2020 Album Draft- Round 4- Pick 10- Music City Mike selects- Bob Dylan- Blood On The Tracks.
Music City Mike’s blog can be found at – https://musiccitymike.net/
“Blood on the Tracks” – Bob Dylan For my generation, discovering the music of Bob Dylan didn’t come as easy as it did for another legend like The Beatles. Bob didn’t have an Ed Sullivan Show moment (after walking off due to proposed censorship), nor did he pack the Top Ten with a flurry of hit singles that overtook AM radio. Although he did however become the 60s poster boy for the “protest singer,” iconic enough that I even recall him being lampooned in the pages of Mad magazine, for me, his music was not omnipresent like the Fab Four’s.
FM radio was still developing and without the internet, to hear Bob’s records back then, you pretty much had to buy them. The first of his to hear on the radio for many of us was “Mr. Tambourine Man” when The Byrds took it to the Pop charts. Bob would later sneak in himself with “Like a Rolling Stone,” that song about “getting stoned” and “Lay Lady Lay.” Some of us even discovered that he had written “Mighty Quinn” which Manfred Mann scored big with. But like many others of my age bracket, I got to know Dylan’s music by backtracking. For me, it occurred around the time of the New Morning LP after my ears crossed over to the free-form love affair I found on the FM dial.
Planet Waves would be my first Dylan LP to experience in “real time” and it came with the added joy of seeing him live on tour with The Band. It was at that point that my back-catalog discovery really went into full force. But, after he ended this quick shift over to Dave Geffen’s Asylum Records, he returned to the red Columbia Records label and forever got my full devotion with his 1975 masterpiece Blood on the Tracks .
There’s been many different musical Dylan styles over the years and this record immediately stuck a favorable note with me with its soft and steady, multi-instrument acoustic feel. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the most pleasant-sounding of his records to listen to. But, don’t let that fool you as the subject matter gets a little rough.
Blood on the Tracks is often heralded as one of the all-time best break-up records. Given that Bob and his wife Sara were splitting at the time, can we really believe him when he says that none of it is autobiographical? I believe him saying that he was instead inspired by Chekhov poems as much as I believe what he told one interviewer about the “Blue” in “Tangled Up in Blue” referring to him listening to the Joni Mitchell LP. Dylan likes to pull our leg and is often quite good at getting away with it for some reason.
The album kicks off with the theme of broken love in “Tangled Up in Blue” which is perhaps the best narrative story-song to ever come from anyone’s pen. This non-linear tale of someone’s journey through life contains some of the cleverest couplets to ever grace a song. While some of it may be about his Bobness, much is obviously not. Maybe to prove this point, he has even gone so far as to change some of the “I’s” in the lyrics to “He’s” when he sings it live.
The titles of songs like “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” and “If You See Her Say Hello” certainly nail them as break-up songs. Even the story line of the cinematic “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” contains a sub-plot of love lost. And there’s no denying the bitter vile and contempt in “Idiot Wind,” a tour de force that leaves no hold barred in letting his former lover know how he feels. It’s venom personified.
Musically (including Bob’s vocals) and lyrically, this record is near perfect through its ten tracks. I was shocked to read that it initially received mixed reviews upon its release. Time though has sure led many to believe that his is Bob Dylan’s greatest work, and I include myself in that club.
His follow-up LP, Desire , was also a masterpiece. On it, Dylan did not pull any punches setting things straight with his ex-wife for five blistering minutes in “Sara.” He also gave us another wonderful “coulda- been-a screenplay” saga with “Black Diamond Bay.” These two LPs back-to-back were downright amazing and together provided a solid foundation for the Rolling Thunder Revue tour which followed. I tried to get into the Madison Square Garden show but failed to find a ticket on the street that night. One of my life’s regrets, but hearing its songs live was not a requirement for my canonization of Blood on the Tracks as the crown gem of Bob Dylan’s catalog.