Bob Dylan > Blood on the Tracks
We are here today to celebrate one of the great albums off all time, certainly Bob Dylan's greatest album... 1974's Blood on the Tracks. If you know me (or read me), you know I am usually yammering about 'early Dylan'. This is an important distinction for me. It is true, I am a fan of only 'early Dylan'. People then assume I mean acoustic Dylan, before he 'sold out' in 1965. Actually, that is not the case at all. Dylan went electric for Blonde on Blonde, which kicks major ass.
Generally speaking, I do appreciate the acoustic stuff more. It better showcases his wry sense of humor and brilliant lyrical play. 1974's 'Blood on the Tracks' is almost entirely acoustic, with a gentle backing band for emphasis. After 1965, though, things got weird. Dylan kinda disappeared after his very bad motorcycle accident, and came back all hopped up on jesus (with that molester beard). Also, Dylan got weird. He was showing up in white face pancake makeup. It seemed on many levels, he wasn’t even trying to sing. Too much of Dylan’s stuff sounds like Dylan making of his own known style. Does that make sense? When you hear him hit the chorus in ‘like a rolling stone’, and he builds to ‘how does it feeeel’? Doesn’t it sound like someone making fun of Bob Dylan? I don’t know, it’s too personal to explain. I just feel he has given up way more than once. That’s ok, it’s his life. Whatever dude.
Ok, I guess I am some kind of Dylan snob. See, I love the young wry big haired handsome kid from 'Don't Look Back'. Then, this guys turns up. Who the fuck is this guy?I guess I am mad he got old. I just turned 35, and am not terribly thrilled either.
So, why I am hustling a 1974 album? Well, he went back to his roots and did an acoustic album that is so powerful and well written it makes my heart hurt. See, this album is about his divorce. It isn't subtle, and there is little metaphor when Dylan sings 'You're an idiot, babe, it's wonder you can even feed yourself'. Yeah, that is some serious hurt. Probably a bad idea to hurt the feelings of this centuries most important songsmith. Dude will get back at you, but that isn't what 'Tracks' is. Dylan said the album was a diary entry for him, and helped him cope. He later said the album is so mean and depressing that he couldn't see why 'anyone would want to listen to it'.
This album is unique Dylan, for me at least. Dylan always loved the wordplay and the innuendo. He was sly and mischievous. On this disc, he lays is all out. The imagery is still as beautiful, but the feelings are raw. This album spawned the rock and roll masterpiece 'Tangled up in Blue'. Even Dylan, who refused to talk about himself or his legacy, regards that as a favorite. When touring, he would play around with the lyrics and sing it in third person.
Since I can't give you music samples here, you will have to trust me that the musical landscape painted is complete. So instead, violating one or two less laws... let's look at some of the lyrics. Above was a sample from 'Idiot Wind', probably more famous now for being referenced by Hootie in 'I only wanna be with you'. How about just the titles? Seriously, the titles are so fucking sad they need no translation. Let's look at a few:
Tangled up in blue
You're a big girl now
if you see her, say hello
shelter from the storm
buckets of rain
yeah, this is serious stuff folks. You are watching a man's life come apart. For whatever reason, we are invited. After this album, Dylan lost me again... probably more my fault than his. There is another final aspect of this album which I am sure is not appreciated. This is a really great work out album. I used to listen to super ragey testosterone rock for work outs: early Tool, Megadeth, early Metallica... you get the idea. This music helps me channel energy to a physical channel.
I had 'Tracks' on my iPod the other day when I hit the gym. I left it on, really loud, and it was an amazing work out jam. It is about 44 minutes of the meanest and most rage filled music I have. Zach de la Rocha, you got nothing on Bobby Dylan for riotous indignation. 44 minutes is perfect. It is how long albums were back then, limited by the technology. Also, it is as long as I can pretend to work out before I collapse in tears and sweat. I have been listening to this disc/ cassette/ record for about fifteen years. It gets better every year, as I mature. Thank you Bob, you give me a gift every day with your music.