Contemporary minds have thankfully come to love Blood on the Tracks. It is mad to consider the release of this Bob Dylan masterclass was anything but loved, but its early reviews were not filled with the love it deserves. Erratic productions removing verses and bars and adding new lines on a whim, it is an expendable period for Dylan who still changes the words and meanings of the tracks found here. They are irresistibly strong. Potent tracks that have that universal appeal. Holding within them a deep and unifying status but also a broader and accessible style. It is the best of both worlds for Zimmerman, who offers some of his finest tracks here.
Blood on the Tracks boasts a beautiful opening in Tangled Up in Blue. Emotionally potent and an experience that draws back on the original appeal of Dylan’s early work. An acoustic guitar, a harmonica to wrap it all up and a winding story of relationships, philosophers and Dante. It all comes together with that natural ability Dylan has not just as an excellent lyricist but as a performer also. For the outsider looking in, Tangled Up in Blue is likely the track that overwhelms Blood on the Tracks, an album that wasn’t as enamoured on its release as it is now. Admissions of no autobiographical content make this Anton Chekhov-based album a mystifying one, with Dylan adapting the tales of the Russian playwright with a forthright and interpretive style.
Those autobiographical misremembrances are understandable. Dylan sings so personally but sings it through Chekhov’s work and about it also. There’s no doubt that this is not a biographical piece, but that neither weakens nor strengthens Blood on the Tracks. That same intimacy is present throughout. Idiot Wind and Meet Me in the Morning offer a look deep into the mind of the man who once wrote Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands while the latter is a rare little gem that hasn’t had its live outings as much as it deserves. That’s the beauty of Blood on the Tracks though. So many lyrical stylings and changes are found throughout that the later performances are fresh and invigorating. Dylan cuts out and hacks away at his lyrics with glee. Alternative versions are founded on The Bootleg Series and besides the lyrical changes, there is not much difference to the meaning founded on this setlist.
Stunning and perfect from start to finish. Not a bad track in sight. It teeters on greatness and reserves a spot in the top ten of all-time greats. Irresponsibly perfect. Every track glows with a radiant beauty whose preservation comes from adapting the cold mortal tales of Chekhov. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts is the lengthy bit of magic from Dylan, whose crooning cracks through with a story of heartbreak and suffering. Chekhov and Dylan. Quite the pairing. Blood on the Tracks offers that up but never forgets the founding, integral parts of his work. It should be no surprise that Blood on the Tracks is so strong, yet despite all that, it has a quality to it that can change as much as the artist belting out these fantastic lyrics.