Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks

Title: Blood On The Tracks
Artist: Bob Dylan
Year: 1975
Had since: 2005
How I got it: A Greek fellow by the name of Spiros Katsas sent me a bunch of CDs one time. This was one of them.
Why I have it: Because it's Dylan. He's kind of necessary.

I actually never cared much for Dylan. I had Highway 61 Revisited on cassette once, and it was good. I used to have Bringing It All Back Home and Blonde On Blonde and a random bunch of tracks from his Greatest Hits CD too.

All good stuff, right? Right (Except Blonde On Blonde -- I couldn't get through that one). His albums are so full of classic songs that it starts to seem absurd in a way that's comparable only with the Beatles, but in his case it's more impressive because he was just one guy.

Maybe that's what put me off of him for so long. His legacy is so weighty, it's like there's no way to just sit back and listen to this music on its own terms, removed from the context of rock history and groundbreaking lyricism and the man's own enigmatic public image. Just how do you approach the greatest songwriter of the 20th century? How do you accept that a guy with such an ugly singing voice created such beautiful songs?

Anyway I'm over most of that now. This is the album that sort of helped the puzzle come together for me a bit. Each song is outstanding in its own right and demonstrates his range as a songwriter, which is weird considering every song is basically about the same thing, but that's part of the appeal. This guy was just a master at capturing very specific emotions and distilling them into song form. The songs on this album convey everything from contented resignation to fond reminiscing to bitter venom to guarded optimism -- all the emotions people go through when a relationship ends.

That's the Dylan that interests me. If you're turned off by the idea of him, like I was back when I associated him with his political/protest songs, think of him as more of a humanist. It's impossible to listen to an album like this and not feel like he tapped into something universal. That's what we look for in music (and most art forms) anyway -- connection.


Austin said...

I have never been THAT big of a Dylan fan. I had his early greatest hits album, not so much because I wanted to, but because it's required.

Fun Activity: Listen to pop music (or any music) before Dylan and then after. Like him or not, his influence is undeniable.

Tracie said...

I agree that he writes good songs and good music. But I HATE his voice. Just can't get over that.

Jacob I. McMillan said...

Austin, I felt basically the same way as you before I got this album. The other problem is you could never called his music full of all different varieties. He pretty much does the same thing over and over (his biggest departure was going electric. Oooooh), which in theory disqualifies him from my "Bands with at least 10 good albums" list (subject for an unnecessarily long future post) on the basis that the quality of someone's albums decreases in value if they're not sufficiently distinct from each other. But maybe I should actually hear 10 albums by him before I write him off.

Tracie, I used that excuse for a while until one day I realized that I like lots of bad singers. At some point I came to believe that how good a singer you are is less important than how well you serve the purpose of the song. Anyway, with Dylan it's less of an issue because he's been covered by billions of people. So if you ever want to enjoy his songs without listening to him, you can.

Wendy McMillan said...

Wow you finally admitted that you like a lot of bad singers. I am so proud of you! And to show that I respect you, I will try not to give you such a hard time because it's true - we all make an exception for at least one band or singer who has a crappy voice just because the style fits the song or the era or the message or whatever. Sometimes you can overcome it and sometimes it may take years or never happen.