Electric Review

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Bob Dylan: Portraits of the Self

ANOTHER SELF PORTRAIT: The Bootleg Series Volume #10 (1969-1971). Bob Dylan. Columbia Records.

Original watercolor by Eric Ward (C) 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Original watercolor by Eric Ward, © 2009. All rights reserved.

When Bob Dylan released Self Portrait in 1970, it was an unprecedented event: Never before in the annals of popular music had a cultural icon at the top of his game released a record that elicited such scorn. In one instance, noted critic Greil Marcus actually opened his review of the record with the line: “What is this shit?” Yes, it was a truly unprecedented event as many accused Dylan of sacrilege – the vaunted cultural icon setting fire to his own image and sabotaging his place in history. “Why would Dylan – the great Bob Dylan – issue a two-record set of other people’s songs? What the hell is he thinking?” The questions flowed on and on – for decades….And now, nearly 45 years later, Dylan has done it again, shifting gears, re-releasing the out-takes from the Self Portrait sessions along with other gems from the era as a delayed answer to our questions. Now, some 45 years later, listeners get the chance to examine just what he was thinking and to really see what Self Portrait was all about. In sum, Bootleg #10 reveals that Dylan was, once again, years ahead of his time, as he chose to momentarily extinguish the flames of rock-and- roll in favor of the opportunity to examine himself in relation to his myriad roots and influences. What initially made Self Portrait so shocking is that Dylan issued the album after 8 years on top of the music world and after he’d released 9 critically-acclaimed records that contained some of the greatest and most influential songs ever written. Obviously, Self Portrait wasn’t what his fans wanted – they were aching for another “Like A Rolling Stone.” Nonetheless, fans and critics totally missed the boat on this one: This wasn’t ever meant to be about the search for the second Highway 61. Rather, this was a “self portrait” — a statement about the artist setting out to rediscover the secret soul of himself. Talk about balls! Dylan must have known what he was in for when he decided to go into the studio with this collection of songs and this collection of players. But he didn’t care. Demonstrating the ultimate artistic courage (remember, this was the same folk-icon who had previously sacrificed the secure route to go electric, indifferent to the demands of the audience). In Self Portrait, Dylan decided that this was what he wanted to say and that this was the way he wanted to say it – no further explanation  necessary. Simply, when writers and performers babble about the “artistic process,” this is what they are referring to: Those imperfect yet somehow perfect moments when a voice is found and a line or image comes to full-form. For musicians, it’s about those moments in the studio when an invisible ghost swells to shape and tells a story that is finally heard.

If you’re really listening, you’ll find that Bootleg #10 (Another Self Portrait) is filled with as many surprise moments as there are in the other installments of the bootleg series combined. However, I am going to refrain from dissecting or defining the album song -by-song here – I just don’t want to prejudice your interpretation with what I see and hear. Instead, you must discover this music on your own, just as Dylan himself discovered the songs when he came to sort through the random strands of his folk roots, peering back through the darkness at the artists and the ancient traditions that served as collective catalyst, helping to shape his personal vision of the world into sacred strains of music. If any Bob Dylan song has ever proved meaningful to you or moved you from your chair, then you should ferret out a copy of this record and give it a long introspective listen. Another Self Portrait launches a musical journey that spans generations and lifetimes.

Bootleg #10 (Another Self Portrait) comes in two formats: a standard two-disc configuration as well as a four-disc deluxe boxed set that includes the complete recording of Dylan’s performance at the Isle of Wight Festival (August 31, 1969). In this concert, Dylan was backed by The Band – his first full length concert following a three year hiatus after a motorcycle accident in 1966.

Complete track listing for The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971):

CD 1

1. “Went to See the Gypsy” (demo)
2. “In Search of Little Sadie” (without overdubs, Self Portrait)
3. “Pretty Saro” (unreleased, Self Portrait)
4. “Alberta #3” (alternate version, Self Portrait)
5. “Spanish Is the Loving Tongue” (unreleased, Self Portrait)
6. “Annie’s Going to Sing Her Song” (unreleased, Self Portrait)
7. “Time Passes Slowly #1” (alternate version, New Morning)
8. “Only a Hobo” (unreleased, Greatest Hits II)
9. “Minstrel Boy” (unreleased, The Basement Tapes)
10. “I Threw It All Away” (alternate version, Nashville Skyline)
11. “Railroad Bill” (unreleased, Self Portrait)
12. “Thirsty Boots” (unreleased, Self Portrait)
13. “This Evening So Soon” (unreleased, Self Portrait)
14. “These Hands” (unreleased, Self Portrait)
15. “Little Sadie” (without overdubs, Self Portrait)
16. “House Carpenter” (unreleased, Self Portrait)
17. “All the Tired Horses” (without overdubs, Self Portrait)

CD 2

1. “If Not For You” (alternate version, New Morning)
2. “Wallflower” (alternate version, 1971)
3. “Wigwam” (original version without overdubs, Self Portrait)
4. “Days of ’49” (original version without overdubs, Self Portrait)
5. “Working on a Guru” (unreleased, New Morning)
6. “Country Pie” (alternate version, Nashville Skyline)
7. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” (Live with the Band, Isle of Wight 1969)
8. “Highway 61 Revisited” (Live with the Band, Isle of Wight 1969)
9. “Copper Kettle” (without overdubs, Self Portrait)
10. “Bring Me a Little Water” (unreleased, New Morning)
11. “Sign on the Window” (with orchestral overdubs, New Morning)
12. “Tattle O’Day” (unreleased, Self Portrait)
13. “If Dogs Run Free” (alternate version, New Morning)
14. “New Morning” (with horn section overdubs, New Morning)
15. “Went to See the Gypsy” (alternate version, New Morning)
16. “Belle Isle” (without overdubs, Self Portrait)
17. “Time Passes Slowly #2” (alternate version, New Morning)
18. “When I Paint My Masterpiece” (demo)

Bob Dylan & the Band at Isle of Wight – August 31st, 1969

1. “She Belongs to Me”
2. “I Threw It All Away”
3. “Maggie’s Farm”
4. “Wild Mountain Thyme”
5. “It Ain’t Me, Babe”
6. “To Ramona”/”Mr. Tambourine Man”
7. “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine”
8. “Lay Lady Lay”
9. “Highway 61 Revisited”
10. “One Too Many Mornings”
11. “I Pity the Poor Immigrant”
12. “Like a Rolling Stone”
13. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”
14. “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)”
15. “Minstrel Boy”
16. “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”

by John Aiello


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This entry was posted on September 13, 2013 by in 2013, In the Spotlight, Rat On Music, September 2013 and tagged , , , .
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