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Published:December 18th, 2013 08:33 EST
'Bob Dylan Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)' Puts the Zimmerman Puzzle Pieces Back Together!

'Bob Dylan Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)' Puts the Zimmerman Puzzle Pieces Back Together!

By John G. Kays



It`s my understanding, Bob Dylan Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) The Bootleg Series Vol. 10, was issued last August, but I just saw it on Sunday at Waterloo Records, so I indulged myself. My vinyl copy of the original Self Portrait was lifted from my flat (probably by a junkie) sometime in the mid-Seventies, so I was glad to re-visit some of these songs (nearly 40 years later), although the versions are different.


I remember clearly how the critics trashed the pristine Self Portrait, yet the current liner notes (written by Greil Marcus) tell us the double record sold 3 million copies back in the day, and reached # 4 on the Billboard charts. As I see it, the kids were in need of some Dylan tracks; I know I was!


One thing I really like about Another Self Portrait, is the wonderful packaging and meticulous documentation; naturally, what Bob was up to (is intriguing), as the1960s` scorching solar rays dwindled on the horizon. Bob had to slow down himself after his motorcycle accident in 1966, and the metamorphosis is clear as day on the record. 


He chooses songs with precision and gusto, that rest in the timeless catalog of Americana, such as Copper Kettle or Days of `49. Bob didn`t write these, but he puts himself into the songs totally, and thus they define who he is, or they redefine him. Those two were my favorites back in 1970 and they remain so today (12/18/2013).


Bob don`t have his vocals too good anymore (throat sounds froggy) these days, I know from when I saw him at Dell Diamond a few years ago; therefore, his vocals seem perfect from those years (`69-`70) and is, perhaps, the best aspect of this: Beautiful Dylan Singing! No, sincerely, I love the nerdy archive science aspects of this packaging. 


I appreciate photographs of the actual reels used to record Bob for Self Portrait (for New Morning and Nashville Skyline too), which were then flown to Nashville and considerably altered, adding new dubs, after rolling these simple tracks onto 16 track tape (not unlike what Phil Spector did with Let It Be).


I`m trying to restore some of my own reel to reel tapes, many of which are equally as old as Bob`s, convert them to digital, and attempt reconstructing when the music was recorded, where, what the name of the songs might be, etc. I didn`t label things too good (did some) in those days; just hit the record button and flailed away!


Of course, Dylan is/was on Columbia Records (I`m on Maroon Toons, so that explains a bit), and had assistants who did all of the documentation and archiving for him; thus, we have a nearly perfectly preserved record of what Bob was up to, if not on a day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute basis. I`m an amateur musicologist myself, so I`m very interested in this detail (the history from those times goes hand in hand).


Hard to believe, but Dylan wasn`t even 30 years old then. I`d say, and this is just a first impression, but I favor Disc 2 a trifle more. The demo of When I Paint My Masterpiece, with just Bob playing piano and singing his plaintiff strains, is to die for! I love The Band`s version too, but you can hear the song nearly getting finished here on the demo (I`ve often thought this was his greatest). Another gem that comes as a surprise, is Bob working with George on Working On A Guru; I`m fascinated with the work these two did together, in terms of its contribution to the History of Popular Music. I think I want to get the original Self Portrait on vinyl, the way I had it before a wayward gypsy junkie purloined it from my makeshift flat (summer of 1975, as best I can recall)!