|Studio album by|
|Released||June 8, 1970|
|Recorded||April 24, 1969 – March 30, 1970|
|Genre||Folk rock, blues rock, country rock|
|Bob Dylan chronology|
|Singles from Self Portrait|
Self Portrait is the tenth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on June 8, 1970, by Columbia Records.
Self Portrait was Dylan's second double album (after Blonde on Blonde ), and features many cover versions of well-known pop and folk songs. Also included are a handful of instrumentals and original compositions. Most of the album is sung in the affected country crooning voice that Dylan had introduced a year earlier on Nashville Skyline . Seen by some as intentionally surreal and even satirical at times, Self Portrait received extremely poor reviews.
Dylan has stated in interviews that Self Portrait was something of a joke, far below the standards he set in the 1960s, and was made to get people off his back and end the "spokesman of a generation" tags.
Despite the negative reception, the album quickly went gold in the US, where it hit No. 4, and was also a UK No. 1 hit. The album saw a retrospective positive re-evaluation with the release of The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971) in 2013.
This article contains too many or overly lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry.(February 2020)
The motives behind Self Portrait have been subject to wild speculation and great debate. Over the years, a few credible theories [ citation needed ] have emerged from those familiar with the project.
Critic Robert Shelton was under the impression that Self Portrait was intended as a serious release. "I told Dylan that Self Portrait confused me," Shelton wrote in 1986. "Why had he recorded 'Blue Moon'? He wouldn't be drawn out, although obviously he had been stung by the criticism. 'It was an expression,' he said. He indicated that if the album had come from Presley or the Everly Brothers, who veered toward the middle of the road, it wouldn't have shocked so many."
However, in a Rolling Stone interview taken in 1984, Dylan gave a different reason for the album's release:
At the time, I was in Woodstock, and I was getting a great degree of notoriety for doing nothing. Then I had that motorcycle accident [in 1966], which put me out of commission. Then, when I woke up and caught my senses, I realized that I was workin' for all these leeches. And I didn't wanna do that. Plus, I had a family, and I just wanted to see my kids.
I'd also seen that I was representing all these things that I didn't know anything about. Like I was supposed to be on acid. It was all storm-the-embassy kind of stuff—Abbie Hoffman in the streets—and they sorta figured me as the kingpin of all that. I said, 'Wait a minute, I'm just a musician. So my songs are about this and that. So what?' But people need a leader. People need a leader more than a leader needs people, really. I mean, anybody can step up and be a leader, if he's got the people there that want one. I didn't want that, though.
But then came the big news about Woodstock, about musicians goin' up there, and it was like a wave of insanity breakin' loose around the house day and night. You'd come in the house and find people there, people comin' through the woods, at all hours of the day and night, knockin' on your door. It was really dark and depressing. And there was no way to respond to all this, you know? It was as if they were suckin' your very blood out. I said, 'Now wait, these people can't be my fans. They just can't be.' And they kept comin'. We had to get out of there.
This was just about the time of that Woodstock festival, which was the sum total of all this bullshit. And it seemed to have something to do with me, this Woodstock Nation, and everything it represented. So we couldn't breathe. I couldn't get any space for myself and my family, and there was no help, nowhere. I got very resentful about the whole thing, and we got outta there.
We moved to New York. Lookin' back, it really was a stupid thing to do. But there was a house available on MacDougal Street, and I always remembered that as a nice place. So I just bought this house, sight unseen. But it wasn't the same when we got back. The Woodstock Nation had overtaken MacDougal Street also. There'd be crowds outside my house. And I said, 'Well, fuck it. 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. But the whole idea backfired. Because the album went out there, and the people said, 'This ain't what we want,' and they got more resentful. And then I did this portrait for the cover. I mean, there was no title for that album. I knew somebody who had some paints and a square canvas, and I did the cover up in about five minutes. And I said, 'Well, I'm gonna call this album Self Portrait.'
As to why he chose to release a double album, Dylan replied, "Well, it wouldn't have held up as a single album—then it really would've been bad, you know. I mean, if you're gonna put a lot of crap on it, you might as well load it up!"
