Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Rumors Were True: Another Dylan Set Is Here

"I have heard the rumors all over town..." 
~ Bob Dylan, Tell Me It Isn't True

In 1970 Bob Dylan released two albums. One was the forgettable Self Portrait and the second one of my personal favorites, New Morning. Forty-three years later Columbia Records is releasing 35 outtakes, rarities and unreleased recordings from this period in The Bootleg Series, Volume 10, Another Self Portrait.

I remember well the unfavorable reviews and almost apoplectic reactions to Self Portrait when it was first released. I also remember Dylan fans (my friends and I) making excuses for this album. I don't know what's true and what is not, but when the subject came up it would be said, "He's only doing this because of pressure from the record contract." We excused it because he was trying to be done with the record company and it was their fault not his. You know how fans are. Their heroes can do no wrong.

So it's interesting that Another Self Portrait will be re-visiting a portion of this forgotten terrain.

Rolling Stone said "Blechh"
Part of the problem for many was that the album was heavy with covers of songs by others. Dylan singing The Boxer? Folsum Prison Blues? Blue Moon? But then, frankly I liked the way he interpreted them even if they were not his own lyrics. I can still hear Mr Bojangles in my head the way Bobby did it, not the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band version. (Sorry, y'all.)

In fact, it may be that the critics were wrong. Maybe it's a better album than some people thought, but it was different than what was expected. That would not have been the first time Dylan did something different than what others expected him to do. And it certainly wasn't the last.

When New Morning was released later that year I liked it immediately. The sound was clean, the songs fresh. I responded to the undertones of spiritual quest as well as the Dylanesque playful ambiguity in some of the tunes, especially Went to See the Gypsy, which we speculated on whether or not it was a song about Elvis. Fifteen years later I picked up a vinyl for three bucks at The Hungry Eye in St. Paul and still enjoy its grooves.

So about the time the Never Ending Tour passed through Duluth the word was out that a tenth bootleg series set was about to happen. Not a one has let me down so far.

So, now the big question? Help me out here. Do I need to obtain another copy of the original Self Portrait to accompany the Bootleg Series Volume 10 that I pre-ordered the other day from BobDylan.com? Another Self Portrait is scheduled for release August 27th. It includes outtakes from Nashville Skyline as well as New Morning. Decisions, decisions. You can probably guess what I'm thinking.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Make the most of it and have a great weekend.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm very unusual I guess in that Self Portrait has always been my all-time favourite Bob album, so I can't wait for the new album! I've always thought that his interpretation of other people's songs has been superb.

By the way, Folsom Prison Blues and Mr Bojangles weren't on Self Portrait - bootleg only and 'Dylan' respectively.

Anonymous said...

Folsum Prison Blues was not covered on Self-Portrait. You have obviously never listened to the album.

ENNYMAN said...

>>>You obviously never listened to the album<<<< Actually, my mistakes show that I have not listened to it in a very long time, like since college. (1970-74)

>>>>Self Portrait has always been my all-time favourite Bob album<<<<
Glad to hear it, making me all the more certain I will obtain a copy of the CD this week to listen to until Another Self-Portrait arrives. My sincere apologies for the inaccuracies, which could have been avoided if I took time to verify facts. Alas. Thanks for the corrections.

Anonymous said...

It really annoys me that 'Anonymous' hits you with a piece of abuse that 'you have obviously never listened to the album' That's typical of a certain hateful kind of critic who tries to find one tiny flaw in a very good piece as an excuse to reject the lot with cruel force. very typical in fact of Bob Dylan fans in their paranoid defence of the man's inviolable greatness. I've suffered this kind of cutting abuse myself a lot in my writing on Dylan, so I'm with you in your reasonable statement that you just haven't listened to SP in a long time. That's human- it's a small mistake. Don't worry about it.

ENNYMAN said...

Thank you, Anon. for your thoughtful support.
And write on yourself.
e.

Anonymous said...

Got to agree with anonymous on that one. We're just all friends here. Appreciate your calm response.