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Self-Portrait was slated for its strange cover versions and faux-cowboy sentimentality when it came out in 1970. Bob Dylan later claimed it was purposefully “crap” to shake off his “voice of a generation” tag, which sounds as dubious as most of his public pronouncements. It makes better sense as a speculative and patchy early expression of the interest in old-fashioned parlour ballads and pre-1960s pop that has consumed him in his latter years. The album is the focus of the latest archival release in the Bootlegs Series, a collection of demos and unreleased tracks that present the singer in an untreated setting of guitar, vocals and piano, sounding more like the “real” Dylan of people’s wishes. It’s a rewarding behind-the-scenes glimpse; but I can’t help feeling the original, derided Self-Portrait provides the truer picture.
Another Self-Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10