Later, Cameron Crowe interviewed Dylan for his liner notes to 1985's Biograph , a boxed-set retrospective of Dylan's career. When asked about Self Portrait, Dylan added more details to the story:
Self Portrait was a bunch of tracks that we'd done all the time I'd gone to Nashville. We did that stuff to get a [studio] sound. To open up we'd do two or three songs, just to get things right and then we'd go on and do what we were going to do. And then there was a lot of other stuff that was just on the shelf. But I was being bootlegged at the time and a lot of stuff that was worse was appearing on bootleg records. So I just figured I'd put all this stuff together and put it out, my own bootleg record, so to speak. You know, if it actually had been a bootleg record, people probably would have sneaked around to buy it and played it for each other secretly. Also, I wasn't going to be anybody's puppet and I figured this record would put an end to that...I was just so fed up with all that 'who people thought I was' nonsense.
Later interviews only echoed the sentiments expressed to Crowe.
Certain tracks have drawn praise over the years. One of them is written by Alfred Frank Beddoe (who was "discovered" by Pete Seeger after applying for work at People’s Songs, Inc. in 1946), "Copper Kettle" captures an idyllic backwoods existence, where moonshine is equated not only with pleasure but with tax resistance. Appalachian farmers who struggled to make their living off the land would routinely siphon off a percentage of their corn in order to distill whiskey. Everything produced would then be hidden from the government in order to avoid the whiskey tax of 1791.
Clinton Heylin writes, "'Copper Kettle'...strike[s] all the right chords...being one of the most affecting performances in Dylan's entire official canon." 's shadows."Music critic Tim Riley called it "an ingenious Appalachian zygote for rock attitudes, the hidden source of John Wesley Harding
"Copper Kettle" was popularised by Joan Baez and appeared on her best-selling 1962 LP Joan Baez in Concert .
Among the original songs written for the album, the instrumental "Wigwam" later achieved recognition for its use in the 2001 Wes Anderson film The Royal Tenenbaums . "Living the Blues" was later covered by Leon Redbone. "Living the Blues" was also covered by the Jamie Saft Trio with Antony Hegarty on the album Trouble: The Jamie Saft Trio Plays Bob Dylan, in 2006. "All the Tired Horses" only features two lines, and is sung only by a female backing group. The song featured in the 2001 film Blow .
One of the live songs on the album is the party-friendly romp "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)," originally recorded at the 1967 Basement Tapes sessions and covered to great success by Manfred Mann in 1968. For live venues, the Grateful Dead and Phish made the song an iconic favorite. The version on Self Portrait, however, is a soundboard-sourced live performance from Dylan and the Band's Isle of Wight Festival concert (as are three other tracks on the album).
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|
|The Village Voice||C+|
Self Portrait received negative reviews by critics and consumers alike. Critical disdain seemed universal. At best, a number of journalists, including Robert Christgau, felt there was a concept behind Self Portrait that had some merit.
"Conceptually, this is a brilliant album," wrote Christgau, "which is organized, I think, by two central ideas. First, that 'self' is most accurately defined (and depicted) in terms of the artifacts—in this case, pop tunes and folk songs claimed as personal property and semispontaneous renderings of past creations frozen for posterity on a piece of tape and (perhaps) even a couple of songs one has written oneself—to which one responds. Second, that the people's music is the music people like, Mantovani strings and all."
However, few critics expressed any interest in the music itself. "[I]n order for a concept to work it has to be supported musically—that is, you have to listen," Christgau admitted. "I don't know anyone, even vociferous supporters of this album, who plays more than one side at a time. I don't listen to it at all. The singing is not consistently good, though it has its moments, and the production—for which I blame Bob Johnston, though Dylan has to be listed as a coconspirator—ranges from indifferent to awful. It is possible to use strings and soprano choruses well, but Johnston has never demonstrated the knack. Other points: it's overpriced, the cover art is lousy, and it sounds good on WMCA."
In his Rolling Stone review (with its memorably vitriolic opening line, "What is this shit?"), Greil Marcus warned, "Unless [Dylan] returns to the marketplace, with a sense of vocation and the ambition to keep up with his own gifts, the music of [the mid-sixties] will continue to dominate his records, whether he releases them or not."He also commented, "I once said I'd buy an album of Dylan breathing heavily. I still would. But not an album of Dylan breathing softly." In a 1971 telephone interview with journalist A.J. Weberman, Dylan can be heard responding angrily to the Marcus review, while attempting to defend larger accusations of perceived non-committal politics.
A rare dissenting positive voice about the album was Marc Bolan, soon to become a star as lead singer/guitarist of English glam rock band T.Rex, at this point in its earlier incarnation as hippy acoustic duo Tyrannosaurus Rex. Appalled at the negative reviews directed at the album, Bolan wrote a letter in its defence to the 11 July 1970 edition of Melody Maker:
I've just listended to Dylan's new album, and in particular "Belle Isle", and I feel deeply moved that such a man is making music in my time.
