Thursday, November 20, 2014

16 Blood on the tracks (1975) Bob Dylan



1. Tangled Up in Blue
2. 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 and the Jack of Hearts
8. If You See Her, Say Hello
9. Shelter from the Storm
10. Buckets of Rain

By 1975 Dylan had been recording albums for 13 years and had managed to effectively kill off the public's expectations of his work, which he felt had been holding him back for nearly a decade. He started life as an acoustic writer of "Finger pointing songs" but destroyed the ideals of a generation when he went electric and became a rock star, singing impenetrable psychedelic missives backed by a full band. He then explored Americana and totally changed his singing style before finally killing off his entire fanbase with Self Portrait a deliberate attempt to commit career suicide.

After becoming an icon of the sixties, Dylan entered the middle of the seventies as nothing more than an artist, free to create music on his own terms and in his own way. He no longer felt the overwhelming burden of public pressure and an insatiable desire to shrug if off. He had reached a happy point in which he could just release Bob Dylan albums for people who wanted to buy them. He could write songs and release them and if people liked them they could buy them and show up to his concerts and everyone else wasn't his concern.

1974's Planet Waves was a return to form of sorts but it wasn't until 1975 that Dylan proved he wasn't just the best survivor of the 1960's, he was one of the best artists of the 70's as well.

Blood on the Tracks is a masterpiece and far and away the best album released in 1975 and quite possibly the finest release in the entire decade. It has at least four of Dylan's best songs and several tracks which classify as those unappreciated gems that Dylan fans love and more people should hear.

Tangled Up In Blue is quite possibly my favourite ever Dylan song (although even pinning me down to a top ten in no actual order would cause me considerable pain and angst). I'm one of those people who always seems to have a song in their head and spends most of their time singing it out loud much to the irritation of those around me. For over two decades now I think Tangled has been the song my brain has returned to most frequently. It's just a permanently happy place that my mind gravitates towards and I'll regularly find myself singing "Early one morning the sun was shining, I was laying in bed..." and I'll be off. I can do the whole song and have to stop and really revel in each opportunity to sing "Tangled up in blue!"

Tangled challenges the notion held by many, Dylan included, that he was a lyricist and not a tunesmith. To the best of my knowledge nobody has accused Dylan of snatching the melody for Tangled from another source. Many of his classic songs are "based" to a lesser or greater degree on folk melodies but there are others that are entirely original and Tangled is one of them. It's a perfect marriage of music and lyrics and while it wouldn't be as brilliant with other words attached it's definitely not a case of poetry propping up a substandard melody.

I really love Tangled's lyrics by the way. I mean really love them. I can't explain why lines like "Some are mathematicians, some are carpenter's wives" are so perfect but I know they are. They're unmistakably Dylan and even though he would tamper with them in later live renditions they're triumphant in their original, and deliberately baffling form. Much of the appeal of Tangled lies in the fact that the narrative perspective switches around so we can't tell if Dylan is singing in the first person or the third person which sounds a bit crap as an idea but makes the song so much more intriguing in practice.

Tangled on its own would be enough to carry the album (it's better than Forever Young which was Planet Waves standout track and was so good Dylan included two different versions) but it's far from the album's only highlight. Simple Twist of Fate is one of Bob's best slow ballad songs and tells a story that is so much more than a simple love song.  Idiot Wind is a magnificently scathing and vitriolic song that rivals Like a Rollin Stone or Don't think twice it's alright in its bitterness and would overtake them completely if it wasn't for Dylan's declaration that he's an idiot as well. The final act of outright genius on Blood is Shelter from the Storm which gets under your skin and shakes you around. It's essentially another break up song in an album which is full of them (nobody believes Bob when he says he didn't write it about his failed marriage) but its images are apocalyptic, messiah-like and downright scary at times but beautiful at others. You could spend months alone with this song dissecting its meaning and at the end you might come to some understanding but a part of you might die as well as you looked into its blackness.

Tangled, Simple Twist, Idiot and Shelter make up the four great moments on Blood and they're all classic Dylan songs and arguably the best tracks released in 1975. They're well supported by You're a big girl now, You're gonna make lonesome when you go, Meet me in the Morning, If you see her say hello and Buckets of Rain which would have been the standout track on any album Dylan released for the next decade. In fact only the overlong Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, which doesn't deserve a quarter of it's running time, let alone a full 9 minutes, isn't at least very good.

Blood on the Tracks marks the moment when Dylan reconnected with his muse and proved to children of the seventies why he was such a big deal in the sixties. His muse would abandon him again for a while in the future but anyone who thinks Bob is a part of the hippie decade and never survived outside needs to hear 1975's Blood on the Tracks. And then follow that up with 1989's Oh Mercy and then everything he's released since 1997.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Zimmerman? Zimmerframe more like, you cactus-faced crock of cack."

-Oh shush, foolish person.

So are you happy this blood was shed? Let me know below.

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