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Alex Ross writes about the New York recording sessions captured on Bob Dylan's “More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series, Vol. ”.
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Just as much as relationships are about more than their breakups, breakup albums are about more than their relationships. Though remaining convincingly jaunty throughout with a light melody that catches the details in forensic clarity, its drawn-out story is a chore to decipher.


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Unlike the ambient emotional narratives of the rest of the album, the linear ballad requires a full and present attention, a reminder of one of the ways that music consumption is different than reading. Personal, perhaps, the songs easily transcend their would-be biographies. One glimpse into the making of the album comes through the version that Dylan very nearly released, scrapping it at the last moment, after jackets and test pressings had already been made.

Playing an advance copy at a family gathering in Minnesota in over the holidays, Dylan—at the behest of his brother—decided he wanted a brighter sound, less of a downer.

Bob Dylan Collaborators Recall Intense ‘Blood on the Tracks’ Session

Flexing his superstar muscle and anticipating Neil Young , Kanye West , and others, he had the album recalled, pulling together a band of local folkies in the days after Christmas to rerecord half of the songs. Charting at 1 on its January release, Blood on the Tracks is arguably the last Dylan album on which a majority of the songs became standards of their own, part of the invisible canon shared at coffee houses, college campuses, or anywhere bright-eyed young pickers might congregate.


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Imagining Dylan as a simple songwriter, the template of Blood on the Tracks— sad boy with an acoustic guitar and a handful of chords—might seem basic , until one tries to replicate anything about it, or even just strum the songs at home. It lives on in its own peculiar way. One of the few older songs Dylan has performed consistently in recent years, even newer verses have emerged over the past half-decade.

Nobody covers Dylan like Dylan either, apparently. It took another few decades for Dylan even to return to the warm string-band sound of Blood on the Tracks , coming closest on his two 21st century albums of standards, Shadows in the Night and Fallen Angels. The Columbia label released an album with that title in January, , but Dylan had reworked five of the songs in last-minute sessions in Minnesota, resulting in a substantial change of tone.

Bob Dylan's 'Blood on the Tracks' Box Set Has Arrived | Billboard

Mournfulness and wistfulness gave way to a feisty, festive air. It was not, however, the masterwork of melancholy that he created in Studio A.

The compact disc that I picked up in a basement Greenwich Village store had a pleasant overlay of vinyl noise—the result of a transfer from a test pressing. Artists tend to dislike personal readings of their most personal work. The logical move would have been to include the entire album in its initial guise.

Yet the single disk gives you only two of the test-pressing tracks, alongside some admittedly riveting outtakes.

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The box set has all of the discarded tracks, but they are scattered through a complete chronological survey of the four days of sessions—five and a half hours of Dylan at the height of his powers. You will have to study the track listings to assemble the original record. Some of them are sung more or less as written on both incarnations of the album:.

Was it really 12 years ago, well, it seems like just the other day.

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The notebook shows constant, obsessive revision—a sort of perfectionism of disaster. That priest waltzes on a tilted floor; then he waltzes while a building burns; then he sits stone-faced. The music that Dylan wrote for these lyrics has a chilly, clammy air. As a result, the tonic chord rings rich and bright. But each verse begins with a jarring A-minor chord, which tends to land awkwardly. The middle note easily strays off center, souring the sound.