By Todd Leopold
So far, the Bob Dylan "Bootleg" series from Columbia Records has included the famed "Albert Hall" concert, live material from the Rolling Thunder Revue, obscure studio material and unreleased demos.
Now the label is going to put out more material from perhaps the most argued-about album in Dylan's entire catalog: "Self Portrait."
The new release, officially titled "The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)," includes unreleased versions of songs from the 1970 double-LP as well as work that eventually turned up on "New Morning," material from Dylan's 1969 appearance at Britain's Isle of Wight festival and alternate versions of other Dylan songs.
When "Self Portrait" came out, after a run that included rock cornerstones such as 1965's "Highway 61 Revisited," 1966's "Blonde on Blonde," 1968's "John Wesley Harding" and 1969's "Nashville Skyline," reviewers - who had come to think of Dylan as something close to an oracle (though the man himself bristled at being called "the voice of his generation") - were aghast. Greil Marcus began his mammoth Rolling Stone review with the line, "What is this s**t?" The Village Voice's Robert Christgau gave it a C-plus (noting that Jon Landau suggested he give it a D). Dylanologists could only wonder what the great man was thinking with his covers of Gordon Lightfoot ("Early Mornin' Rain") and Simon & Garfunkel ("The Boxer").
Dylan later explained his reasons as being a combination of disgust at the Woodstock generation - "It was as if they were suckin' your very blood out," he told Rolling Stone in 1984 - and an opportunity to beat the bootleggers at their own game.
"I just figured I'd put all this stuff together and put it out, my own bootleg record, so to speak," he told Cameron Crowe for the Dylan boxed set "Biograph." "I wasn't going to be anybody's puppet and I figured this record would put an end to that."
Well, sort of. The album still hit the Top Five on the Billboard album chart. After all, it was Bob Dylan.
"The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10," which follows up the Dylan-painted cover of the original with another, well, self-portrait, comes out August 27.