Upon its release in 1975, Blood on the Tracks became the target of critics who disparaged the album’s “shoddiness” (Rolling Stone’s Jon Landau) and dismissed it as possessing little more than a “functional” sound (Greil Marcus), even as those same critics praised the songs for their intimate, confessional nature. Time has forgiven any fault Dylan may have shown as a record maker—Rolling Stone has ranked Blood on the Tracks as No. 16 on its list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time—and now, thanks to state-of- the-art remastering, this classic has never sounded better, especially in this new Mobile Fidelity SACD, the company’s latest offering in its limited-edition Dylan reissues.
Coming on the heels of 1974’s acerbic Planet Waves, the album chronicles the dissolution of Dylan’s marriage to Sara Lowndes through such songs as “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” “Shelter from the Storm,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” “If You See Her, Say Hello,” “You’re a Big Girl Now” and, of course, the biting title track.
Bitterness but also resolution come through in Dylan’s voice as well as lyrics. The music ranges from the Blonde on Blonde-era organ balladry of “Idiot Wind” and the self-effacing blues of “Meet Me in the Morning” to the wordy “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” and the folksy finger-style guitar of “Buckets of Rain.” The angst of this public break- up album—with stark tracks that sting like open wounds—takes center stage, but Dylan’s wry wit also is on display showing he’d begun to move on in his emotional life. Indeed, his next album, 1976’s Desire, found him returning, for the first time in nearly a decade, to topical songs, most notably “Hurricane,” his plea to free convicted murderer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and “Joey,” his controversial paean to mobster Joey Gallo.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab’s original master recording employs the company’s patented GAIN 2 mastering system and is pressed on the label’s Ultradisc UHR series, featuring both a high resolution SACD and a 16-bit/44.1 kHz CD layer. In comparison with Columbia’s 2003 stereo/multichannel SACD reissue (with its rumbling bass lines), it has somewhat less visceral punch, but more than compensates with a clarity—a sonic purity—that well suits the intimate nature of these sessions.
Those who prefer their Dylan on audiophile-quality LPs have had to be patient; the shortage of good pressing plants has slowed Dylan vinyl reissues. But if previous MoFi vinyl pressings are any indication, the pending 180-gram version of Blood on the Tracks should be worth the wait—these hi-def vinyl discs, pressed at RTI in California, have been nothing short of revelatory (Columbia didn’t release its 2003 remasters on vinyl). Earlier releases in MoFi’s series include Freewheelin’ (SACD and two-LP 45rpm 180-gram vinyl), Another Side of Bob Dylan (SACD and two-LP 45rpm 180- gram vinyl), and the stunning remaster [reviewed in Issue 226] of The Basement Tapes (SACD and 33 1/3rpm 180-gram vinyl). Planned for this year are Highway 61 Revisited (SACD and two-disc 45rpm 180-gram vinyl), Bringing It All Back Home (SACD and two-disc 45rpm 180-gram vinyl), and Blonde on Blonde (SACD and three-disc 45rpm 180-gram vinyl).