Portrait of a self portrait
August 25, 2013 3:18 AM   Subscribe

In two days, Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series vol. 10 will be released. The 12-minute promo video that's currently streaming at Amazon is full of enticing audio snippets of Dylan in fine vocal form, as well as talking heads from Self Portrait producer Bob Johnston and collaborators David Bromberg and Al Kooper.
posted by flapjax at midnite (23 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Those photos in the doc had me dig up this. It's my favorite picture of Dylan. That look - is it creepy? Playful? Leering? Mischievous? Ominous? The answer changes every time I see it.

That's the thing with Dylan - in many ways, trying to decipher him always seems to end up revealing far more of yourself than what it reveals of him. So, in many ways, its a win-win for both us and him.
posted by chambers at 4:16 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mr. Bromberg nails it: Bob Dylan is a great singer. Nobody can phrase a lyric like Bob.

Also, the stripped-down version of When I Paint My Masterpiece is awesome.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:23 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm so happy to be hearing more from the New Morning sessions. Always one of my favourites, except when it isn't.
posted by timshel at 5:26 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bob Johnston gets downright eloquent at the end of that clip!
Down the curve and around the bend he came, and it'll never end now
Because he's been on this roller coaster ride since he left Minnesota.
He's been brutalized, sunrised, baptized in the waters of the Village,
Still it goes on from Soho to Moscow to Oslo.
They speak of this trip, this battleship,
Who sailed in the harbor of Tin Pan Alley and sank it with his Subterranean Homesick Blues.
posted by Houstonian at 7:05 AM on August 25, 2013

It may brand me a heretic, but Self Portrait is one of my favorite Dylan albums. I know it's been panned by a lot of critics, but it is also one of the small number of albums my parents played regularly when I was growing up. When I moved out during college, the record went with me (along with a few others more regularly considered classics by Dylan fans). There's something about the thing... Clearly, not everyone likes it. But equally clearly, there is enough there that it warranted re-issue and reconsideration of the entire recording session as a Bootleg Series. I know Dylan said he made the album to piss people off, but I don't think that's an honest take on it, really. It's hard to know what is and is not true, even when it comes from the mouth of Mr. Dylan directly.

A buddy of mine told me about the Vol 10 release. I immediately pre-ordered it.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:33 AM on August 25, 2013

I never thought I'd see the words "Bob Dylan" and "fine vocal form" in the same sentence. Unless maybe they were separated by other words like "with Jerry Garcia, who was in" or "with Robbie Robertson, who as usual displayed."

This perhaps stems from working several shows in the early 90s, before he was enjoying his current resurgence. Santana opened. When he finished, half the place walked out. Then Dylan came out, "sang" one song, and a further half of who was left also walked out. By the time he was done, I imagine the echo off of all the empty plastic seats made it a challenge for the audio guys.
posted by nevercalm at 7:48 AM on August 25, 2013

I never thought I'd see the words "Bob Dylan" and "fine vocal form" in the same sentence. Unless maybe they were separated by other words like "with Jerry Garcia, who was in" or "with Robbie Robertson, who as usual displayed."

I may be the world's biggest Band fan. That said, I believe it's pretty universally agreed that Robbie Robertson is a horrible singer.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:05 AM on August 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I believe it's pretty universally agreed that Robbie Robertson is a horrible singer.

Hah! True! He can barely string two notes together! His singing into microphones throughout the lifespan of The Band was little more than a theatrical flourish: he was rarely actually in the mix. Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, on the other hand, were all fine vocalists, whose voices are (rightfully) heard loud and clear on records and live shows by The Band. Robertson simply cannot sing anywhere near their level.

Not only that, but the above-mentioned (in the same sentence!) Jerry Garcia is surely one of the weakest vocalists in rock history!

But there's no accounting for personal preference and taste in vocalists. None whatsoever. The human voice is an intensely personal thing, and what sets one heart aflutter will seem to another like nails on a chalkboard. C'est la musique!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:16 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

The vinyl version contains 35 tracks on 3 LPs (and 2 CDs)

Huh. Is that why it's sixty-five damn dollars?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 AM on August 25, 2013

Yes, Robertson and Garcia were included for emphasis. Both terrible singers, yet still better than Dylan. Although Dylan's phrasing is great, and I like where he is now vocally as much as any time in his life.

