Flashback: Bob Dylan Releases ‘Blood On The Tracks’
It was 48 years ago today (January 20th, 1975) that Bob Dylan‘s 15th studio set, the groundbreaking, Blood On The Tracks, was released. The album, which was Dylan’s return to his Columbia Records following a two-album deal with David Geffen‘s Asylum, is considered not only Dylan’s comeback album, but his crowning artistic statement.
Blood On The Tracks hit Number One on March 1st, 1975 for the first of its two-week run, and has gone on to receive double platinum status in the U.S. and in 2015 was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Highlights on the set include such instant Dylan standards “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Shelter From The Storm,” “You’re A Big Girl Now,” “Idiot Wind,” and “Simple Twist Of Fate,” among others.
The initial sessions for Blood On The Tracks took place over four days in New York City in September, 1974. Soon thereafter, the album was mastered and “white label” review copies began to circulate. Upon further listening, Dylan went on to re-recorded five of the tracks at Minneapolis Sound 80 Studios beginning in late December of ’74.
Bob Dylan, who still dips heavily into his backlog of 1960’s and ’70s tunes during his shows, was asked about the composition of his groundbreaking work across his first two decades as a songwriter: “There’s a magic to that and it’s not Siegfried & Roy-kinda magic, y’know, and it’s a different kind of a penetrating magic. And, y’know, I did it. . . I did it at one time.”
Before his production work took top priority in his life, the late-Phil Ramone was behind the boards as an engineer on such groundbreaking albums as Paul McCartney‘s 1971 set Ram, Paul Simon‘s 1973 There Goes Rhymin’ Simon collection, and Bob Dylan’s 1975 masterpiece, Blood On The Tracks: “John Hammond was there, and Bob Dylan, myself, and a couple of other people around there. The original recording didn’t have a lot of extended stuff on it, and then there was a delay in the original recording and then they put other instruments on when he went to Minnesota. The public knows one version, the bootlegger knows the other.”
We asked Rolling Stone contributing editor, and Dylan connoisseur, Austin Scaggs — the son of the legendary Boz Scaggs — what exactly makes Blood On The Tracks, perhaps, the most original album in Dylan’s catalogue: “Obviously, Blood On The Tracks is totally the breakup of the marriage — the autobiography. Y’know, you can listen to any of those Blood On The Tracks songs and really be able to define them and put them into context and know where they’re coming from. Maybe there’s something about that?”
Elvis Costello has been a longtime die-hard Bob Dylan fan and told us that Dylan’s best work doesn’t need to be measured against his life to be fully effective: “Blood On The Tracks, which is a very harrowing record in many ways emotionally — but it isn’t a better record if you were to be possessed of the idea that that was an exact representation of Bob Dylan’s life at that time. It’s a good record because the songs are very vivid and, y’know, a couple of them delve into some pretty hard territory — and that’s what makes them persuasive.”
In 2018, Bob Dylan released the critically acclaimed More Blood, More Tracks – The Bootleg Series Vol. 14. The press release for the box set read in part: “The six-disc full-length deluxe version includes the long sought after complete New York sessions in chronological order including outtakes, false starts and studio banter. The album’s producers have worked from best sources available, in most cases utilizing the original multi-track session tapes.”