National Album Day: Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan

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Blood On The Tracks is an album for every season. I first heard it as a teenager and it seems as deeply intriguing, as powerfully emotional and as satisfyingly comforting to me today as it did back then. Hilarious and tragic, soothing and bitter, lonely and redeemed, it’s a collection of songs that can reflect back whatever you’re looking for.

The lyrics fire out poetic truths that make you feel less alone in the universe. Yet, he sees the world in all its alienating cruelty, as well as its deep connectedness, and the searing put-downs and pointed observations hold up some stark realities of loss, betrayal and disappointment in relationships.

Yet, he relieves your soul by exposing the hurt, dissecting the longing and carrying the despair for you. In songs like Tangled Up In Blueand Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, his cast of characters, unexpected plot twists and dramatic timing are the stuff of theatre. You know the die is cast, yet each time it feels as though the pageantry and mystery is unravelled anew. Shelter From The Storm has an epic, biblical landscape but is essentially a warm hug when you’re lost and alone. Idiot Wind is scathing and darkly comical. If You See Her Say Hello is naked vulnerability and regret.

His lyrics turn around and surprise you, open doors you haven’t noticed were there and let you fall down trapdoors, only to pick you up with a smile and carry you home, eventually. The extremes of life’s emotions are held under a microscope to burn out the wisdom and deliver you to equilibrium.

It was neither the first nor the last of Dylan’s albums that I heard, but it was early on in my discovery of his work and endures as my favourite of his recordings. I find something new within its layers frequently enough to know that my dance with it will surely never be over.

Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan,1975. Chosen by music photographer Imelda Michalczyk.

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