Saturday, 2 June 2018

Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks (1975)


Released January 1975

Recorded at A & R Studios, New York City and Minneapolis

Firstly, whatever format you buy this album, the sound is pretty much uniformly excellent. I have the current remaster from "The Complete Album Collection" box set. Those crystal clear, razor sharp acoustic guitar parts (check out the intro to "You're A Big Girl"); that lovely, melodious, gently rumbling bass; that great drum/percussion sound and then Dylan's voice (and also his harmonica) as good as it ever sounded. Just spectacular sound. 

I have learnt, over the years, as many have, that the album was initially recorded as a stripped-back, acoustic and bass creation, and that Dylan re-recorded five songs a few months later, in Minneapolis,  using a full session band. I remember, when I first enjoyed the album, in 1975, automatically thinking that those five songs were the "fuller", more powerful-sounding numbers, without knowing the reason why. Not that I didn't enjoy the stark beauty of the other five, augmented wonderfully as they are by Tony Brown's sumptuous bass lines. 

Asterisked below are the "full band" songs from the later sessions in December 1974 and the more acoustic ones from September 1974's sessions. Now, more takes from the sessions can be enjoyed thanks to the release of the excellent "More Blood, More Tracks" box set.  


1. Tangled Up In Blue*
2. A Simple Twist Of Fate#
3. You're A Big Girl Now*
4. Idiot Wind*
5. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go#
6. Meet Me In The Morning#
7. Lily, Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts*
8. If You See Her, Say Hello*
9. Shelter From The Room#
10. Buckets Of Rain#

* December 1974 sessions (Minneapolis)
# September 1974 sessions (New York City)

Secondly, and this is important to me, I want to make a case for the often-maligned "Lily, Rosemary & The Jack Of Hearts". It is one of my favourite Dylan songs of all time. It was the first song I heard from this album, back in 1975 and I bought the album as a result. Ok, I accept that it sits rather strangely amidst the soul-searching, lyrical poetry of much of the album's other material. However, it is a truly great Dylan "narrative poem" in the same style as "Brownsville Girl", "Hurricane" and, latterly, "Tempest" (another one that divides fans). I guess you either like Dylan's "story songs" or you don't. Yes, it is repetitive, musically and in the fact that it is verse after verse irritates some people. However, I love the characterisation, the story, the cinematic atmosphere, Dylan's delivery. It is perfect in every way as far as I'm concerned.

Of, course, so is the rest of the album - the great poetic songs of "Tangled Up In Blue", with its marvellous imagery, and the lovely "Shelter From The Storm"; the tortured and tender love songs - "Simple Twist Of Fate", "You're A Big Girl" and "If You See Her Say Hello" with their spectacular turns of phrase; The slow, insistent blues of "Meet In The Morning" and the two folky "short songs" that end each of the old "sides" in "Buckets Of Rain" and "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go". All marvellous in their own way.

Then, lest we forget, there is the titanic "Idiot Wind" - Dylan spitting out invective left, right and centre bemoaning his broken relationship, the press and the state of the country/world in general. Even in his criticism though, his use of language is magnificent. I don't have words to describe it sufficiently, I'm afraid. Much as I have declared my love for "Lily", "Idiot" has to be the jewel in the crown.

One of the century's greatest albums. No question. I never tire of listening to it, all these years later. 


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