4F de Télérama -
Best New Reissue
For fans of Bob Dylan's wide-ranging Bootleg series, More Blood, More Tracks (Vol. 14) is an entryway into one of the most mysterious, tangled stories in his recording career. These six discs contain the complete recordings sessions for 1975's Blood on the Tracks, 87 tracks in all, the vast majority unreleased. This box assists in offering a view of the process behind one of the songwriter's most enigmatic albums. On September 16 of 1974, Dylan entered Columbia's Studio with engineer Phil Ramone, with songs at once seething with anger, brokenness, and vulnerability. Written and recorded during his eventual divorce from first wife Sara, Dylan shrouds these songs in alliteration and metaphor, stretching time itself as past and present, commingling in numerous locations; they separate and return in new configurations. His protagonists speak in first and third person, often in the same verse. Once encountered, however, they're impossible to shake.
Presented here are the complete sessions of the four days in New York, chronologically recorded, and, for the first time at the proper speed (Dylan had Ramone bump the master tape speed to make the tunes faster for radio play), and without the substantial reverb on the original tapes. These tunes were cut in a fit of white-heat inspiration, first by Dylan solo, and then with a band of folk-associated sidemen in Eric Weissberg & Deliverance. By the time you reach discs three through five, all the accompaniment, save for Dylan's guitar, harmonica, Tony Brown's bass, and occasional pedal steel and organ, are stripped away, resulting in what was then thought to be the completed album. Scheduled for late December release with a promotional campaign drafted, printed cover, and test pressings distributed, Dylan wasn't satisfied. Ultimately, he kept only one band track, "Meet Me in the Morning." He spent Christmas in Minnesota with his producer brother David Zimmerman, who was also less than enthused with the tracks. Dylan called his label and insisted on holding the album back. On December 27, he and a band of hastily assembled local players re-recorded five songs to complete Blood on the Tracks (captured on disc six). Since nearly half-a-million copies of the cover were already printed, the Minnesota musicians remained uncredited until now.
This is exhaustive but fascinating material that sounds fantastic due to a painstaking remixing job -- nothing here sounds like a rough demo. Check the nine takes of "Idiot Wind," some offer different words, all roil with anger and bitterness. "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" is gradually revealed as one of Dylan's finest love songs in a dozen more takes. "You're a Big Girl Now," in 15 takes, is peeled away from its sarcasm to reveal a man saddled with regret. Multiple versions of "Tangled Up in Blue," "Lily Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts," and "Simple Twist of Fate" offer proof that there were many versions of the songs before they assumed their final incarnations. Dylan's constant rewriting and creative flow are captured warts and all in false starts, stuttering alternate takes, studio conversation, and flowing inspiration in complete versions. There are hours of fascination awaiting listeners, and the music poses as many new questions as it does answers surrounding the album's mythos. As for the autobiographical nature of the content, it remains, thankfully, unclear. The enclosed photo book is as essential as the liner essays in the deluxe package. By any measure, More Blood, More Tracks is a monumentally important document in the history of popular music and a gem in Dylan's catalog. ~ Thom Jurek