^ during yesterday's listen and during most - Shelter From the Storm really jumps out every time it comes up - a difficult task, given it's placement on the tracklist....
Okay, i'm ready to sit down and give it a try - harder to put words down about it than it was for Blonde on Blonde. probably because there's been so many things definitively written about this album. probably too because there are many divisive opinions about it, which get buried under the 'greatest masterpiece ever' label.
I'll be upfront - i have a hard time leaning towards this one if it's placed side by side with any of these three: Freewheelin'/Highway 61/JWH. To me, Dylan is not at his best when he's hunkering down and attempting to focus on 'one' topic. it's a big topic, to be sure, and dylan's exposition on the subject succeeds in making it feel like a universe. but that's love. it can be simple; it can be complicated. over the years, i don't think output of novelists, movie makers, or songwriters has done the concepts of 'Love' or 'Intimacy' or 'commitment' or 'healthy relationships' a great deal of service for people living in the day to day real world. much like how i don't think the bible is as useful as a guidebook to life as is a good biology, chemistry, physics, or economics text book.
To begin discussing Blood on the Tracks, i'd like to start with the Wedding song
from Planet Waves. i think it's a significant departure point - both in moving towards Blood on the Tracks and reaching back towards what he'd been doing on record all the way back to pre-highway 61. this acoustically driven, open and direct narrative is the first song to drop the drums and bass since BIABH - and the lyric is the most unobscure since 'Ballad in Plain D.' this one is pulled off much more seamlessly though. finally, after retreating from the public eye, redoing his wardrobe, and coming out of the countryside, dylan seems pleased to join the market of the music scene (Planet Waves & New Morning are probably the two Dylan albums whose sound can be easiest affiliated with stuff other artists were doing in his peer group and time period...).
So he's reached a point, for some reason or another, where he doesn't need to play such hardball cat and mouse with the public or his public image ... or perhaps he's got his public persona down to a science at this point, so he's no longer worried about it...
I think the defining characteristic about dylan in the 1970s is that he wants to sell albums and he wants to be present in the rock sphere, as huge as it's become at this point. he still wants to do things his way, and he does. so he can return to an acoustic guitar and be captivating - the boring, transparent style of Wedding Song isn't going to cut it though - no way to set himself apart from dozens of singer songwriters that he had already influenced and paved the way for at that point. so, bring in the metaphorical curves, hills, valleys, and clouds that successfully dressed projects like JHW and BoB....just the lyrics alone for BOTT will carry it afloat to make it sail - we know this from the NY sessions. But he wanted to be sure he didn't appear to be looking back too desperately....
and that's what we have for the stage that is Blood on the Tracks
. I'm reviewing a simple early issue of the original - but it's really the 1/2 slowed remaster that allows the magic of this work to breathe - that he decided to speed it up, and deliberated so intensely about this version or that version and sought consultation and help from his brother in Minnesota, indicates a concern for polishing his product in a way that may never have been demonstrated before. perhaps he picked up some tips or other ideas working on Planet Waves with a different set of staff and helping hands...or perhaps it speaks to his desire to make a big statement with this one....
without further ado, let's give it a spin and see what turns up today. Tangled up in blue:
well, he knows how to open an album, he's demonstrated that before...but what a way to open a song. The very first note - seems to drop down from somewhere, but from where? there was only silence before i put the needle down. the bass line is sinking down down down, thank you for that little suspended chord ditty that keeps us afloat - makes this dramedy much more palatable than the moody NY versions...what would Tangled Up in Blue be without this Poppy conversion? would it be as well known in youth hostel campfires around the world to compete with the notoriety of Wish you were here??? my guess is no...one of the first songs i learned how to play on guitar - and i wish i could say it scored me some chicks - but it did give me a few occasions to hold a summer party's attention...
the song is a staple of a hit (my first listens were from Greatest Hits Volume III) - but it's a masterful opening thesis to a tightly themed album. Stands tall as an opener for a greatest hits album too!
the narrative is so good in every which way dylan is good at writing a narrative. easy to follow, difficult to grasp, impossible to handle - rewarding to reach towards. he's truly driving his car as fast as he could, but he's driving it under control to be sure - Brian's right in this respect, nothing squeals off the road until Hard Rain comes about....there's never enough to say about this song, but it's also hard to say what needs to be said about it without sounding trite - so i'm stopping here. it does get a little repetitive for me every now and again - more so than Like a Rolling Stone. I'd really like him to take it out of the setlist right now. only deliver it when they can step up and do it justice. and if they can't? oh well. retire it to the same place as Hurricane. It's had its fair share of adventures on the road....Simple Twist of fate
- simple perfection, nothing more, nothing less. glad this one is in the setlist now, especially when it first re-appeared - some of those performances are quite priceless. especially hearing it from the vantage point of a 70 yr old whose apparently been a victim of lost love several times over. this one will raise your hair and make your eyes spin on the slowed down remaster too. Weddings Song's
simplicity rings in a little here ... and we are reminded how much better the story is when it's metaphorical and we can't really pinpoint where who or what it is about...just take us along for your string chain of imagery. i'd like to walk down the arcade any day.... and great grammar along the way ! (unlike BoB and alot of writing earlier than that) - 'to which he just could not relate...' maybe bob was taking community college courses during the reclusive years! fantastic harmonica solo at the end.you're a big girl now
the instrumentation here....wow. yes it's nice. hard to touch the majestic version i first heard on biograph - but it manages to. and hearing it slowed down literally melted my ears and at least one of my atria...
