Monday, 23 January 2017

"Blood On The Tracks" by BOB DYLAN (2012 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Audiophile CD Reissue - ULTRADISC UHR GAIN 2 Remaster in Repro Artwork) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…In The Tall Grass…In The Ones I Love…"

The undisputed singer-songwriter champ/people's poet of the Sixties was all but commercially washed up by 1974. Neither the weedy "Dylan" from 1973 nor "Planet Waves" from 1974 were good as whole albums - with that old melody/lyrical magic only sporadically evident on songs like "Spanish Is The Loving Tongue" and "Knocking On Heaven's Door". A pointless live double "Before The Flood" with The Band followed in July of 1974 and smacked of contract filler damaging his reputation further. But come early the following year - all that lost faith was about to change...

Fast forward to April 1975 - and I'm scouring the singles boxes in Dublin's cool and trendy Dandelion Market (a sort of indoor Camden Town). Dealers would collect ex chart singles that were a few weeks past their sell-by-date from the city's abundant record shops and flog them for 50p or less. New and in their label bags - you'd pick up deals and take chances on new names. So I'm flicking through the Dawn and Bell label bubble gum pop when I spot "Tangled Up In Blue" by Bob Dylan on its Orange and Yellow CBS Records label (3160). I paid my 50p, took it home and hoped for the best when I put the needle down. My jaw promptly fell to the kitchen lino...and in many unhygienic ways...its been there ever since...

There can't be too many Dylan nuts who don't worship at the feet of CBS Records S 69097 and Columbia PC 33235 released January 1975 in the States and February 1975 in the UK. Charted at 4 in Blighty but going all the way to the top in America - "Blood On The Tracks" signalled that the man was back - and how. In all truth he hadn't sounded this vital (or confused) since "Blonde On Blonde" in 1966.

Let's get to the CD - two standard versions in 1989 and 1993 preceded the real deal - a proper remaster on a 2003 Columbia SACD Hybrid CD that contained both an SACD layer and a Standard STEREO mix. Easily available in a glossy card digipak - it has beautiful sound quality and should be enough for most. But this is Bob Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks" and if I can attain another microscopic ounce of audio quality out of yet another release - I'm gonna spend money on that sucker. So I bought this gorgeous USA-Only Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab audiophile pressing - and I'm thrilled I did. Here are the buckets of rain...

1. Tangled Up In Blue
2. Simple Twist Of Faith
3. You're A Big Girl Now
4. Idiot Wind
5. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
6. Meet Me In The Morning [Side 2]
7. Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts
8. If You See Her, Say Hello
9. Shelter From The Storm
10. Buckets Of Rain

USA released November 2012 (February 2013 in the UK) - this issue of "Blood On The Tracks" is an "Original Master Recording" CD on Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDSACD 2098 (Barcode 821797209861). An Audiophile Hybrid Edition - it has both SACD and DSD CD layers and does not require an SACD player for playback (it will automatically default to the DSD CD layer once in standard machines). The transfer from the original master tapes used Mobile Fidelity's patented ULTRADISC UHR GAIN 2 Remaster System with mastering by ROB LoVERDE (assisted by SHAWN R. BRITTON). It's a straightforward 10-track transfer of the album at 51:48 minutes housed in oversized hard card repro artwork. An inner gatefold black and gold card sleeve houses the gold CD (itself in a gauze protective) and there's a numbered (embossed) square on the rear cover.

When you first hear the opening triple-whammy of brilliance - "Tangled Up In Blue", "Simple Twist Of Faith" and "You're A Big Girl Now" - the differences to my ear are the acoustic guitars and the beautiful clarity to the bass - they're floating around the room but not drowning out his impassioned vocals. The high hats and drum taps on "Big Girl" are crystal clear but again they're not amped to a point where they take over. It's properly beautiful stuff.

And as everyone now knows the album revolved around the dissolution of his marriage - so the lyrics and songs flit between apathy and stupor ("Meet Me In The Morning") to slighting bitterness ("Idiot Wind") and a sort of hurting reconciliation ("If You See Her, Say Hello"). But then they come roaring back to simplicity and lingering affection ("Shelter From The Storm" and "Buckets Of Rain"). Dylan ends Side 1 with the short but oh so sweet "You're Gonna Make Lonesome When You Go". It's typical of the album - confessional yet still guarded - its Sixties throwback sound and vocals has to be one of his loveliest songs -with lyrical rhymes that thrill to this day (words from it title this review). The smacking of the acoustic guitar strings on "Buckets Of Rain" have fabulous clarity and that double bass in the background is warm and full too. Wonderfully done...

In some respects it's a shame Columbia simply don't just get on with it and do a DELUXE EDITION of this most iconic of his albums - maybe they will with its 40th Anniversary looming in 2015. There are two outtakes on Biograph and a further four on "The Bootleg Series Volumes 1 - 3" and with the original withdrawn album mix - would make a corker of a reissue.

In the meantime - if it's the best sound you want - then the spondulicks spent on this lovely reissue of "Blood On The Tracks" will pay dividends...

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