365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 12

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

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My Dylan kick continues, but I have to now jump chronologies a bit, as, after John Wesley Harding, things go a bit (pardon the pun) off the track for a few releases.

Until this one, that is.

Blood on the Tracks is a staggering accomplishment. This was Dylan’s 15th album. That’s more than most artists will ever record, period. If they even DO make that many, you’d think #15 would inevitably come in the winter years. But Dylan was barely 34 at this point. This is hardly even mid-career.

Yet, in many ways, it’s an archetypal “mid-career” release.

If the stereotypical trajectory of a maturing artist runs from the over-zealous early years, to the overly minimal winter years, then of the mid-career years we would expect the seamless integration of everything passionate and wild and exuberant and dangerous and groundbreaking that made the early years so good, balanced against the refinement, the maturation, the seasoning, and the devastatingly spot on self-editorial skills of a lion in winter.

And that’s pretty much exactly what we have here. In my opinion, Blood on the Tracks is probably the single best representation of the broadest range of Dylan’s otherworldly abilities. That’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s awkward moments—it does. It’s not perfect, not flawless. But if someone asked me, with one single album, to try to establish grounds for saying that Bob Dylan is the greatest songwriter this country has ever produced, I’d probably hand ’em this one.

Tangled Up In A Blue alone could sustain the curriculum demands of an entire University system devoted to songwriting. As could Shelter From The Storm; Lily, Rosemary, and The Jack of Hearts; Simple Twist of Fate, and so forth.

Put another way, it’s a hell of an album.

 


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