Dylan's songs are now mainly love ballads, the writing of which is one of the most poetic art forms since the dawn of man.
"Belle Isle" brought to my memory all the moments of tenderness I've ever felt for another human being, and that, within the superficial landscape of pop music, is a great thing indeed.
Please, all the people who write bitterly of a lost star, remember that with maturity comes change, as surely as death follows life.
Rock critics Jimmy Guterman and Owen O'Donnell, in their 1991 book The Worst Rock and Roll Records of All Time, listed Self-Portrait as the third worst rock album ever, with only Lou Reed's experimental Metal Machine Music and Elvis Presley's concert byplay album Having Fun with Elvis on Stage faring worse. "The breakup of the Beatles shortly before this album's release," they wrote, "signaled the end of the sixties; Self-Portrait suggested the end of Bob Dylan."
In 1973, Knopf published Dylan's song lyrics, sketches, and album notes as Writings and Drawings, with updated versions called Lyrics appearing in 1985 and 2000. In all three editions, the original lyrics from Self Portrait are never acknowledged, suggesting Dylan's disavowal of the whole album to that time. However, the lyrics to "Living the Blues" and "Minstrel Boy" are included, listed as extra songs from the Nashville Skyline sessions; the 2004 edition includes them under their own entryand Dylan's current website includes the release together with lyrics and download links.
Dylan revisited Self Portrait on The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971) in 2013.
|1.||"All the Tired Horses"||Bob Dylan||3:12|
|3.||"I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know"||Cecil A. Null||2:23|
|4.||"Days of 49"||Alan Lomax, John Lomax, Frank Warner||5:27|
|5.||"Early Mornin' Rain"||Gordon Lightfoot||3:34|
|6.||"In Search of Little Sadie"||Traditional||2:28|
|1.||"Let It Be Me"||Gilbert Bécaud, Mann Curtis, Pierre Delanoë||3:00|
|3.||"Woogie Boogie"||Bob Dylan||2:06|
|5.||"Living the Blues"||Bob Dylan||2:42|
|6.||"Like a Rolling Stone"||Bob Dylan||5:18|
|1.||"Copper Kettle"||Albert Frank Beddoe||3:34|
|2.||"Gotta Travel On"||Paul Clayton, Larry Ehrlich, David Lazar, Tom Six||3:08|
|3.||"Blue Moon"||Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers||2:29|
|4.||"The Boxer"||Paul Simon||2:48|
|5.||"The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)"||Bob Dylan||2:48|
|6.||"Take Me as I Am (Or Let Me Go)"||Boudleaux Bryant||3:03|
|1.||"Take a Message to Mary"||Felice Bryant, Boudleaux Bryant||2:46|
|2.||"It Hurts Me Too"||Traditional||3:15|
|3.||"Minstrel Boy"||Bob Dylan||3:33|
|4.||"She Belongs to Me"||Bob Dylan||2:44|
|1970||Record World Album Chart||1|
|1970||Cash Box Album Chart||1|
|1970||UK Top 75||1|
|1970||"Wigwam"||Billboard Hot 100||41[ citation needed ]|
Music from Big Pink is the debut studio album by the Band. Released in 1968, it employs a distinctive blend of country, rock, folk, classical, R&B, blues, and soul. The music was composed partly in "Big Pink", a house shared by Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson in West Saugerties, New York. The album itself was recorded in studios in New York and Los Angeles in 1968, and followed the band's backing of Bob Dylan on his 1966 tour and time spent together in upstate New York recording material that was officially released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes, also with Dylan. The cover artwork is a painting by Dylan.
Blonde on Blonde is the seventh studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released as a double album on June 20, 1966 by Columbia Records. Recording sessions began in New York in October 1965 with numerous backing musicians, including members of Dylan's live backing band, the Hawks. Though sessions continued until January 1966, they yielded only one track that made it onto the final album—"One of Us Must Know ". At producer Bob Johnston's suggestion, Dylan, keyboardist Al Kooper, and guitarist Robbie Robertson moved to the CBS studios in Nashville, Tennessee. These sessions, augmented by some of Nashville's top session musicians, were more fruitful, and in February and March all the remaining songs for the album were recorded.
Bringing It All Back Home is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. It was released on March 22, 1965, by Columbia Records.
Time Out of Mind is the 30th studio album by American musician Bob Dylan, released on September 30, 1997, through Columbia Records. It was released as a single CD as well as a double studio album on vinyl, his first since Self Portrait in 1970.
