I received my copy of the eight installment, or 10th “volume,” of Bob Dylan’s “Bootleg Series,” earlier today. The music was immediately added to my cell phone, then the disks were inserted into my CD player, so I would have access to the album wherever I happen to be.
I’ll try to write a proper review of “Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)” soon, but today, I will just share my initial thoughts.
Anyone reading this by now already knows the basic story of these previously unreleased recordings. “Self Portrait” was released in 1970, and while it initially sold well and had its share of supporters, it mostly confused, alienated, and angered his fans. When Dylan left Columbia and signed with Asylum a few years later, Columbia, like a spurned lover, scraped the bottom of the barrel from this period and released “Dylan,” to try to punish and embarrass their former prized artist.
"Self Portrait" was often cited as Dylan's worst album. Possibly anyone's worst album. However, over the years, people began to make some sense of the sessions, and found hidden gems. It became a litmus test for Dylan fans: If you didn’t get this, you didn’t get Dylan.
After reportedly finding the session tapes from which this collection originates, it was unexpectedly decided it would be the next volume in Sony Legacy’s “Bootleg Series.” Most of this material was unknown to collectors and chroniclers of Dylan's career. It was a chancy, but bold, move.
The earliest material presented here, from 1967’s“Basement Tapes,” and the “Nashville Skyline” sessions and Isle Of Wight concert from 1969, place the material in context. But it’s the intimate material with just Dylan, guitarist David Bromberg, and (on most tracks) keyboardist Al Kooper, that will bend your brain while they simultaneously nest in your heart. The material all hangs together as a piece, but the standouts are the unexpected tracks from the speedy followup, “New Morning,” with an expanded lineup: The title track with the horns added back to the mix, and “Sign On The Window” with a tasteful string arrangement.
With 20/20 hindsight, you can see the connection from Dylan’s debut to “Self Portrait” to “Down In The Groove” to “Good As I Been To You” and “World Gone Wrong.” However, I do wonder what would have been made if the 17 tracks credited here from the “Self Portrait” sessions made up the bulk of the official album. While fans have since been schooled by Dylan about what is now known as Americana, it was still unfamiliar to a majority of fans in 1970. How would it have fared? I feel it still would have been considered pretty “out there” by most people. Covering Chuck Berry songs, as almost all of his rocking contemporaries were doing, was one thing. Bizarre folk songs from the old, weird, America, was quite another back in those old hippy days.
At least now, we can agree that Dylan, despite his mellow, country hick persona of the era, still knew what he wanted, and was not slowly deteriorating after his 1966 motorcycle accident. This stuff is great, and will rewrite Dylan's history.
Of course, since we didn’t know about these recordings until recently, fans cannot help but wonder: What else lies hidden in the vaults?
If you'd like to sample 15 of the 35 songs included here, please feel free to sample the many "exclusive" official samplers online.
The album will be made commercially available next week.
In other news, this new CD includes an insert about “Bob Dylan: The Complete Album Collection.” This was first revealed, accidentally, in Forbes magazine in March, 2012, and reported here.
Below is the information from the insert, which can also be viewed in the embedded slideshow above:
COMING FALL 2013
- All 41 official albums, including 14 newly remastered titles.
- Side tracks - 2 CD compilation of preciously released songs not included on the original albums.
- All the original artwork reproduced.
- Hardcover booklet with extensive new liner notes and rare photos.
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