Classic Rock Review: Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

Well, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly a year now, and many of those posts have concerned new music. It’s been no secret that I’ve focused on new, fresh music. This I will admit.  When I began writing this blog, I fully intended to write at least a post per month on classic, quintessential rock albums, as to increase the diversity of the music I review and write about.

So, that being said, if you dislike music that is more than 10 years old, you should probably stop reading. OR you could choose to be bold and expand your horizons!

Anyway…

Bob Dylan: my namesake? Nope.  Despite that fact, I am a pretty big Bob Dylan fan and I’ve had my brief Dylan obsession (it lasted nearly a year, so it wasn’t all that brief) and in that year, I purchased 9 of his albums, ranging from his newer, less impressive albums to his early ’80s christian albums to his classics from the ’60s and ’70s.  It’s difficult to choose a favourite Dylan album, but if I had to select an album that best encapsulates his range in music styles and raw, unabashed talent in songwriting, it would have to be Blood In the Tracks.

This is the album where I would recommend anybody who wants to get a taste for Bob Dylan should start (It has inspired me so much that at one point, I had decided I would do cover songs of every tune on the album.  I recorded my version of Buckets of Rain and realized it wasn’t an album that could be easily “covered”, and quit well before I was ever ahead)

Beginning with the classic Tangled Up In Blue, Dylan weaves a somewhat scandalous story about love, loosely based on his own experiences.  Accompanied with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, this story flows seamlessly and magically.

Simple Twist of Fate is another gem.  I’m finding it difficult it is to put into words the magnitude of this song, so I will just recommend listening to it.  For some things, words cannot do justice.

Idiot Wind is the 4th track and is probably the most rockin’ (keeping in mind that this is an “acoustic” album, of course).  A social commentary, perhaps, as Dylan sings “We are idiots, babe / It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.”  Fun trivia: the line from the first verse “They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy / She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me / I can’t help it if I’m lucky” is quoted in the popular Hootie & the Blowfish song Only Wanna Be With You.

The shortest song on the album is a little folk-y ditty called You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. Dylan’s voice is only accompanied by a an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and a funky, percussive bass line.  Fantastic!

So we’ve heard some (acoustic) rock, some folk, so why not throw in some bad-ass acoustic blues?  Meet Me In the Morning is one of my favourites on this album as it is the only bluesy track, and because it is one of Dylan’s best blues numbers, alongside Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat, Outlaw Blues and Pledging My Time. Very tasty!

Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a fair listen, but at almost 9 minutes in length, I lose a little bit of patience after the 5th verse… this song would be one I could’ve done without.

If You See Her, Say Hello is a pretty ballad.  This is likely as “pretty” as Dylan gets his voice throughout the entire album, yet he still maintains his characteristic mumbly growl.  12-string guitars, mandolins and a simple tapping of high-hat cymbals make up the musical elements of this song.  Simple and effective.

Shelter From the Storm and Buckets of Rain round off the masterpiece that is Blood In the Tracks.  I’m not sure if Dylan meant to finish the album with two songs referencing dreary weather, but I am sure that the album couldn’t end with two better songs.  The former is typical Dylan songwriting: poetic storytelling and a guitar progression that suits the story perfectly.  The latter is not typical.  In fact, Buckets of Rain is very different from the rest of the album, and even from a lot of what Dylan had done up to that point in his music.  There are aspects that are obviously similar, but this song is different and maybe that’s why I love it so much.  I haven’t yet compiled a list, but this song would likely top my list of favourite Dylan songs.  The finger-picking is magnificent, the bass line is perfect, and the lyrics are some of Dylan’s most sincere, and my favourite:

Buckets of rain, buckets of tears

Got all them buckets coming out of my ears

Buckets of moonbeams in my hand

You got all the love, honey baby, I can stand

 

I been meek, and hard like an oak

I’ve seen pretty people disappear like smoke

Friends will arrive and friends will disappear

If you want me, honey baby, I’ll be here

 

I like your smile and your fingertips

I like the way that you move your hips

I like the cool way you look at me

Everything about you is bringing me misery

 

Little red wagon, little red bike

I ain’t no monkey but I know what I like

I like the way you love me strong and slow

I’m taking you with me, honey baby, when I go

 

Life is sad, life is a bust

All you can do is do what you must

You do what you must do, and you do it well

I do it for you, honey baby, can’t you tell

 

So good it hurts. Kinda makes you wanna drown your sorrows in a beer while smoking a cigarette, sitting on your stoop in the moonlight, alone. Or maybe not.  Your call.

Either way, I must warn that Bob’s voice and style is a bit of an acquired taste.  Similar to fine wine.  Only less aristocratic.  If you find his voice grating on your ears a bit, you’re doing just fine.  Beginners should consume Bob in small portions, overdosing may cause permanent aversion and we don’t want that.  Please give it a chance, though.  I’m telling you, you won’t regret it once you realize the legendary awesomeness that is Bob Dylan and his masterpiece Blood On the Tracks.

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~ by whet_hopped on March 12, 2011.

3 Responses to “Classic Rock Review: Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks”

  1. great piece on one bob’s best. if you want some fabulous bootleg stuff contact me. you will fall in love again

  2. I have to agree 100%. As a fellow lover of “old” music and one who frequently goes on binges of an artist’s catalogue in large waves, I also collected most, if not all, of Dylan over a very short period and after tearing through, getting saturated, stepping back and evaluating what stood up, Blood on the Tracks was at the top of the list (or maybe just below Desire). So nice to see someone else, while acknowledging “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Simple Twist of Fate,” enamored the most with “Buckets of Rain,” a song stunning in its simple beauty if ever there was one.

    Well-done!

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