It took Neko Case doing a live cover of "Buckets of Rain" to remind me it's time to get Bob Dylan on the big board.
Buckets of rain
Buckets of tears
Got all them buckets comin' out of my ears
Buckets of moonbeams in my hand
I got all the love, honey baby
You can stand
If forced to choose, I'd probably place "Blood on the Tracks" at the very top of Dylan's prolific and still growing catalog of albums. Although he's never had a No. 1 single, "Blood" did make it to the top of Billboard's album chart in 1975. Now we all seem to agree that rankings don't mean squat, but if ever an album deserved to be there, it's this one. (It also ranks No. 16 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 Greatest Albums.)
I been meek
And hard like an oak
I seen pretty people disappear like smoke
Friends will arrive, friends will disappear
If you want me, honey baby
I'll be here
Dylan has said the album is based on the writings of Chekhov, but that sounds suspiciously like a poet talking. Jakob Dylan said it was his father and mother Sara talking.
Like your smile
And your fingertips
Like the way that you move your lips
I like the cool way you look at me
Everything about you is bringing me
Whatever the source of inspiration, "Blood on the Tracks" is an amazing collection of songs. "Buckets" might get overshadowed by more heavily-played tracks, notably "Tangled Up in Blue", "Simple Twist of Fate" (what a one-two punch) and "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go." Maybe that's why we're zeroing in on it here. The runts in the litter can be so cute and irresistible. I might just name my next dog Buckets.
Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain't no monkey but I know what I like
I like the way you love me strong and slow
I'm takin' you with me, honey baby
When I go
Aside from the superb songwriting, Dylan's voice -- which can be confounding -- is never in better form than on these tracks. Recognizing we had nothing from Robert Zimmerman yet on the PSSST (Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout) board, we figured we better fire one up there.
Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well,
I'll do it for you, honey baby,
Can't you tell?
Dylan still does it well, as his Renaissance attests. "Modern Times" (2006) and "Together Through Life" (2009) have both been chart-toppers, and SSS comrade Jim Reck points out that the new release "Christmas in the Heart" is a must-listen (it's that time of year, after all.)
But "Blood on the Tracks" has something these others lack -- 34 years of staying power, a reliable old friend who's always there when you need him.