I burst out laughing yesterday. I was listening to “Wigwam,” the version of the song on the new release from Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait: The Bootleg Series Vol. 10, without the overdubs from the original Self Portrait album in 1970. Heard this way, it is a very unassuming performance: voice, guitar, piano: a pleasant, contemplative melody. I think that it is, in its way, a joke, however, because, while there are no lyrics, Dylan sings “la da da da” type stuff throughout. Put that together with what he said (in 1984) about the original 1970 release of Self Portrait, and how he wanted to alienate the people who were looking to him for big statements and answers:
I wish these people would just forget about me. 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 get on to the next person. He ain’t sayin’ it no more. He ain’t given’ us what we want,’ you know? They’ll go on to somebody else.
A preview consisting of fifteen songs from Bob Dylan’s forthcoming album Another Self Portrait (part of his Bootleg Series) is available on the NPR website. (The two-CD version of the album will contain 35 previously-unreleased tracks.) That NPR link also has features a short and very good piece by Ann Powers on the release.
Nowhere is Dylan’s ability to see the whole patchwork tapestry of our musical culture more evident than in the music he made in the very early 1970s, when he was running from his own burdensome greatness and jumping into the great scrap heap of American musical tradition.
A teaser has been released from the forthcoming Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Volume 10, Another Self Portrait. It is his solo acoustic performance of a song titled “Pretty Saro,” an eighteenth-century English ballad that was kept alive in the Appalachians and enjoyed a twentieth-century revival (video below). It is said to be from the original sessions for Self Portrait.
It’s a lovely performance, and one thing that struck me while listening to it is how, when Dylan sang in this smooth, crooning, almost-genteel voice all those years ago, he came in for a lot of mockery. “Why’s he singing like that?” “What’s he done to his voice?” It was one more reason to brand him a sell-out of some kind. But all these decades later, I would be surprised if many could listen to this without agreeing that his singing is really rather appropriate to the material; it is sensitive, even reverent, and, in the end, just beautiful. Whether it was really because he quit smoking (as he claimed at the time) or not, it’s a nice thing that, for a while at least, Bob Dylan was able to make records with this more pure and melodic voice. He would get back to his other kind of singing soon enough. Continue reading “Bob Dylan – “Pretty Saro””
Volume 10 of the continuing “Bootleg Series” of official Bob Dylan releases will mainly cover the period from 1969 to 1971; in other words sessions from Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning and other odds and ends from the time. The emphasis appears to be on outtakes and original stripped-down mixes of songs from the Self Portrait sessions. A three-minute video promo has been released by Sony (embedded at bottom). The release is titled Another Self Portrait.
Whenever the much-maligned Self Portrait album is mentioned, reference is nearly-always made to the first line of the review that the album received in Rolling Stone magazine, namely: “What is this shit?” That was written by Greil Marcus. While I do not know, I have to speculate that Bob Dylan himself must find it rather exquisitely ironic that the same Greil Marcus has now written the liner notes for this forthcoming release, extolling the music that comes from the vaults of the same sessions. Naturally Marcus would be well aware of the irony also. Continue reading “Bob Dylan: Another Self Portrait (and video promo)”