Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks is a masterwork, a 70s classic perfectly made by a poet at the height of his creative powers. Few albums have captivated my attention as much as this one, which is easily among Dylan’s best works and was also the first disc I ever heard from him. I remember being a young college freshman using my CD player to hear every track numerous times, as I’ve lost count over the years. Moving on from his legendary 1960s works and responding bitterly to a divorce, “Blood” has themes of love and loss, loneliness and anger. Yet it never becomes trite or ugly, and Dylan fashions songs that have stood the test of time.
Most notably the famous piece “Idiot Wind,” an almost eight minute song that is both funny and furious with Dylan responding to his critics and also commenting on his own career itself. The opening track “Tangled Up In Blue” and its followup “Simple Twist of Fate” are lyrical and beautiful. “Tangled” is lighter and witty but also a musing on love gained and lost, while “Simple” is a tragic one night stand between two people unable to connect with one another. “You’re A Big Girl Now” is rather wistful, simplistic and a little bit funny even, giving way to not only “Idiot” but also the gloriously sharp “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” Which happens to be one of my favorite pieces on the album because of the amazing lyrics and because its sad without making me sad as Dylan longs for a once alive relationship now dead.
PS: It seems that too many of these songs are not on YouTube in their original form. Weak.
The second half of the album is very similar to the first, although the ending is quite different from the beginning. “Meet Me In The Morning” is a bluesy song-its Dylan as troubadour, a wander quietly strumming on his guitar about where he’s been and what he’s seen. “Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts” is the most lively song on the album and also the longest, a pure epic that features one of Dylan’s finest qualities: his ability to spin a tale musically. Its a piece that is humorous, gloomy, poetic and also quietly fitting in terms of fate and destiny happening to a group of people-some who expected it, others who are caught by surprise. “If You See Her, Say Hello” is probably the saddest song, tender while reflecting on past love and what ruined something special that two people had.
Oddly this gives way to my favorite song on the entire album, a piece that was used in Jerry Maguire: “Shelter From The Storm.” Dylan not only serves up lyrics that blow my mind, but he also showcases his raspy singing voice, a talent of his that catches flake. I never understood why people think that Dylan’s singing is terrible, as it fits his music incredibly well; if you want perfect singers go to the opera or watch American Idol. My favorite part of the song is this:
I was burned out from exhaustion buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes and blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile ravaged in the corn “
Come in” she said
“I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
After this tour-de-force Dylan concludes the album with “Buckets of Rain,” a song that over the years I have become a fan of after realizing its proper use in the context of the album. After the noise and fury, sadness and regret, Dylan closes out the proceedings with a whimper instead of a bang. Maybe that’s how the too many relationships end, or perhaps that is how the human race will finally end. There is no way of telling, although at one point we could look to Bob Dylan and ask him how he thought it would all shake out. Dylan is no longer a young man or a prophet, but a wary ancient poet that we should all treasure before he shifts off his mortal coil.