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Printable Version
11/03/03
Reviewed by -
Grey Cavitt
Bob Dylan
Blood on the Tracks
Released: September 16, 2003
Origination Year: 1975
Time: 51:39
Tracks: 10
Produced by: Bob Dylan
Style: Studio/Reissue
Format: SACD - Hybrid
Enhancement: DSD
Label:Columbia Records


Track Listing
  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


Bob Dylan

Dylan is best known for plugging in folk music and for spurring on the spirit of the sixties with impossibly powerful protests that soon became modern psalms to many. Both of these qualities were gone by the end of the decade. Dylan had retreated from the front lines of political unrest, and he no longer sought to rig disparate styles into new sounds. He relaxed, releasing country albums, stretching out into a comfortable mode of music that combined many of his loves without shattering conventions or rocking the world. By the mid-70s, many critics treated him as a write-off or a washout. It seemed his star had finally flamed out.

Nobody is really sure what ignited him again. Perhaps it was his impending divorce, perhaps it was a certain uneasiness with the status quo, or perhaps he just wanted to prove that he wasn't dead yet. On Blood on the Tracks, Dylan still avoided any novel mixing of genres or blatant fodder for political radicals. He simply focused all his energy on writing and performing folk-styled songs, and his undivided, honed genius, free of the very concerns that catapulted him into the public eye, produced the greatest album of the rock era.

The opener, "Tangled Up in Blue", is a quiet song aching with the pain and confusion of lost love. These themes echo throughout the entire album, but never had Dylan addressed them with such skill, depth, or emotion. "Simple Twist of Fate" is a sentimental memory of a love that got away, and if "Idiot Wind" is Dylan’s most scathing assault since "Positively 4th Street", it is tempered somewhat with its fair share of regret. Even the intoxicating love affair of "You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" balances its excitement with the belief that love will eventually depart as suddenly as it arrived, leaving the singer more miserable and sad than ever. The many references to blood, such as the title and "Idiot Wind"’s, “blood on your saddle,” are the keys to this album; these songs are largely stains of tragedies distant, past, and unchangeable.

Yet, despite "Idiot Wind"’s epic-length spleen venting, the dominant mood here is melancholy and sorrow, not anger. These are not the slashes of a passionate young soul wronged; they are the ponderings of a older man ripened with the wisdom won by time and disappointment. While this sounds like a daunting listen, it plays as anything but. The music is lush, inventive, and beautiful, giving Blood on the Tracks a gently cathartic, redemptive power. Dylan is not pulling the listener into the pit of self-pity. He is making misery beautiful, and thus, bearable.

The sound quality of all three layers of Columbia’s reissue, the CD, stereo SACD, and 5.1 channel SACD versions, are all breathtaking, highlighting fine details while retaining most of the warmth of the original vinyl. Even the stereo SACD layer achieves a nearly three-dimensional effect, thanks to fine resolution and lovely fidelity to a lush mix, and frankly, most listeners could mistake it for an rich, glowing analog record. Really, though, this album is so stunning, so brilliant, that even if it sounded like it was playing through a soggy pillow three stories down, no fan of music should pass this by. Blood on the Tracks is a masterpiece and worth every dollar spent on it. Considering that this reissue is superlative, nobody should hesitate to experience it.

Dylan’s earlier work is largely the limitless and exhausting wilderness of youth. In contrast, this album is the dark, quiet room surrounding an experienced, worn man reflecting on his life, the whirlwind romances and spitfire disunions, the promises of heaven and the realities of hell, and inside this knowing, cracked voice, a lifetime of experience, joys and regrets spill out until the room is flooded with bittersweet heartbreak and dim hopes of love. He was no longer a force moving millions, only a sad, lonely man who happened to be the greatest songwriter of his century. This album proved it.

Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
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212 Frech
FC1810

"Even though most of the people I knew in my youth are gone, I still reach out to them..."
Norman Maclean - Paraphrase

"...we should enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon, 2003