Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks – What To Listen For

More Bob Dylan

More Blood on the Tracks


Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

Many copies have no bass, while other copies are bright, a combination which ruins the sound of the acoustic guitars that dominate the album. On the better Hot Stamper pressings the bass will be deep and well-defined and the tonal balance will be correct.

The copies that fared the best in our shootouts were rich, warm, tubey and full-bodied — in other words, analog sounding. 

What To Listen For

It’s nice when the copy in hand has all the transparency, space, layered depth and three-dimensionality that makes listening to records such a fundamentally different experience than listening to digitally-sourced material, but it’s not nearly as important as having that rich, relaxed tonal balance. A little smear and a lack of resolution is not the end of the world on this album. Brightness, along with too much grain and grit, can be. 

What To Listen For — Side Two

The harmonica on the second track is devilishly difficult to get right. If there is any aggressiveness or grit in the sound of your copy, you will have no trouble recognizing it when that harmonica starts to play.

This is a record that is apparently very difficult to master properly, because almost every copy you play sounds wrong in some important way.

Most copies of this record have a slightly grainy quality to the vocals. Not so here. Dylan’s vocals sounds rich and clear, and I don’t think there’s anything you could do to his voice to make it sound better than it does on this copy.

Many copies have no bass, and other copies can be bright, which ruins the sound of all the acoustic guitars that dominate on this record. On a Hot Stamper pressing like this one, the bass will be deep and well-defined and the tonal balance will be just right.

Who Knew It Could Sound Like This? 

Both sides are tubey magical and very musical. The vocals sound just right with wonderful texture, ambience, and presence. The bass is the best we’ve ever heard for this album — deep, rich, and well-defined. The acoustic guitar is Right On The Money with lots of body and texture and just the right amount of twang. Simple Twist Of Fate is OUT OF THIS WORLD here with none of the hardness in the voice that you’ll find on the typical pressing. All the elements really come together on this copy, making it the best Blood On The Tracks we’ve ever heard. We rate both Hot sides A+++, that’s As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) my friends!

We’ve mentioned before how this is an album with its share of sonic issues. While this recording may not be demo disc quality, it is certainly an EXCELLENT sounding rock record. And the music is great as well. This is the “comeback” Bob Dylan record that energized his following in the mid ’70s. No recording of his with which I am familiar since then can compare to this one. Recording technology has gone backwards, and to be charitable, his voice has not improved either.

How About Them Surfaces? 

Not only that, but condition tends to be a big problem for this record. Many of the good sounding copies we’ve heard are beat to death. This copy plays Mint Minus most of the way through with some slightly noisier moments.

I used to recommend a later reissue of this record but that one sounds very flat and dead to me now. No imports I’ve ever heard have sounded good. No heavy vinyl versions sound good, IMHO. The only way to find a good copy of this record in my experience is to buy good, clean domestic pressings and play them.