Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bob Dylan Another Self Portrait 2013

In June 1970, Bob Dylan released Self-Portrait, his tenth studio record, and far and away, his worst record ever (at the time). There have been some contenders to the title since then, including 1973's Dylan, a hobbled together mess released by Columbia after Dylan left the label, and several of Dylan's mid-eighties records that suffered from lousy material and crappy updated eighties glossy sound.

Now, for some unknown reason, the tenth record in Dylan's Bootleg series of lost treasures and live outings is this reevaluation of Self-Portrait. Greil Marcus' review of the original two-record set of mostly covers of old folk, country and pop tunes began with the line "What is this shit?" In a remarkable fit of revisionist history, Marcus himself writes the liner notes to this grab bag of outtakes and alternate versions as though they are manna from heaven, and not the early demos of the worst crap Dylan ever pooped onto the music scene.

Half of this new release is made up of the early, pre-overdubed rough tracks and outtakes from Self Portrait recorded by Dylan, David Bromberg, and Al Kooper. These rough tracks were then sent to Nashville to be overloaded with additional music in an attempt to turn them into something worthy of Dylan's name. It didn't work. The rough tracks here may be marginally interesting, and perhaps "better" than the overdubbed original release, but they are still rough tracks from a terrible record.

The other half is a mix of rough and alternative tracks for New Morning (the quality follow-up to Self Portrait recorded during the same period), a few needless live tracks from the Isle of Wight festival in 1969, and some demos from around the same time.

I've never been a big fan of the extra bonus tracks that show up on CD reissues of older vinyl records. The outtakes, demos, and rough cuts that are meant to reveal the process, or illuminate the intention of the original rarely do much for me. As I've said before, the producer's job is to keep the weak stuff off the release.

And so now we have Another Self Portrait. It is the scraps left over from a completely forgettable record. The trash of trash. Even the most Dylan-obsessed fanatic will regret parting with hard-earned dollars for this one. You've been warned.

1 comment:

  1. Bullshit. I hated Self Portrait as much as the next man, but this version is GOOD! Maybe it's a case of a turd sandwich tasting good to a starving man, but it's a damn tasty sandwich anyway. Give it a try everyone.