Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"I Must Admit I Felt A Little Uneasy..."

Wow! I pulled out Bob Dylan's BLOOD ON THE TRACKS (1975) for the first time in a long time. It's yet another example of a vinyl album I haven't replaced with CD (yet). What a great record! Dylan actually wrote and recorded the songs in 1974. Then, at the last minute, decided to re-record half of them. Thus, the release date was in January of 1975.

This was all in the wake of his "estrangement" from his wife of 10 years. The entire album has that gut-wrenching, end-of-a-relationship feel to it, even when the words aren't as obvious. But, believe me, there are some words that seem pretty obvious. I'm not saying that in a bad way. Let's just say this seems more personal than much of his earlier work. Of course, it's also believed that he's implied that the songs were all based on Chekov short stories. With Dylan, who knows for certain?

Side 1
1. Tangled Up in Blue - 5:40
2. Simple Twist of Fate - 4:18
3. You're a Big Girl Now - 4:36
4. Idiot Wind - 7:45
5. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go - 2:58
Side 2
1. Meet Me in the Morning - 4:19
2. Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts - 8:50
3. If You See Her, Say Hello - 4:46
4. Shelter from the Storm - 4:59
5. Buckets of Rain - 3:29

The album kicks off with one of my all-time favorite Dylan songs, "Tangled Up in Blue". This is as good a song as he's ever written or played, in my humble opinion. It's a great piece of storytelling, with vivid imagery. It's also got what might well be the single greatest set-up/punchline in music history: "She was workin' in a topless place/And I stopped in for a beer/I just kept lookin' at the side of her face/In the spotlight so clear/And later on as the crowd thinned out/I's just about to do the same/She was standing there in back of my chair/Said to me, "Don't I know your name?"/I muttered somethin' underneath my breath/She studied the lines on my face/I must admit I felt a little uneasy/When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe/Tangled up in blue." Allow me to summarize: topless...uneasy...bent down...laces of my shoe...GENIUS!

"Simple Twist of Fate" is a song where Dylan really belts out the vocals. Let me just put in another public service announcement to all those who have ever said "Dylan can't sing". I say, pull your head out of your ass. It isn't opera. But, damn it, it's got the emotion.

"You're a Big Girl Now" is a slower tune that really seems to have a personal feel (e.g., "Love is so simple, to quote a phrase/You've known it all the time, I'm learnin' it these days" and "I'm going out of my mind, oh, oh/With a pain that stops and starts/Like a corkscrew to my heart/Ever since we've been apart").

"Idiot Wind" is another Dylan classic. It's a really strong vocal performance by Bob, and the organ accompaniment is great. Dylan again shows his uncanny ability to do put-downs ("Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth/Blowing down the backroads headin' south/Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth/You're an idiot, babe/It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe"). However, he really does a great job of capturing that end-of-a-relationship angst, as he ends by turning the focus on himself at least a bit ("Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats/Blowing through the letters that we wrote/Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves/We're idiots, babe/It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves").

"You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" quickens the pace again. And, again, it certainly relates a fair share of emotional pain: "Situations have ended sad/Relationships have all been bad/Mine've been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud/But there's no way I can compare/All those scenes to this affair/Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go".

Side two opens with "Meet Me in the Morning". This tune has some plucky guitar pickin' with steel guitar accompaniment. It has a great, bluesy feel ("Well, you know I even outran the hound dogs/Honey, you know I've earned your love").

"Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" is yet another example of a Dylan song that makes the listener marvel at how he could possibly sustain that lyrical pace for that length of time. "The hangin' judge came in unnoticed and was being wined and dined/The drillin' in the wall kept up but no one seemed to pay it any mind/It was known all around that Lily had Jim's ring/And nothing would ever come between Lily and the king/No, nothin' ever would except maybe the Jack of Hearts."

"If You See Her, Say Hello" is slower-paced, and again feels very personal. "I see a lot of people as I make the rounds/And I hear her name here and there as I go from town to town/And I've never gotten used to it, I've just learned to turn it off/Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm gettin' soft."

Next up is "Shelter from the Storm". Yes, the song used as the theme for the Hurricane Katrina Telethon (Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast) from September 2005. This song is built around classic Dylan: writing, acoustic guitar strummin', and singing. "Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount/But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts/And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn/'Come in,' she said, 'I'll give you shelter from the storm'." Oh, and of course, there's "I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a mournin' dove/And old men with broken teeth stranded without love/Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?/'Come in,' she said, 'I'll give you shelter from the storm'."

Finally, the album ends on what some might call a brighter note, "Buckets of Rain". I think this song is a great example of Dylan's vastly-underrated guitar playing. He just plays cool-sounding stuff, end of story. Lyrically, it's simpler, but not uneventful: "I been meek/And hard like an oak/I seen pretty people disappear like smoke/Friends will arrive, friends will disappear/If you want me, honey baby/I'll be here."

My album came with a sticker on it that says, "Featuring 'Tangled Up in Blue', 'Idiot Wind', 'Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts'" Typical for a Dylan album...I mean, songs as great as "Shelter from the Storm" don't make the cut to be 'featured' on the sticker.

Bottom line: Blood On The Tracks is another Dylan album that should only have a sticker that says "Featuring EVERY song on it, dammit!" By the way, Rolling Stone put this one at # 16 all-time on their "Top 500 Albums" list. Seems like a good ballpark figure (not that they have the right 15 ahead of it).


Blogger Keith Kennedy said...

I have had to explain the "bent down to tie the laces of my shoes" lyrics at least a bazillion times in my life.

That's my favorite Bob song ever.

This album, for me, was a kind of homecoming for Bob. And it certainly ranks in the top three or four in my favorite's rack.

Yea, I still listen to the old LP's as well.

11:59 AM, April 26, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

I would think "Tangled Up in Blue" is a good litmus test for Dylan's music. It is difficult to imagine anyone that does not like that song ever liking ANY of his other stuff...unless they were ONLY into protest songs, I suppose.

Anyway, that's a brilliant verse in a great song on an all-time classic album. No doubt.

12:24 PM, April 26, 2006  
Blogger AC said...

One of my favorite verses in one my favorite songs. I have to admit has been in serious rotation of random songs I always want to listen to.

4:30 PM, April 26, 2006  

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