Jesse Jarnow, a writer at Pitchfork, took a look back at Bob Dylan’s album “Blood On The Tracks” with incredible praise. Not only did Jarnow give the album a 10 out of 10, but the album was described as “epic” and “moody.” After I had finished listening to this album for my own review, I would agree that the album is very emotional. Although, the album as a whole is far from flawless.
“Blood on the Tracks” was released in 1975 by legendary folk-rock star Bob Dylan. Dylan is incredible at writing narratives within his songs, and this album is no exception. On the track listing, every song delves into the complexities of relationships, whether it be about love or hatred. It is a dark and personal listen in its subject matter, although the music never feels sad to listen to. It’s comfortable on the surface, although if you look deeper within the lyrics, you will slowly start to feel a little more entranced in thought.
Although this is an absolute brilliant album, there are several filler tracks that bring it down from being perfect. They hold amazing ideas within them, however, they go on for too long or leave me bored.
In order to really evaluate this album, I will now go through each track and analyze their brilliance or weakness.
Track 1: “Tangled Up in Blue”
Dylan is amazing at creating music that you can truly chill out to. “Tangled Up in Blue” is one of the best examples of this trait. The quiet but heavy dynamics of this song create a great contrast of a hard rock and an old blues song. In other words, you can dance around to it, or you could even fall asleep to it. On another note, this song really drives through its six-minute run time with an interesting chord progression and intriguing lyrics. You start the song, and then out of nowhere, it just ends! To add, Dylan’s voice really shines on this track, as he puts so much soul into his performance. You can almost see him in the studio, giving the song his all. All in all, one of Dylan’s finest compositions!
Track 2: “Simple Twist of Fate”
This is where you can really start to feel that moody atmosphere on the tracklist. The lyrics on this song really made me start to tear up. Dylan describes a man who goes on a date with a girl, and how she eventually leaves him the next day after a night in bed. The man feels lost without this woman, and tries to look for her, as he feels empty inside. “He told himself he didn’t care. Pushed the window open wide. Felt an emptiness inside. To which he could not relate,” Dylan remarks. “Simple Twist of Fate” is a perfect example of storytelling at its peak quality.
Track 3: “You’re a Big Girl Now”
Yet another amazing track off of this great album. This song truly shows off Dylan’s excellent guitar work. The riffs sound almost like you are driving on a sunny summer’s day without a care in the world. Dylan, as a songwriter, can convey so many emotions with the most simple aspects of a song. The track might even convey a completely different feeling to other listeners. It almost seems that at this point, nothing could slow this album’s pace.
Track 4: “Idiot Wind”
This is where we start to hit some of those filler tracks. “Idiot Wind” is not an awful song, just not a song I would ever consider putting on repeat. The song starts off promising enough, with its signature Dylan sound and lyrics. All is fine until you realize that the song is eight minutes long! Dylan spends the entire runtime of this track just repeating the same structure over and over again. It never goes anywhere interesting – even in the lyrics. When the song itself is so mediocre, why even bother trying to find out its meaning?
I have very mixed feelings with this song, as it is just your average Dylan tune. He doesn’t try to invent the wheel with this song, but it wouldn’t have hurt to have done something a little more interesting with the instrumentation. The same ol’ guitar tone and lyrical performance you hear on several older Dylan tracks is noticeable. The lyric on the other hand are agan, simply flawless. Dylan describes a person who loses the best love of their life – another tear jerker. “You’re gonna have to leave me now, I know. But I’ll see you in the sky above. In the tall grass, in the ones I love,” Dylan sings. If only this song got more experimental, it would have been a major highlight.
Track 6: “Meet Me in the Morning”
Finally, Dylan decides to kick it up a notch with this hardcore (for Dylan standards) track. Just like “Tangled Up in Blue”, this song has a very soulful and emotional vocal performance from Dylan. He almost yells the lyrics, waking the listeners up from a drifting daze of sadness and confusion. This is the most rock and roll Dylan ever gets on this album, which is a refreshing change of pace. There is even a distortion heavy guitar solo at the end of this track, showing early signs of grunge and a little bit of punk. The bass line even stand out in this track, something not a lot of Dylan songs highlight. All in all, a very experimental and breath of fresh air for this album.
Quite possibly one of the most excruciating songs I have ever had to sit through. It is the same thing over and over again, just like “Idiot Wind.” Through another eight-minute run time, Dylan attempts to tell a great narrative through the weak composition of the song. It’s OK to have a song that mainly focuses on its lyrics, however, this won’t work if the song itself sounds like nails on a chalkboard. The harmonica in the beginning sounds terrible and forced, and the chord progression just keeps repeating to until the end of the song. Dylan, if you are gonna write a more narrative-driven song, at least make it pleasant to listen to!
Track 8: “If You See Her, Say Hello”
This track finally starts my favorite section of the album, which is the last three tracks. “If You See Her, Say Hello” is a slower, but beautiful piece of folk-rock. The song makes me want to look out into a vast body of ocean, and think about life and what it means. The guitar tones and the overall mood of the song are incredibly thought provoking and beautiful.
Track 9: “Shelter from the Storm”
With this song, Dylan finds a way to write a more narrative song with less expressive instrumentation, and does it right. The lyrics of this song are so deep and meaningful that you almost forget it’s a song – you feel as if it is a spoken word poem. “Twas another lifetime, one of toil and blood. When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud,” Dylan expresses. One could only imagine what he meant to say with that lyric. The cryptic meaning of this song only benefits it because it forces people to listen more closely. Just like “Simple Twist of Fate”, this is an amazingly written song.
Track 10: “Buckets of Rain”
This track is the ultimate way to end this moody rollercoaster ride. Just like “You’re a Big Girl Now,” this song’s guitar work really makes you feel something specific. For me, the tones almost remind me of a late autumn’s night, and the last leaf has fallen off of a tree. Again, his musicianship brings so many thoughts to mind, opening it for interpretation and making his music so re-listenable. At the end of the song, Dylan almost indirectly leaves the listener with an amazing word of advice. “Life is sad. Life is a bust. All you can do is what you must,” Dylan explains. This lyric always lets me leave this album with a sense of optimism, and that hard times won’t last forever if you just keep pushing forward.
“Blood on the Tracks,” according to Ultimate Classic Rock, is Bob Dylan’s most personal record to date. He was going through some rough turbulence in his marital relationship, and quite possibly wrote the songs on the album about heartbreak to cope with this situation. This created some fantastic, but also some very mediocre material from the legendary songwriter. Sometimes, artists need to create something that works for themselves, but also something that works for the intended audience. Some songs made me feel amazed, due to the amount of creativity and experimentation. However, other songs made me want to throw my headphones across the room, due to their annoying repetition. If I am being honest, this album is a total mixed bag.