By Katherine Cole
When Bob Dylan released “Self Portrait” back in 1970, Rolling Stone magazine’s Greil Marcus gave it one of the most savage reviews ever written. I’m not even going to paraphrase it–you’ve got to read this one for yourself. Many of Dylan’s’ fans agreed with the famed critic, but there has also always been those who feel the album, featuring the great-songwriter-not-as-great-a-singer’s cover of country, folk and pop songs wasn’t deserving of the thousands of vitriolic words written about the project. You can put me in that group. I always saw “Self Portrait” as a vanity project, but hey, is it really that much worse than some of the ego laden efforts we’ve seen released by pop stars and rappers recently? At least Bob Dylan chose to butcher songs by Paul Simon and Gordon Lightfoot. Oh wait, did I just defeat my own argument? I didn’t mean butcher…
Fast forward 40 years later, and Mr. Dylan has decided to open the vaults and release ” Another Self Portrait” — official title “”The Bootleg Series, Vol.10-Another Self Portrait (1969-1971). And guess what? This time around, some of the same critics who savaged it are hearing things a bit differently (Here’s Mr. Marcus on the new collection). And they’re hearing a lot more of it—the new collection is packed with rarities.
Adding 35 rarities and previously unreleased recordings to “Self Portrait” gives listeners a whole new perspective into what Bob Dylan was thinking when he went into the studio to record the album. (And believe me, that’s the question on the lips of many of his most ardent fans when they first heard the album—”WHAT was he thinking????) And these aren’t just your usual run of the mill outtakes. How about George Harrison playing some tasty rockabilly guitar on “Working On A Guru” or a wonderful demo of “When I Paint My Masterpiece”—not to mention a cover of the traditional folk song “Pretty Saro.” But those are just the tip of the iceberg—the four-disc deluxe boxed set of “Another Self Portrait,” includes a newly remastered copy of the original album, two books with new liner notes written by Greil Marcus (see above for an explanation of why that’s a big deal), the 35 rare cuts, AND the complete concert by Bob Dylan and The Band from the Isle of Wight Festival, recorded August 31, 1969. If you’re more into vinyl, they’ll take care of you, too — a three LP version will include the remastered disc and the 35 rare tracks, plus a 12×12 booklet of notes.