Bob Dylan and folk music are so firmly entwined it is sometimes easy to forget that he’s every bit the the shape-shifting pop star as David Bowie or Lady Gaga.
Whether you prefer the young Woody Guthrie disciple, the 1960s counterculture poet, or the wizened 21st Century sage, Robert Zimmerman has created multiple Bob Dylans for fans to contemplate.
Heck, there’s even 1980s Dylan.
The Dylan getting a lot of attention these days is the songwriter and performer who gave us Blood On The Tracks. The 1975 album captures an artist at a crossroads – no longer a young man, but not yet the elder statesman. This Dylan poured heartbreak and anger into song and delivered what many now consider a classic album.*
While Blood On The Tracks exists as a celebrated and official release, Dylan recorded multiple versions of the songs across sessions in New York and Minnesota. In doing so he left behind a treasure trove of alternate takes for Dylanologists to hunt down, embrace, and sort out in their quest for a more perfect masterpiece. What else would you expect from a shape-shifter?
These sessions got their official due this fall with the release of More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 14. There’s a little bit of something for everyone; from a comprehensive six disc compendium, to a single disc of curated alternate highlights.
The release of More Blood comes at an opportune time as Denver’s Avourneen will play Blood On The Tracks: A Tribute in Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill on Friday, November 30. For Adam Goldstein, Avourneen’s singer and guitarist, the album holds a special place for him in the Dylan canon, which he explains in our Q&A with him below.
Bob Dylan has a lot of classic albums, why did you choose to perform Blood on the Tracks?
I’ve been a Bob Dylan fan since I was 13, but Blood on the Tracks has always had a special place for me in the whole of his catalogue. The album has always seemed much more personal and immediate than his other releases, and considering the context of the record, it makes sense. I didn’t know anything about Dylan’s divorce from his wife, Sara, when I first listened to the record, but it was clear there was an immense amount of emotion behind tunes like “Tangled Up in Blue,” “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” and “If You See Her Say Hello.”
As I progressed through adolescence, my 20s, my 30s, it seemed like every major emotional event had a symbolic tie to one of the songs. Just like Shakespeare, the depth of the record increased on every return visit; that’s to say, I found something new every time I listened. It’s what made me first want to tackle the entire album five years ago, and it’s what has made me want to return to pay tribute with a full band.
Have you gotten a chance to listen to any of the very recently released More Blood, More Tracks release? Any initial thoughts?
I was excited for More Blood, More Tracks from the moment I heard about the release. I’ve long wanted the Bootleg Series to devote an installment to Blood On The Tracks, and I am beyond impressed with the results. The recordings reveal a much more stripped-down, basic versions of the tunes. The impact of songs like “Idiot Wind” and “Tangled” aren’t diminished by the absence of a full band — I love the record’s inclusion of the bare-bones versions of these iconic songs, as they give context and depth to a piece of art that’s always played a seminal role in my creative life.
Will the newly released alternate versions influence how you perform the album?
Though the show will feature a full band, it will also feature a few cues from the new release. “If You See Her Say Hello,” for example, will be solo and unadorned. We’re also going to try to get to the heart of other songs by making a minimal arrangement. All of these approaches came from the simplistic vision on the new Bootleg Series release.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
This is the fourth time I’ve played the full album in front of an audience, and the second time with Avourneen. I can’t wait to pay tribute to this seminal work of art at Swallow Hill, one of my favorite places in the world to perform!
See Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks Performed by Avourneen in Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill on Friday, November 30.
*This wasn’t always the case, and upon its initial release, Blood On The Tracks was praised as a return to form, but one met with some ambivalence. In his review of the album for Rolling Stone, Jon Landau wrote “To compare the new album to Blonde on Blonde at all is to imply that people will treasure it as deeply and for as long. They won’t.”