The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 - Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) - COLUMBIA
FILTER Grade: 85%
By A. D. Amorosi on August 30, 2013
Reissue programs, though filled with rarities, demo sketches and live cuts, start with much-loved works by the artists who make them and the fans who adore them. This time out though, 72-year-old songwriting sage Bob Dylan has decided to go another route in re-configuring 1970’s Self Portrait into its current multi-CD/LP package. As part of his exquisite Bootleg series of vault-robbers and overhauls, he’s picked an album that fans disliked, critics hated and that he himself only recorded to rid himself of an audience who wanted him to remain the bard of their—not his—protest movement.
It worked. With over-orchestrated pop and mean/silly covers of Paul Simon, Boudleaux Bryant and Gordon Lightfoot tunes, Self Portrait pissed just about everybody off. While it’s bizarre then that Dylan digitally remastered the old Self Portrait into something slightly more lustrous (“The Mighty Quinn” within will always be listless) and bright, Another Self Portrait does embolden his rewritten take on Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too” into something sonically sinister. Still it is the original Self Portrait’s rarities—the non-overdubbed likes of “Little Sadie”—and its raw, unadorned demos that make Another Self Portrait intriguing. A stark cover of Tom Paxton’s “Annie’s Going To Sing Her Song” and a haunting “Spanish Is the Loving Tongue” are amongst that original album’s highlights in the present. A brusquely punkish (and much-bootlegged) 1969 concert that Dylan gave at the Isle of Wight with The Band at the height of their collaborative power is worth the price of admission.
Still, it’s the presence of sturdily witty, winsome (to say nothing of oddball) outtakes and demos from the albums surrounding Self Portrait (1969’s Nashville Skyline, 1970’s New Morning) that make this collection necessary. Tenderly strange tunes recorded with George Harrison (“Time Passes Slowly,” “Working on a Guru”) and richly arranged versions of “New Morning” and “Sign on the Window” will entrance Dylan-philes and novices alike.