While I was mesmerized by Blood On The Tracks the very first time I heard it, it took a long time for me to warm up to this track. I thought it was a bit of an anticlimax, coming as it did on the heels of so many colossal songs. I thought this album deserved a closer along the lines of “Desolation Row” or “Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands” et al. Why go out with a relative whimper?
Yet as the years have passed and I’ve listened to a lot more music, I’ve come to appreciate the fine art of sequencing an album. As someone who has had the opportunity to do album reviews for the last five years, you can trust me when I say that it is a lost art. Dylan, for my money, has always been one of the finest practitioners of it. If we are going to accept that Blood On The Tracks is a concept album, it’s also necessary to view “Buckets Of Rain” as a song that sacrifices a bit of its potential grandeur for the sake of the album as a whole.
By that I mean that Dylan needed a song at the end of the album to serve as the epilogue. Another wordy treatise on tortured love and its acrimonious fallout might have tipped the balance of the album toward being a one-sided harangue rather than a nuanced look at a relationship that has run its course. “Buckets Of Rain” is the even-tempered, after-hours rumination of a man who has been through the fire and now, with the tears drying away, can see it all much clearer.
“Life it sad, life is a bust/All you can do is do what you must,” Dylan sings in the final verse. It’s helpless wisdom, but wisdom nonetheless. There is still fondness there for the one who got away, but there is all also acceptance of the truth, now unavoidable. He ends the album with one more unanswered question: “I’ll do it for you/Honey, baby, can’t you tell?” Sadly, no amount of wisdom will ever bring that answer to the fore.
When I compiled this list, I judged these songs on their individual merit. For the most part with Dylan, you can do that and be fair to the songs. This song is a notable exception in that it is best appreciated as a part of the whole. On its own, #183 seems about the right spot for “Buckets Of Rain.” In its context, however, it’s damn near perfection.