Bob Dylan’s bootleg series typically offers a opportunity to dig deeper into his enigmatic and often quite personal musical history. This new edition, despite being subtitled Another Self Portrait, is different.
And, really, it’s a good thing. After all, The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait: 1969-1971 — due August 27, 2013 via Columbia Records — isn’t exactly focused on the most highly regarded period in Dylan’s own discography. Also featured, however, are a series of tracks alongside George Harrison and the Band, and in both cases Dylan’s collaborators are at the peak of their powers.
The previously unreleased “Working on a Guru,” with not one but two sizzling rockabilly turns by Harrison, might be the biggest find — a rollicking number with a patently nasty lyric from Dylan, recording during the sessions for Dylan’s fall 1970 album New Morning. Harrison wasn’t often playing with this kind of fire on contemporary Beatles tracks, and his laughter at the end — it sounds almost like relief — illustrates the burden then being borne by an artist itching to get out on his own. Harrison’s titanic multi-CD debut All Things Must Pass would arrive six months later.
“Time Passes Slowly No. 1 [Alternate Version],” a pastoral track that later appeared New Morning, finds Harrison contributing grooved guitar and perfectly ragged harmony vocal — far more in keeping with his work on Let It Be and, for that matter, Dylan’s earlier basement collaborations with the Band.
As for Dylan’s work with Robbie Robertson and Co., The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait leaps to life with their rowdy and rumbling take on “Highway 61 Revisited” — part of a joint 1969 stop at the Isle of Wight festival that’s featured in its entirety for the first-time officially on the four-disc deluxe edition. The concert stage always created a muscular fission between Dylan and the Band, and this hard-to-find appearance was no different. Robertson’s incisive riffs seem to be literally propelling Dylan breathlessly forward through the lyric, a momentum only briefly slowed by Garth Hudson’s brilliantly kaleidoscopic turn on the keyboard.
“Minstrel Boy,” polished up and released in the summer of 1970 on Self Portrait, is presented as a work-in-progress moment from Dylan’s loose 1967 collaborations with the Band. Dylan is slowly joined by the others, before the track comes to an abrupt ending with a cough. Still, there is already a sense of where the song is going, and the informal way that this fertile period evolved as Dylan and the Band tossed ideas around.
Elsewhere on The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 Another Self Portrait, there an alternate version of “If Not For You,” which appeared both on New Morning and on Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Also featured is this stark solo piano performance of “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” a track given a definitive reading later by Levon Helm on the Band’s 1971 album Cahoots. Dylan doesn’t quite reclaim the track, though he does reveal dark new corners in the lyric.