Monday, June 12, 2006
Bob Dylan Sunday - Blood On The Tracks New York Sessions
Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks New York Session (unlimited downloads)
I've been listening to Blood On The Tracks for the past few days, so it seemed like the perfect time to shine some light on one of the greatest albums ever, bar none. Amazingly, I don't know if I'd say that it's Bob Dylan's greatest album, which should indicate the level of esteem I have for the man and the heights that he has reached in his career. Blood On The Tracks is an amazing collection of songs that deal with the pain and anguish caused by the breakup of his first marriage, or so it is said. It's dark, angry, nostalgic, sad, all of that over the course of 51 minutes, a work that still sounds amazing and overwhelming 30 years later.
What we have here is the original version of Blood On The Tracks, the tracks recorded in New York City that were scheduled to be released as the album. However, Dylan decided to re-do the album, heading to Minneapolis to record with a band of local musicians. He came up with 5 new versions of 10 of the tracks, and that would give us the album that we all know and love. This CD comes from the original test pressing of the New York sessions, giving us a chance to hear the album that Dylan and Columbia Records originally expected to release.
For me, "Idiot Wind" most clearly distinguishes the two sessions, as this NYC version is somber, more sad than bitter. The official release, which was cut in Minneapolis, is angry, bitter, acidic. I cannot choose the better version, they both seem perfect and fitting, the different feelings mirroring the tumult of a failed relationship. Then, there is the changed line in "If You See Her, Say Hello", as he originally says to the new man, "If you're making love to her/Kiss her for the kid." This becomes "If you get close to her, kiss her once for me" in the official version, a subtle, but telling, difference. The original line seems so much more human, unable to not ponder the worst possibilities for the woman he once loved no matter how painful. G-d, what a song, for real.
Make sure to listen to the opening of "Shelter from the Storm", as you can hear the buttons from Dylan's jacket hitting the guitar strings. Ellen Bernstein says of the recording of this album, "There were certain ones where you can hear the sound of his fingernails on the guitar. That didn't matter to him. None of that stuff was important to him. What was important was the overall weight of the song." I always come back to this with Dylan, that sense of imperfection, whether its his voice or the sound or the lyrics, his music revelled in the ugly, the dirt, the ignored. It's something that I fear we've lost in this digital age of music, where imperfections are taken out, are abhorred.
I don't think that I am knowledgeable enough to discuss the differences between the two recording sessions. If you do not own the official release, you have to go and buy it ASAP. There is no excuse not to have this album in your life. You can get more info on the recording at Bob's Boots. Read this amazing essay by Pete Hamill that was on the back of the original LP. After that, read this Wikipedia entry on the making of the album. I hope that a knowledgeable Dylan fan can correct any errors in that entry, or tell us more about the whole story behind the music.
I don't know if any other artist has ever hit me as hard as Dylan, Blood On The Tracks being one of his most devastating blows. I hope that everyone gives this a listen, leave your thoughts if you want.