Cold on the heels of discussing Exile on Main Street, this Best Albums of the 1970s feature gives me the opportunity to summarize another monolith in Blood on the Tracks. Plenty has already been said about the nature of Dylan’s social and marital situation at the time of release, and probably with more conviction than I can believably muster. What matters, when said and done, is how the collection of songs herein stand up away from the essays.
To these ears it seems that this is a record that has aged well. Through the course of ten songs Zimmerman manages to examine a good number of the facets and fallings that love brings. “Tangled up in Blue” is a fantastically tongue-in-cheek summary of fairly universal head-wrench, and wistful anticipation produced by meeting someone who could be special. “Simple Twist of Fate” is one of my favorite songs ever. Things have gotten a little more defined, but more brittle still. Some of the couplets are amazing, and justify the “visionary” tag that’s kept the sycophants ticking over and their subject baffled for more than thirty years now. The man’s voice, which I’m occasionally quite skeptical of, is stunning here. There’s an enhanced clarity here, shown previously on 1969’s Nashville Skyline. There are plenty of moments where he lets rip, and there’s an intent presence that renders notions of technical ability redundant. “Idiot Wind” is the sound of a man running, crystallized contempt on wax. I particularly like the “It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe” put down.
It’s worth emphasizing how excellent Blood sounds during the twilight hours. “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” looks back at what’s been and what might be with resigned potency. In a sense the best parallel, in terms of emotion invoked and etcetera, is with Sinatra’s superb In the Wee Small Hours. The means might be different, but both men sound like they mean it, over fairly similar subject matter. One of those albums that’s actually half as good as you’re lead to believe. A masterpiece, more or less.
Similar Albums/ Albums Influenced:
Neil Young – Harvest
Bruce Springsteen – The River
Paul Simon – There Goes Rhymin’ Simon
Listen: Bob Dylan – “Tangled Up In Blue”