Bob Dylan’s Maligned ‘Self Portrait’ Album Gets Reissued
‘Self Portrait’ isn’t Bob Dylan‘s best album. In fact, the legendary singer-songwriter admits that he made the 1970 LP to anger fans in an attempt to get them off his back. Now a collection of covers and live cuts from the era will be reissued as part of a remastered four-disc box that also includes the original record, which a critic at the time called “s—.”
The double LP was mostly ignored by Dylan fans upon its release. The reissue, the next volume in Dylan’s celebrated ‘Bootleg Series,’ will feature the 1970 album as well as cuts from 1968’s ‘Nashville Skyline’ and ‘New Morning,’ the record released four months after ‘Self Portrait.’ Dylan’s set from the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival will also be included on the standard and deluxe editions of ‘Another Self Portrait,’ which will be released on Aug. 27.
Rolling Stone spoke with some of the key players on the original album and few held back on stinging words about the project. Keyboardist Al Kooper remembers Dylan rifling through Sing Out! magazine for inspiration. “They were his main feed,” he said. “Then they pulled other things like ‘Mr. Bojanges’ and ‘The Boxer.’ I was like, ‘Yikes!’ At one point we recorded ‘Come a Little Bit Closer’ by Jay and the Americans. Hopefully, nobody ever hears that.”
Dylan told Rolling Stone in 1984 that he intentionally recorded a bomb. Fans were staked outside his house in New York almost constantly at the time, begging him to lead the protest movement when he just wanted to raise his family. “I wish these people would just forget about me,” he recalled. “I wanna do something they can’t possibly like, they can’t relate to. They’ll see it and they’ll listen, and they’ll say, ‘Well, let’s go on to the next person.'” That plan didn’t quite work out, as anger turned to outright resentment.
In addition to the remastered record, the reissue’s Isle of Wight performance features Dylan’s vocals up front in the mix. For years, official and bootleg recordings have buried his voice. The 35 songs that make up the rest of the ‘Bootleg Series’ outing includes alternative versions, demos and previously unreleased outtakes from the ‘Self Portrait’ sessions.