if there's any dylan album that would translate well to a symphonic cover version - this may be it - and this song may be why...a great example of how a dylan song can appear to begin at the top floor - then he picks it up slowly for a crescendo at the end - a little piano lick here, pick up the drums there, and go in for the finish with a sailing harmonica solo - topographically we've gone from driving around the country, to sitting in a park, to sailing on a boat, or sitting inside watching the rain come town, whichever perspective you'd like to take. when this song is on, the fireplace is running.idiot wind
one of my earliest favorite dylan songs - this is how i feel. the introvert's anthem. the Homunculus sits high in a person's brain. watching the body's mouth, feeling the body's actions - hearing the body's words. some times it can't believe what it's watching or control what comes out of it. but it's always watching it happen, and reflecting on it for later growth. thank god Mr. Dylan decided to pen this phenomena - so we can all put it on repeat and understand how we can allow things to fall apart and crumble before our eyes despite our best efforts. THIS is romantic love people. it generally requires a long bungee cord, a large body of water to wallow in, and a strong stomach. I prefer the NY Sessions, especially when i really want to cry - but the organ presence charges this version with more anger - which is surprisingly more palatable and cathartic than the heartbreaking versions that appear live and in the NY sessions...you're gonna make me lonesome when you go
okay, thanks for going easy on us here - that last track was a doozy, bob. upbeat, country rhythm, fast paced lyric - decreases desire to hear each heartbreaking word - which aren't too bad - that's one of the best resolutions a breakup can offer - i will miss you and you will miss me (hopefully). and we're moving on. better than the alternative though - not missing anything...that would be a bad relationship.
do not flip to side B on an empty stomach. perhaps a glass of milk and a cookie is in order...meet me in the morning
aaahhh.... maybe a beer in fact. i'm one of the few that really really love this diddy - nothing crazy impressive i know - but idiot wind
is still ringing in my ears for pete's sake. gimme some of that organ. give me some hope. give me some glimmer. 'the darkest hour is right before dawn?' oh thank god, it must be 5:30 am. perhaps the sun will shine on this sad soul. but then again perhaps the rooster has taken the day off and i've got nothing but a barbed wire fence to look forward too...
love the guitar solo and tone of it. both of the guitars...Lily and company
i don't know what this song is, where it's from, or what it's about. but i'm glad it's here. every minute of it. singing is sublime. my favorite range of notes for dylan to occupy - again i love the hypnotic organ. very contemporary sound. but dylan's mysterious lyric writing is in full form. right from the BoB textbook. i may say it's my favorite of all the long songs of his. i know this is a really divisive opinion - thankfully i can read all the counter-arguments i want and still be reminded of it's perfection when i put the needle down again...
it also represents how dylan far has come as a songwriter - he can design a narrative that appears to follow a sequence of time - it can be surreal - it can be referential - it can be both! - But what's great is that his vocal melody is in sinc with every other part of the song - the rhythm, the accompaniment, they are all perfectly in step for this highly charged, long distance sprint along a labyrinth of a route. dylan's early wordy songs all seem to really carry the rest of the song along for the ride (with the exception of the long easy ballads of JWH) - so it's very refreshing to see that lyrical comfort appear on a dylan album once again.if you see her, say hello
okay the milk, beer, and cookies were great...hit me up with another, i can take it. this is the second magical eruption that will take place on the slowed down version. slow and delicate on the initial release - makes the pain of the lyrics digestible ... but this is not the case for an over-extended 'chhiiiilllll' . yes'm that will bring a tear. but how nice that all of our loves can be compressed and carried with us in such powerful poignant memories. i don't know how often other people think of old loves, but I find them occupying my brain more frequently than the thoughts that go into planning my meals on a daily basis....the second anthem for the introvert....great guitar work. Shelter from the storm
more props are moved off the stage. no organ. no drums. oh boy - me and dylan, and his words, his pain, and a very delicate acoustic rhythmic accompaniment? okay okay. i will listen to every word. that first 'shelter from the storm' refrain sounds like a cathartic relief. the idea that love with solve and save all. okay it's not so bad - it's a sad story, but i can take it. oh but where is this going. down down down....just like that first bass line in tangled. each refrain proclaiming 'shelter' sounds like a thinner and more blatant lie than the time before. i don't like where this is going. now there's an undertaker? nails under feet? can't get much worse than that.
yes it can. 'i bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose.' there are not many singular lines that can say more than the verse that surrounds it, or reaches out and sums up the dylan we know - but this one certainly does....
my lord if you hear it in a bad mood, watch out and be sure your kleenex comes with aloe. i started this listening experience in quite a good mood actually, and now i have tears running down my cheeks. this pop album can be played so easily in the background of any large group party. but if you sit down and listen to each word, it's an exhausting and ground shaking experience. it really sounds like the perfect song to close the album with. but were it not for buckets of rain
...those buckets would be there for our own tears that we are left generating at the end of this one....buckets of rain
never really gets highly raved about - but as i hinted, i'm quite glad it's here. i love the pretty guitar most of all - reminds me of the playing i haven't heard from dylan since Don't think Twice, it's alright for some reason. one of my favorites to request at open mics. a fine epilogue, all in all.
in sum, life is sad, life is a bust. all ya can do is do what you must. and sooner or later a caring man who wants a loving and full life is going to get 'duped' into doing this for a girl...what happens after that is anyone's guess.
now who was saying this is an album for chicks???
but come on, the best album ever?? it's just a love story.