I also say that as a massive Tom Waits fan.
posted by nevercalm at 9:04 AM on August 25, 2013

So excited, although I'm holding out to see if it's worth selling some records to get the vinyl. For me, collections like this often end up gathering dust after a few listens. Oh, and Moonshiner is my standard response to this "Dylan can't sing" business.
posted by Lorin at 9:29 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never understood the Dylan can't sing schtick. Even now, with his voice gone, and not really in a good way, like Skip James or somebody, he still packs more into a lyric, when he is trying, than almost anyone other than Guy Piccioto.
posted by OmieWise at 9:45 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Quite a large bit of the record is streaming on the Guardian (maybe UK only) and NPR
posted by brilliantmistake at 10:53 AM on August 25, 2013

Lorin, Moonshiner has been my go-to song for that, too; I think I may have gotten it from y2karl (there is a lot more good stuff at the end of that thread re the notion that Dylan can't sing).

Though I'm an enduring Dylan fan I wasn't familiar with the original album and didn't know about the new bootleg release, and I will need to check them out, thanks!
posted by onlyconnect at 1:47 PM on August 25, 2013

More background from the Guardian (my mother e-mailed this morning to tell me about this article)- Bob Dylan: facing the music
posted by Flashman at 2:11 PM on August 25, 2013

It's a pretty common trope among people who don't listen to Bob Dylan that he's got a horrible voice. These days, yes, his voice is shot. He manages ok on his albums but in concert he's not even trying anymore. In concert, his lyrics come out in barely intelligible staccato bursts. But he's had a long and varied career, and I still relish his singing on albums like Nashville Skyline, New Morning, Desire, even up into Time out of Mind. I think he hit his peak vocally during the 70s, outgrowing the bashful precociousness of his early acoustic albums, but before his voice just went to hell.

There's actually a fascinating passage in Chronicles where he details how he had to completely change his approach to singing sometime in the late 80s due to his deteriorating voice. IIRC, he uses some musical terms that kind of flew over my head, but it was really interesting to get that insight into his technical skills directly from him.

New Morning is a bit overlooked as an album, but it's one of my favorites. It's as comforting as a mug of hot chocolate on a cold day. I love songs like "Went to See the Gypsy," "Day of the Locusts," and "New Morning." I'm excited for the bootleg! The bootleg series releases are always great, so glad they do them.
posted by malapropist at 4:37 PM on August 25, 2013

So the deluxe version comes with the legendary, complete (previously only available as an audience recording?) Bob Dylan and the Band at Isle of Wight in 1969. That tipped the scales for me. Incredible show. Bob's voice sounds sort of halfway between "Classic Bob" and the country-crooner that followed. He's already tweaking the melodies of his classics and the band sounds, well, like The Band.
posted by Lorin at 10:04 AM on August 26, 2013

Bob's voice sounds sort of halfway between "Classic Bob" and the country-crooner

... He sounds more energetic on the older material anyways, there is plenty of countrified Bob.
posted by Lorin at 10:24 AM on August 26, 2013

I would have added my two bits but onlyconnect linked them for me.

While at that link, I found myself reading the last comment in that thread to which he linked and found myself thinking, as I often do when I read an old comment of mine, Huh ? I wrote that ? Wow, I used to be smart -- what happened to me ? Then I noticed it was a blockquote of something Eyolf Østrem of dylanchords once wrote... Oh, and check out Eyolf's take on the new release, too
posted by y2karl at 5:16 PM on August 26, 2013

So, for another refutation of the Dylan can't sing meme, I just went looking for an online recording of the parenthetically aforementioned solo piano version of Spanish Is the Loving Tongue, which was the flip side of the single Watching the River Flow -- and which is not the solo piano version of the song featured on this collection.

But it is nowhere to be found. I am shocked, shocked, I tells ya. If any of you know anyone with a copy of that 45, tell them to post it to YouTube forthwith.
posted by y2karl at 5:32 PM on August 26, 2013

Well, not onYouTube, but.... here it is , after you listen to the A Side Watching the River Flow.

Ah, and, albeit a bit scratched, here it is by itself.

Man, that is some pretty classic Bob Dylan piano, to boot.
posted by y2karl at 10:00 PM on August 26, 2013

And, audio quality wise, this is the best one yet.
posted by y2karl at 10:03 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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