What: Bob Dylan's landmark Blood on the Tracks, a introspective album recorded in 1974. Here's Dylan on tour shortly thereafter, joining T-Bone Burnett in blasting through an electrifying version of the album's "Shelter from the Storm":

Why: The greatest songbook by America's greatest songwriter, Blood on the Tracks is that rarest of Bob Dylan albums: an emotional one. Dylan has an endearing quirk of standing above his story subjects, Kubrick-style, without getting too close. That wasn't possible this time, as the subtext was the collapse of his marriage to Sara Dylan, with whom he raised five children. It begins with the complex "Tangled Up in Blue", and you see what you're in for when he sings, "She was married when we first met/Soon to be divorced/I helped her out of a jam I guess/But I used a little too much force." From there, the album continues on a path of chronicles about infidelity, estrangement, and regret: "Simple Twist of Fate", "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go", "If You See Her, Say Hello". The album reaches an apex with the epic carnival of betrayal "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts". Finally, it settles down with two songs of serene precipitation, "Shelter from the Storm" (more downtempo than the live version) and "Buckets of Rain".

Impact: After years of tepidly received albums from Dylan, Blood on the Tracks hit #1, and subsequent critical evaluation has matured into absolute hero-worship. Rolling Stone slotted it at #16 of the 500 greatest albums of all time, behind two of his 1960s classics, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Every great Dylan album since has been dubbed "his best since Blood on the Tracks." And if you didn't have enough reasons to vote Democratic in November, it might put you over the top when you learn that this album is on Barack Obama's iPod. It's your civic duty to put it on yours.

Personal Connection: At last count, I had bought this album five times: twice in LP form, once on cassette, once on CD, and once on iTunes for this column. If it's possible to wear out mp3s, I'll probably do it with this album.

Other Contenders: Joni Mitchell stoking the starmaker machinery with her intricate entry into pop, Court & Spark; Fairport Convention's medieval-ectric raveup Liege & Lief, featuring a thunderous reinterpretation of "Matty Groves"; Nanci Griffith's breakthrough LP Storms, the easiest way to fall in love with a voice; Special Reserve, an intoxicating collection of Celtic-tinged drinking songs from Gaelic Storm (a.k.a, the belowdecks band from Titanic).