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Box Sets

Reviewed by Scott Schinder, September 20, 2013, Music

Bob Dylan

Another Self Portrait: The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 (1969-1971) (Columbia)

Hard to convey the critical shitstorm Bob Dylan's Self Portrait generated in 1970. Arriving at the peak of his cultural cachet, the album's half-baked assortment of country, folk, and early rock & roll covers led fans to dismiss it as an elaborate joke, or as a willful act of self-demystification by the Voice of a Generation. Dylan later pushed the latter explanation, albeit unconvincingly. Thirty-five Self Portrait-era outtakes, demos, and alternate versions that form the core of Another Self Portrait support the intentional sabotage theory. Otherwise, why would Dylan leave off such vibrant gems as shaggy-dog original "Tattle O'Day," the haunting English trad-folk tune "Pretty Saro," and heartfelt covers of Eric Andersen and Tom Paxton in favor of the feeble performances that made the cut? Many of the biggest revelations here come from a stripped-down session with David Bromberg on guitar and Al Kooper on keyboards. Some of those tracks were ruined originally by extraneous overdubs, but these intimate versions compellingly convey what the original album only hinted at: a visionary working his way out of a period of creative uncertainty. Combined with illuminating outtakes and demos from less-troubled follow-up New Morning, they make Another Self Portrait a far more rewarding listen than its predecessor. The double-disc version incorporates the aforementioned rarities, while a 4-CD box set adds a redundant remaster of the original album, plus Dylan and the Band's fabulous full set from the 1969 Isle of Wight festival, and two hardbound books housing Greil Marcus' thoughtful liner notes.


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