Another Self Portrait Begets Review

Another Self Portrait

Rating:

“Shut up take my money!” or “Keep talking no money for you!”?

It’s never a bad idea to remain acquainted with your paperbacks (they might be worth something someday… or not). This is a compilation of rare and previously released tracks which are mostly suited for Dylan devotees (most music nazis would concur). Even then, the collection is missing something. Having said that, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth listening to over and over. Newbs, consider earlier material such as The Bootleg Series Volume 6: Live 1964: Concert at Philharmonic Hall.

Review:

Can the ubiquitous sounds and words from a famed maverick’s heyday still make a buzz (or give you one)? Bob Dylan always found a way to reinvent himself. He wasn’t as eccentric as David Bowie, but he withstood the sands of time by doing his own thing. Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10  offers (yes, another) peek into the audio vaults (imagine you just won the golden ticket and you’re going to Willie Wonka’s  studio archives. Yeah, The Umpa-Lumpa’s really wanted to get their dumpadi-do’s down). The four CD deluxe edition, there’s a three CD version, has alternate takes and unreleased tracks from Self Portrait, New Morning, Nashville Skyline, as well as a remixed and remastered cut of the Isle of Wight performance with The Band. The Deluxe Edition’s fourth disk contains additional unreleased material (can you say “audio candy”?). At the time of these recordings his fans still thought there was nothing sweet about his genre jumping escapades but artistic complacency didn’t seem to exist in his lexicon.

Dylan upset many of his loyal fans (that’s a bit of an understatement, a fan calls him Judas in the 1966 Volume 4 Bootlegs) that knew him as the vaudevillian singer of ballads and topical folk songs distinguishable by a jazzy Appalachian Mountain voice. He trapezed from folk, to rock and roll, country, has worked with ragtime and barrel-house pianists, cajun, zydeco, jam bands, (he paints a better, ahem… self portrait in his memoirs Chronicles Volume One) and the list goes on as he still tours and collaborates with different emerging artists (he just finished a tour with Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and Richard Thompson).

Even though hid didn’t venture out further than electro-acoustical Americana (the closest were covers. Much like Johnny Cash covered Depeche Mode, somewhere in the bootleg ether resides Dylan’s cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”) his music remains relevant. That’s because after jousting and surviving a flaring digital music industry his work still belongs to the institution of troubadours (strap that chain male on pilgrim) and songwriters such as Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, and even Cole Porter (minus the whole broadway musical pizzazz and jazz hands).

The compilation starts with “Went to See the Gypsy” whose sound quality and lead guitar aren’t the most dynamic but it has the humility that most independent artists are all too familiar with (fit to play at a latter-day bootleggers ball). Immediately thereafter you hit the unreleased and alternate Self Portrait material where you hear the vocally melodic twang that defined his country sound. His guitar and harmonica are there by his side like the trusty companions they’ve always been (think Sancho Panza and Rocinante).

Once you hear the alternate version of “I Threw it All Away” from Nashville Skyline you begin to realize what distinguished him from The Beatles. His self-reflective confessional songs put you in his shoes. Next thing you know you’re on a boat floating around the song’s scenery. You see someone smoking a cigarette, furry yellow couches with plastic covers, a warm colored living room rug, and wood panels lining every wall. Your cognizance begins to blur.

Eventually, your boat lands on the Isle of Wight recordings where Robbie Robertson’s tele-twang and the rest of The Band take you on a bustling caravan of live material (to that home on the range, where the blue notes and the dominant 7ths play). You can hear them rip up some rustic rock ‘n roll in “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Highway 61 Revisited”. As the wind begins to sway you hear the folkiness of “To Ramona” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” sung with a country falcetto which leads into standards like “Lay Lady Lay”. Autumnal gusts pick up as organ tones vibrate and tremble. The guitar slides,  leaves’ colors change, pumpkins cluster, strings are arpeggiated and played in finger-style, remorseful lyrics are suspended, and “I Threw it All Away” resurfaces but this time as a live track from the Isle of Wight.

Tracks like that and “In Search of Little Sadie” really pushed the boundaries of Dylan’s library (just when you thought the library closed. Yep, there’s a drop-off slot. Phew!). The latter resounds with gritty staples such as “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Lost Highway” on a whole other level (think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Come on. Stick ‘em up and give us the loot!).

If that weren’t enough you eventually hit the bonus disk (Deluxe Edition holders, nod your heads in agreement. Yes, that’s right) where you hear the sweet country soul of “Let it be me” that can’t help but remind you of Ray Charles and his homespun expansions. Doo-wop vocalists in “Blue Moon” take you lakeside where moonlight wallows, frogs ribbit, and grasshoppers fiddle their legs. Out of some recess in the recording archives, our bootlegging friends managed to get ahold of an incomparable duet with Paul Simon in “The Boxer”. Next thing you know you’re close to the end when you hear Mexicali brass in “Wigwam” which sounds like something out of an early Beirut album.

From base to treble clef, it’s the same Bob Dylan you remember except his history hasn’t proceeded him. This bootleg volume will keep you tied down until he releases new material (or you get hungry and go out for some fries).