Infidels is the 22nd studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on October 27, 1983 by Columbia Records.
Oh Mercy is the 26th and final studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on September 18, 1989, by Columbia Records. Produced by Daniel Lanois, it was hailed by critics as a triumph for Dylan, after a string of poorly reviewed albums. Oh Mercy gave Dylan his best chart showing in years, reaching No. 30 on the Billboard charts in the United States and No. 6 in the UK.
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is the twelfth studio album and first soundtrack album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on July 13, 1973 by Columbia Records for the Sam Peckinpah film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Dylan himself appeared in the film as the character "Alias". The soundtrack consists mainly of instrumental music and was inspired by the movie itself. The album includes "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", which became a trans-Atlantic Top 20 hit.
Before the Flood is a live album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and The Band, released on June 20, 1974, on Asylum Records in the United States and Island Records in the United Kingdom. It was Dylan's first live album, although live recordings of earlier performances would later be released. It is the 15th album by Dylan and the seventh by the Band, and documents their joint 1974 American tour. It peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, reached No. 8 on the popular album chart in the UK, and has been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Hard Rain is a live album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on September 13, 1976 by Columbia Records. The album was recorded during the second leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue.
New Morning is the eleventh studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on October 21, 1970 by Columbia Records.
Bob Dylan at Budokan is a live album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released April 1979 on Columbia Records. It was recorded during his 1978 world tour and is composed mostly of the artist's "greatest hits". The performances in the album are radically altered from the originals, using the same musicians that backed Street-Legal, but relying on a much larger band and stronger use of brass and backing singers. In some respects the arrangements are more conventional than the original arrangements, for which the album was criticized. For a few critics, such as Janet Maslin of Rolling Stone, the differences between the older and newer arrangements had become less important.
Empire Burlesque is the 23rd studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on June 10, 1985 on Columbia Records. Self-produced, the album peaked at No. 33 in the U.S. and No. 11 in the UK.
Down in the Groove is the 25th studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on May 30, 1988 by Columbia Records.
Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II, also known as More Bob Dylan Greatest Hits, is the second compilation album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on November 17, 1971 by Columbia Records. With Dylan not expected to release any new material for an extended period of time, CBS Records president Clive Davis proposed issuing a double LP compilation of older material. Dylan agreed, compiling it himself and suggesting that the package include a full side of unreleased tracks from his archives. After submitting a set of excerpts from The Basement Tapes that Davis found unsatisfactory, Dylan returned to the studio in September 1971 to recut several Basement songs, with Happy Traum providing backup.
The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue is a live album by Bob Dylan released by Columbia Records in 2002. The third installment in the ongoing Bob Dylan Bootleg Series on Legacy Records, it documents the Rolling Thunder Revue led by Dylan prior to the release of the album Desire. Until the release of this album, the only official live documentation of the Rolling Thunder Revue was Hard Rain, recorded during the second leg of the tour.
The Basement Tapes is the 16th album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and his second with the Band. It was released on June 26, 1975, by Columbia Records. Two-thirds of the album's 24 tracks feature Dylan on lead vocals backed by the Band, and were recorded in 1967, eight years before the album's release, in the lapse between the recording and subsequent release of Blonde on Blonde and John Wesley Harding, during sessions that began at Dylan's house in Woodstock, New York, then moved to the basement of Big Pink. While most of these had appeared on bootleg albums, The Basement Tapes marked their first official release. The remaining eight songs, all previously unavailable, feature the Band without Dylan and were recorded between 1967 and 1975.
"When I Paint My Masterpiece" is a 1971 song written by Bob Dylan. It was first released by The Band, who recorded the song for their album Cahoots which was released on September 15, 1971.
"Watching the River Flow" is a blues rock song by American singer Bob Dylan. Produced by Leon Russell, it was written and recorded during a session in March 1971 at the Blue Rock Studio in New York City. The collaboration with Russell formed in part through Dylan's desire for a new sound—after a period of immersion in country rock music—and for a change from his previous producer. The song was praised by critics for its energy and distinctive vocals, guitar, and piano. It has been interpreted as Dylan's account of his writer's block in the early 1970s, and his wish to deliver less politically engaged material and find a new balance between public and private life.
The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971) is a compilation album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on August 27, 2013 on Legacy Records. The eighth installment of the ongoing Bob Dylan Bootleg Series, it consists of unreleased recordings, demo recordings, alternative takes mostly from Dylan's 1970 albums Self Portrait and New Morning, and two live tracks from the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival.