for any music lovers collection.
There are 22 reviews of this album on amazon.co.uk, and you might well ask what on earth I can write that hasn`t already been said. My initial response would be "You`ve got some attitude, Mr!", but the short answer is I can add nothing; but that doesn`t mean I don`t feel I should write something to express how breathtaking it is.
I`m too young to have a context in terms of society or where Dylan was in his life in `74, so I`ll just keep it simple. I normally listen to hard rock, and some friends don`t like the sound of Dylan`s voice on his earlier work; this definitely is more accessible. Only in terms of sound though - not content. "Idiot Wind" is mind-blowing, containing some chilling imagery, and terrific delivery, and followed by as contrasting a piece as possible, "You`re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"...your head is still reeling and it`s like putting a Gainsborough next to a Goya - both masterpieces but the juxtaposition is the killer. I hope that makes sense! This album meets whatever need you may have as a listener. "Shelter From The Storm" is another wonderful song, preceded by "If You See Her, Say Hello", where Dylan`s voice sounds as though it`s genuinely drowning in emotion, especially when compared with the bile of "Idiot Wind"...it`s just one stunning moment after another, one great line after another, one great song after another...I`ve tried to avoid simple song for song explications, as it`s an album that needs to be listened to in it`s entirety to be appreciated as it should be. If you`ve got any doubts about this purchase, dispel them and buy it, as your jaw will hit the floor, more than once.
on 12 October 2006
Listen to this loud and alone,without distractions,and have the lyric sheet near at hand.This will make you think,listen again and think some more.In possibly his greatest work Dylan expresses one or more emotions to which we can all relate somewhere or at sometime.If you want the antithesis of manufactured image driven substanceless pop you have found it.
Although there was some very good intervening material,Dylan would not produce anything of this quality again until 1997 when Grammy winner Time Out of Mind enriched our lives and on which his masterpiece Not Dark Yet appears.
One of these two is his best and which may depend on your mood when you listen.
Blood On The Tracks best track? That is a very difficult question and in many ways it only exists as a whole work but,if pressed, Shelter From The Storm. Pure Genius
on 30 July 2005
Some personal stuff first: hearing Tangled Up In Blue under the bedclothes on late night radio, when I should have been revising for O' Levels, first turned me on to this album - and to the power of poetry and the blues. Until punk came along and shifted my musical axis, this album was rarely off my turntable...ultimately the turntable broke and got replaced by a CD player, so that it has been twenty years since I listened to this album. I finally got around to buying it on CD 6 months ago - and it sounds as great and moving as it first did to the callow teenager under the bedclothes.
There's never been a doubt about Dylan's lyrical ability, but the poetry, combined with narrative flow, of Tangled Up in Blue, Simple Twist of Fate and Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts turn them into real "tours de force". The emotional connection that You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, If You See Her, Say Hello and Shelter From the Storm make - and the sweet bitterness of Idiot Wind and Buckets of Rain - really hit the spot. Oh - and the melodies are strong too. These are Dylan tunes you can hum along too, if you're so inclined.
Surely every music lover has this album already?
Dylan may not be my favourite artiste of all time - but if I could take just one album with me when I die, it would be this one.
on 27 July 2006
This album is monumental. No longer is Dylan the whiny, cocky kid from Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde and Bringing it all Back home. Here, he shows that he is all too human. The idiots who treated Dylan as their "messiah" find that he is the same as us all, that he does suffer trials and tribulations. It opens with the magnificent Tangled Up in Blue which is quite simply an epic piece of storytelling. Simple twist of fate
is possibly the saddest song about love ever written. Lonesome when you go is great (sounds like something Elvis would have sung) and meet me in the morning is catchy. Then there is Idiot Wind. Without a doubt the nastiest song Ive ever heard as Dylan spits his venom at all those who have double crossed him. You can actually hear his anger and resentment burst from the song and it is a truly masterful piece of dark dark poetry. All in all, the only following albums that come anywhere near close are Desire and Oh Mercy.
Dylan may have written better songs but many of his albums are patchy enough in terms of songwriting or performing and Blood on the Tracks is top quality throughout, his best since Highway 61, ten years before. Indeed, although amazingly poorly represented on Best Of Dylan type compilations, the album's first 5 tracks are pretty indispensible in the the Dylan canon - Tangled Up in Blue, Simple Twist Of Fate, You're A Big Girl Now, Idiot Wind and You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. From a technical point of view, his voice strains, his guitar is slightly out of tune, the harmonica playing is at times amateurish and the lyrics scan unnaturally but, whaddyaknow, it sounds brilliant. Only Dylan can get away with this! Other standouts are If You See Her Say Hello and Shelter from the Storm but really the album is a wonderfully homogenous whole, variations on the theme of tangled and broken down relationships coming, I believe, at a time when he was having marital problems. Of the other tracks Meet Me in the Morning is simple blues format, Buckets of Rain unassuming and Lily, Rosemary etc is a catchy uptempo story-song that goes on a bit long. In a Desert Island Disc situation this is the Dylan album you'd want to bring along. Powerful stuff and still fresh.
on 4 December 2004
Paul Gambaccini organised one of the 1st 'best album ever' polls around 1978, and 'Blonde on Blonde' came in number 2 to Sgt Pepper, so I asked for it for Christmas when I was getting into 'the classic rock albums'. I remember the disappointment of wading through all those blues perambulations and concluding that you had to have been there to appreciate this particular genius.
