ANOTHER SELF PORTRAIT — TRACKS 18 – 26

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“If Not For You” is an alternate take of the song which appears on New Morning.  It’s softer and more emotional than the album version, and features Dylan on piano with a somewhat perfunctory but pleasant violin accompaniment.  I have to rank it as a minor treasure, just because it shows how emotionally committed to the song Dylan was.

“Wallflower” is a terrific country ballad by Dylan, and seems infused with stronger feeling, a more authentic tenderness, than he brought to the country ballads on Nashville Skyline.  Dylan did a great version of it on the album Doug Sahm and Band, but this version is almost as good.  A treasure.

“Wigwam” is a lovely Dylan melody that he didn’t put words to — he just supplies “la de da dum”s for the vocal.  An odd number, it appeared on Self Portrait with orchestral overdubs and is featured here with just guitar and piano accompaniment.  Not much is revealed in the leaner version — it’s a pleasant curiosity.

“Days Of ’49” was one of the high points of Self Portrait — a vintage song about the Gold Rush that Dylan performed with obvious gusto.  It was released on the album with overdubs, which were perfectly fine, but it’s good to engage the vocal more intimately here.  A treasure.

“Working On A Guru” is a song Dylan recorded with George Harrison, a bluesy number with an improbable chorus about a guru.  I guess it’s some sort of satire on the blues getting mixed up with psychedelia, and the lyrics are pretty funny.  George seemed to find the whole thing amusing at any rate, in addition to laying down some spirited guitar licks.  An enjoyable curiosity.

“Country Pie” is an unfinished alternate take of a song from Nashville Skyline.  It’s a throwaway number, not all that impressive on the album and no more impressive here.  A curiosity.

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” was one of the two straight-ahead country songs that ended the album John Wesley Harding and pointed the way to Nashville Skyline.  The version here is the live performance with The Band at the Isle Of Wight, also appearing on the CD with the whole concert included in the deluxe edition of Another Self Portrait, which I’ve already written about here.  It’s delightful, a treasure, like all the songs from that concert.

“Highway 61”, from the same concert, is a killer.  The Band helps Dylan get back closer to the song’s musical roots in Chicago blues, lending some genuine funk to Dylan’s satirical lyrics.  A true treasure.

Like “Days Of ’49”, “Copper Kettle” was one of the gems on Self Portrait. It sounds like a venerable old folk song, and may have had older precedents, but its credited author, A. F. Beddoe, said he wrote it in 1953.  It’s a paean to making bootleg whiskey, outside the reach of the law, and Dylan sings it with a mixture of enthusiasm for the enterprise and longing for a simpler life.  This is one instance when the overdubs on the released album weakened the track — it’s much more powerful with just the superb vocal backed by guitars and piano and some organ fills.  A treasure.

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