Dylan’s ‘Tracks’ a timeless classic
Julie Bender | Thursday, January 27, 2005
Every once in a while an album comes along that can withstand the test of time. Lyrics that echo the truth of every human heart, melodies that ring from the soul and a spiritual essence that never collects dust are vital if an album is to be ageless.”Blood on the Tracks” is one of these albums. Even 30 years after its release, “Tracks” remains an essential component of Bob Dylan’s repertoire and of the history of popular music. From the opening strums of the guitar to the harmonica to that unforgettable voice, “Blood on the Tracks” hits like you like a train and leaves you bleeding long after. Written in the throes of a tumultuous divorce from his wife and after a dry spell from his success in the sixties, “Blood on the Tracks” is a cathartic enterprise for Dylan. Folk strumming, and later electric guitars, had characterized his earlier albums of abstract social commentary. Dylan had become an icon to the sixties generation, describing “their” world with his words. Through this, he had managed to keep his own world intensely private, maintaining a barrier between himself and the public.When “Blood on the Tracks” hit the shelves in January of 1975, this barrier began to cave – if only for a moment. Each song contained a story and created immortal characters that amble in memory long after musical strains die out. Who can forget “the old man with broken teeth stranded without love” or the “Jack of Hearts”? The most unforgettable character, however, is Dylan himself. Unlike his earlier albums, when Dylan sings “I” on “Blood on the Tracks,” there is the sense that he truly is singing about himself. There is an irresistible vulnerability in songs like “Simple Twist of Fate,” “If You See Her Say Hello” and “Buckets of Rain.” It is a vulnerability that endears us and never lets go. The emotional range of the album is exemplified in songs like “Idiot Wind.” The fourth track on the album, “Idiot Wind” is an eight-minute journey into the depths of the human psyche, struggling with love, hate, hurt, anger, revenge and existence. Dylan vacillates between bitterness and nostalgia for his former naivetÃ©, only to come to the helpless conclusion that “We’re idiots, babe. It’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.” “Shelter from the Storm” is a lyrical masterpiece, providing Biblical wisdom in nearly every line. Dylan sings about his own life, but his struggles unmistakably mirror the universal effort to cope with existence: “the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn. ‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm.'” From the wandering tale of break up, “Tangled Up in Blue,” to the pleading “You’re a Big Girl Now,” Dylan covers it all. He touches on the sweetness of new love in “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” and meets with the blues in “Meet Me in the Morning.” Leaving no emotion unchecked, “Blood on the Tracks” is both personal and universal. It remains, in the opinion of many, Dylan’s masterpiece, along side “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde.”The only way to do the album justice is to put it on and let the songs speak for themselves, even 30 years after they were written.