A friend of my brother's brought 'Blood on the Tracks' round a bit later and played it while we were playing Risk, and suddenly I realised what the fuss was about. You can actually here a higher percentage of the lyrics here; Dylan has learned to subdue the music to his lyrical forte, and, as he says, 'every one of those lines ran true'. Opener 'Tangled Up In Blue' hooked me straight away; 'She was married when we first met / Soon to be divorced' is a masterful sublimation of deep pathos under humour.
This remains one of my favorite albums, and suits the mature listener, as a fine example of how rock can take its main lyrical preoccupation - 'romance' - and eloquently describe its failure. I've since discovered other Dylan albums, and recommand 'Bringing it all back home' over 'Blonde..', but this remains, for me, his crowning achievement. Updating this review, I can now recommend it in particular if you're separating / divorcing too 8*( .
on 24 May 2004
Described simply but accuratley by many as 'the ultimate break-up album', Dylan manages to convert raw emotion into 10 tracks of musical genius. Despite releasing a number of strong albums in the late 60s and early 70's, critics remained skeptical as to whether Dylan would ever reach the heights of talent that he had exhibited in the 60's with legendary albums like Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisted. Dylan's credibility as a legendary songwriter was instantly restored with this 1975 release, documenting the unraveling of his marriage. One of the clear stand-out tracks is 'Idiot Wind', a seven minute long outpouring of bitterness and hatred, exquisitely crafted by Dylan's unique style. Whilst 'Idiot Wind' is a highlight, every track shines, and this album is both essential for even the most casual of Dylan fans, as well as the perfect starting point for the uninitiated.
The 2003 remastering of the album has only served to accentuate the 'bare-bones' atmosphere of the album, making you feel as if you're right there in the studio listening to Dylan pour his heart out.
Bob Dylan: Planet Waves (1974)
The precursor to Blood On The Tracks, a much more positive albums, but still emotionally driven and lyrically complex.
Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (1991)
An all encompassing 3CD release, with endless highlights, but worth buying if only for the alternative versions of several of the standout tracks from Blood On The Tracks.
on 5 June 2008
Just a note for anyone who, like me, wants to buy a CD version of this, after the old vinyl copy's become battered. Has Dylan's singing ever sounded so fresh, so full of intent and invention? It's a bizarre idea, as one reviewer here suggests, to listen to this while reading the lyric sheet; for every sentence, each word, is crystal-clear, the voice full of tautness and intelligence. On this CD (remastered?) version, the voice sits slightly apart from the instruments, not muffled behind them. A stunning performance.
on 5 May 2000
"Blood on the Tracks" holds the highest place in my estimation and I regard it as the best album I have ever heard. Every single song on the album captures my heart in a way that I cannot begin to describe. The way I see it, (and I think that personal opinion is integral to interpreting Dylan's music) this album is an exploration of pain in every shape and form. I read that Dylan was offended that someone wrote "You're a Big Girl Now" was about his wife leaving him, and I immediately felt guilty about having imagined the same thing. But when you think about it, the song is not be about his wife but the emotions he is portraying to such perfection can only be attributed to someone who has felt this way before. It still doesn't mean it must be about Sara, because I am sure most of us of us can listen to this song and recognise that agony and that despair from personal experiences. It just so happens that because of the press, elements of Dylan's personal life could not escape the public eye. And round about the time that this album was written, Bob and Sara's marriage did break up. I can't help but think that this break up fuelled Dylan's emotional material in writing this album. Every song describes a different interpretation or way of coping with love and loss, and God knows that there are too many to mention. The feelings range from hatred and fury (Idiot Wind), blameless sadness (Simple Twist of Fate), despair (You're a Big Girl Now), resignation (You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go), and agonising melancholy (If You See Her Say Hello). But Dylan's songs are not written to be labelled as meaning one particular thing. They are alive and constantly changing. In themselves they carry a multitude of feelings, emotions and points of view. Especially in "Blood on the Tracks", Dylan appears to be unclear himself as to what he feels and believes. It is interesting to listen to previous recordings of the songs off of this album (The Bootleg Series vols 1-3) because they portray totally different attitudes to the same situations and this just stands as proof that the emotions he is presenting us with are by no means defined. Who has loved and lost and never experienced the transition from anger and hatred to desperate love, to dejection and wretchedness, and finally collapsed in "Buckets of Tears" asking yourself and God and whoever may be listening - Why?, all in the space of a few seconds? If you never have, just listen to the album and you'll get a pretty good idea.