Musicheads Essential Album: Bob Dylan, 'Blood on the Tracks'

Album cover: Bob Dylan, 'Blood on the Tracks.'
Detail of album art: Bob Dylan, 'Blood on the Tracks.' (Columbia)

Only once in his career has Bob Dylan recorded as much as half of a studio album in Minnesota. As it happened, that album turned out to be the most beloved he's ever made. Blood on the Tracks is a Musicheads Essential Album.

In 1975, Dylan was widely believed to have all of his classic albums behind him. It was the first time his endless powers of invention were underestimated, and it wouldn't be the last. Blood on the Tracks floored listeners with its searing songs of heartbreak, performed with a warmth and vulnerability that make this Dylan's most approachable album. It's one that listeners have returned to again and again as its stature has risen to eclipse even his seminal albums from the 1960s.

Dylan has resisted characterizing Blood on the Tracks as his "divorce" album, but there's no mistaking the naked hurt and, at times, anger, behind "Idiot Wind." What makes the album so endearing, though, is the way Dylan celebrates connection even as he mourns its loss. Songs like "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" and "Shelter from the Storm" are testament to the power of a marital bond.

The album also takes time to step out of its own shell and cast its gaze beyond the pained present. "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" is a Western-themed romp, while the album's opener and best-known song, "Tangled Up in Blue," is a bittersweet personal history that reflects poignantly on the passing of years. That's also become the song Dylan's reinvented more than any other in live performance, with lyrics that change over the decades like the shifting sands of memory.

The initial sessions for Blood on the Tracks took place in New York, but Dylan returned to his original home state of Minnesota to re-record half the tracks with a sympathetic studio band in Minneapolis. The result is a record that glows with community even as it burns with loneliness. Only Dylan could have pulled it off.

Related Stories

  • Bob Dylan at 80: Celebrate with The Current Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and raised in Hibbing, and went on to become the most acclaimed singer-songwriter of his generation. On May 24 he turns 80 years old, and The Current has planned a wealth of programming to celebrate this landmark birthday.

comments powered by Disqus