Author & Title: Bob Dylan "Blood on the tracks"
Supplied and distributed by The Cherished Vinyl Company
Reviewer: Geoff Husband
Reviewed: January 2002
This is the second Dylan album I've reviewed from Absolute Analogue. After the sublime Highway 61 now follows one of the albums from Dylan's "mid period" released in January 1975.
Like "Highway 61" the sleeve note of "Blood on the Tracks" is another 'arty' ramble. This time it's not by Dylan and starts as an Anti Vietnam rant and rapidly transmogrifies into a eulogy of Dylan as poet and prophet. Quote "He is only a Troubadour, blood brother of Villon, a son of Provence, and he has survived the plague"... Personally I think great music doesn't need this garbage and thankfully such embarassing tirades are rare now in our cynical world, still it makes it more of a 'period piece'.
Having laid bare my personal predudice I suppose I'd better get on with the review...
I'm a Dylan fan, but I'm not blind to his ability to produce mediocre work. For me the 'Golden' age was comprised of his first six albums, ending with 'Blonde on Blonde'. It's a cannon of works which very few come close to let alone exceed. There followed the famous motorcycle crash and an enforced (excused?) 18 month lay off.
The Dylan that resurfaced in 1968 with 'John Wesley Harding' was as different as the post-army Elvis. From that moment there were stunning albums and flashes of the genius that soaked the first six albums, but it was never quite the same.
For many 'Blood on the Tracks' is one of the best of the 'post crash' Dylan albums. It's bitter sweet, a classic 'divorce album' but for me it lacks variety. Play any 10 second section of a song and it could have come come from any part of the album (OK I exaggerate).
Where Highway 61 is a roller coaster, Blood on the tracks is a bumpy ride down some unmade highway. Look down the track list and there's no 'Desolation Row', no 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' no 'Tambourine Man', in short nothing that anyone remembers now. In case you think I've a blind spot against anything since 1967, I would choose 'Lay Lady Lay' as a 'Desert Island Disc', and 'Sarah' is achingly beautiful, but I don't pretend they made the world turn like 'Bringing it all back Home', and neither are on B O T T...
I know most Dylan fanatics will have gone ballistic by now, but here at TNT I've a responsibility to readers and for those yet to discover Dylan there are better places to start. True the lyrics are deep, the sincerity there for all to see, but by the standard of arguably the greatest recording artist of the 20h century they're 'also rans'.
So go pre '67 for the moment, then when you're convinced of his genius go buy the '70's albums of which 'Blood on the Tracks' is one of the best.
Once again I'm fortunate in having an early copy of the album - and in good condition. And to be honest what I wrote for the 'Highway 61 review could just be 'cut and pasted' here. It's a loving reissue, retaining the tonal balance of the original, but at the same time obviously getting the most from the master.
So for those on a shoestring buy the album second hand - there are a million copies, it shouldn't be difficult, but if you want a pristine copy even better than the original then the Absolute Analogue reissue has to be the way to go...
Many thanks to The Cherished Vinyl Company for supplying the review copy.
© Copyright 2002 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com