16. Bob Dylan, 'Blood on the Tracks'
Bob Dylan once introduced this album's opening song, "Tangled Up in Blue," onstage as taking him 10 years to live and two years to write. It was, for him, a pointed reference to the personal crisis – the collapse of his marriage to Sara Lowndes – that at least partly inspired this album, Dylan's best of the 1970s. In fact, he wrote all of these lyrically piercing, gingerly majestic songs in two months, in mid-1974. He was so proud of them that he privately auditioned almost all of the album, from start to finish, for pals and peers including Mike Bloomfield, David Crosby and Graham Nash before cutting them in September – in just a week, with members of the bluegrass band Deliverance. But in December, Dylan played the record for his brother David in Minneapolis, who suggested recutting some songs with local musicians. The final Blood was a mix of the slow, pensive New York sessions and the faster, wilder Minneapolis dates. Together, they frame the gritty anguish in some of Dylan's most passionate, confessional songs – from adult breakup ballads like "If You See Her, Say Hello" to the sharp-tongued opprobrium of "Idiot Wind," his greatest put-down song since "Like a Rolling Stone." "It's hard for me to relate to people enjoying that type of pain," Dylan said after the album became an instant success. Yet he had never turned so much pain into so much musical splendor.