Thursday, August 12, 2004

BOB DYLAN - Blood on the Tracks LP
I had a rather inebriated conversation with a colleague a little while back, remarking as to what a major hoo-ha the death of Bob Dylan will undoubtedly cause once he shuffles off this mortal coil. I mean, it's going to be BIG, perhaps more so because at this point in history he remains one of the few truly legendary performers in music still alive, who also appears to be somewhat remotely "relevant". I mean, look at the kerfuffle made over George Harrison, and that guy - and let's be brutally honest - hadn't made a halfway decent disc in almost 30 years at his time of departure. There's also the case study of Frank Sinatra to consider, too; whilst he was without a doubt a giant of entertainment in the 20th century, by the time he died he'd barely engaged in any unembarrassing art - music, movies, theatre, whatever - for as long as I've been alive (and I'm being generous). It'll be interesting to see how history judges the likes of Paul McCartney - nice-guy philanthropist whose post-Beatles career has mostly been a disgrace (no matter what Tim Ellison says) - and even more so Mick Jagger, a truly revolting human being without a shred of humility, who also just happened to be, many moons ago, a particularly captivating front man. Anyway, I'm off the beaten track...

What I usually say to any clueless person enquiring into the career of Bob Dylan - and this happened often when I was working in music retail (I don't pull this shit on random members of public in the street) - is that anyone who could make a record as astounding as Blood on the Tracks, no matter what other screw-ups they made in their life - is not only OK by me, but someone worthy of immense respect. And you know that, much like the rest of them, Dylan has made some major errors of judgment in his life that most people would be lynched for (start with the Michael Bolton and Mark Knopfler collaborations and work your way up or down from there), but since it was Dylan, the man responsible for such Earth-moving deities as Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blood On The Tracks, all has been forgiven... or at least swept under the carpet.

Blood On The Tracks, a Top 10 album of mine, has, in the past, been a disc I've been prone to simply play the A-side of, in the meantime ignoring the rest of the album. This I can only attest to the amazing depth of material in its first five tracks, songs of which I've revisited countless times since I first bought this sometime nearly 10 years back. This has been amended of late, as I've had this spinning on high rotation in the car and now Blood on the Tracks is seeping into my brain as a more fully formed body of work. And what a fucking amazing thing it is.

I've never been through a bitter divorce or break-up and, touch wood, probably never will, though if the time comes, BOTT will either be a godsend to comfort me or the piece of news that sends me over the edge to the local funeral home or mental asylum (yeah, OK, a little dramatic, but allow a little room for exaggeration here). That is, of course, because BOTT is Dylan's "divorce album", and easily the best thing he ever did. I don't believe I've heard another album that directs you through the course of a relationship as well as BOTT, or an album that tells a single story of two people quite as succinctly and honestly. This is truly one of the few "adult" albums of an utterly serious nature I would recommend to anyone: the incredible beauty of "Tangled Up In Blue", the ugly rage of "Idiot Wind", the sadness of "If You See Her, Say Hello". I've spent so many years of my life listening to music of such a negative, pointless nature that Blood On The Tracks hits me like a rock every time. I hate joining any chorus, but they're right when they tell you how good Dylan once was.

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