I have now had a few days listening to the new Bootleg series 10 deluxe box set. It is very interesting, and it is actually rather good. I am one of those few that kind of liked the original album, so I expected to like Another Self Portrait. I was not expecting that I would like it as much as I do.
That said, there are two things that stand out however. The first is the demo version of When I Paint My Masterpiece, it knocked me out. It is breathtakingly beautiful.
But the best of the release is the full Isle of Wight performance with The Band, and I really did not expect that!
I’ve read about the Isle of Wight concert, what an important event it was, how good it was. Dylan’s first concert in three years! More than a concert, a culturally significant event and a great show.
Rolling Stone Magazine wrote in 1969:
“During Dylan’s performance, a lovely 19-year-old girl, who said her name was Vivian and that she came from “nowhere,” appeared naked with a similarly naked young man, in the midst of a sea of foam pumped into a recreation area, and before 200 persons, made love. There was no attempt to stop them – but there was plenty of encouragement. “Beautiful,” bellowed several who saw it: “Freaky, baby!””
Well, they got my attention!
…and they wrote about the concert:
“On came Bob Dylan, one of the very few artists who could afford not to wear skin-tight, flared, sexy trousers. Boy Dylan in a loose white suit (Buddy Holly probably owned a suit like that), white shoes, white tie and yellow shirt, behind a sparkling stainless steel chin-height barricade of microphones.
The stomping and the cheering and the crying and the crush toward the front-stage area was still strong as Dylan began his first song, “She Belongs to Me.” “Great to be here, great to be here,” he said as he finished the song. “It sure is.” There was a slightly more down-home resilience to “I Threw It All Away” and “Maggie’s Farm” than on the recordings, possibly due to the Band’s mellow, sinewy backings. “Highway 61” positively rocked.
Then the Band departed for a time, allowing Dylan to play acoustically: “Will Ye Go, Lassie Go,” a hardy perennial on the British folk scene; “It Ain’t Me Babe”; “To Ramona”; “Mr. Tambourine Man.” In “Like a Rolling Stone,” Dylan hit upon a new device of adding the world “girl” at judicious places – “You mustn’t let other people get your kicks for you, girl!” the sang, goosing the song along all the better, with the Band, who had re-joined him now, adding their resonant voices to the chorus. “I Pity The Poor Immigrant” took on sea chantey tones with Garth Hudson’s accordion accompaniment. Song after song rolled on, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “One Too Many Mornings.”
And then Dylan announced: “We’re going to do one more for you.” Just the slightest sardonic grin. “This was a big hit over here by Manfred Mann, a great group, a great group.” A whoop of anticipation, and sure enough, it was “Mighty Quinn,” mighty funky.
Bob smiled broadly and waved his goodbye as the audience fell into their chant: “More, more, more more, more . . . ” So he did an encore of two more songs, the first of them a new Dylan song, a slow, gentle ballad called “Who’s Gonna Throw That Next Throw,” then followed it with a prancing “Rainy Day Women No. 12 and No. 35.”
And that was it. He had sung for one solid hour, from 11 PM to midnight. “Thank you, thank you, great!” he told the audience, still smiling, as he left for the last time.”
They describe the second coming don’t they?
I yearned to hear this fantastic concert, and I got 4 tracks on the original Self Portrait, what an underwhelming feeling I got when I first heard it! These could not be the same songs that Rolling Stone Magazine raved about, could they?
The songs were good enough, but the sound was off, it sounded like Bob Dylan was alone almost, or that it was recorded in a small room and not on a very large stage on one of the worlds biggest music festivals!
The drums and the guitars sounded thin, and too sharp. What the hell was this? They are terribly mixed.
I own a couple of bootlegs from the Isle of Wight concert , I though that, surely they would capture the excitement and the grand scale, heck, the cultural importance couldn’t be lost in bad sound. It turned out that it could.
I have a reel to reel recording that is described as “very good quality” and I have a JTT version that should be one of the best out there. They sound bad in my ears, I’ve heard a few more, they all sound bad. I could recognize some exciting stuff on them, but the bad quality came in the way. I am no sound freak, I can listen to recordings that many people consider to be unlistenable, if I can find something great beyond the bad sound. I have listened to The Isle of Wight files/songs a lot, I did hear some good performances. I just came to terms with the fact, that I would never hear these songs the way that the audience did on that last day of August in 1969.
When I put on the new Isle of Wight release from Another Self Portrait I almost cried, finally I understood what Martin Grayson had experienced, finally I got it!
It is like going from a small black and white TV to a wide-screen cinema. The sound is wide and well-defined. Bob Dylan sounds so much better, he even comes across more confident and more assure than on anything I have heard from that concert before. I always imagined him as nervous and uncertain, he really is not. It is strange, but it is like hearing the concert for the first time.
The guitars, man, the guitars sound so good, you can hear all the strings on the instruments, and the drums are crisp and clear and not too sharp at all. How could they get something so good out of something that I was convinced was lost forever in bad recorded sound?
She Belongs To Me, I Threw It All Away and a rocking Maggie’s Farm blasts out, what a start!
…and now we can hear the audience, we get a sense of scope. It sounds big!
I Threw it all away (old sound):
I Threw it all away (new sound):
The short acoustic set that included Wild Mountain Thyme, It Ain’t Me Babe, To Ramona and Mr. Tambourine Man is crystal clear, and Bob Dylan really sings his heart out. They sound like the previewed track Pretty Saro, what I mean is that they are sung in the same tender way. They are beautiful. I really like To Ramona, I have never heard a better live version.
The two tracks off John Wesley Harding , I Dreamed I Saw St.Augustine and I Pity The Poor Immigrant are also wonderfully done. Not very different from the album versions, but we must remember that these songs were new at the time.
‘Lay Lady Lay’ sounds a bit off at the start (as the song sometimes does live) but Dylan and The Band catches up nicely during the song.
Highway 61 really rumbles along, you can hear Levon Helm shouting out the background vocals.The Band is so laid back and rambling, they sound so relaxed (in a good way). What many have described as unrehearsed, just feels right for the songs. Bob Dylan and the Band invited us to a country square dance, in a time when experimentation in the studio was starting to get big (Dylan got to hear an acetate of Abbey Road the next day). They brought it down to earth.
Listen to the difference from a bootleg and the newly released version:
The new release:
I finally understand what Rolling Stone meant when they said that Quinn The Eskimo as “mighty funky”, Minstrel Boy sounds so much fuller. Minstrel Boy was the best sounding live track on the original Self Portrait, but now it sounds so much better. All songs are better, the release is a revelation.
Like a Rolling Stone is the song that is most different from what we are used to, the smooth voice and the crooning way of singing is not to everyone’s taste, but I like it. It is another fine version of the song, not as much rock’n roll but almost as good.
I’ve heard One Too Many Mornings better elsewhere, it is the one song on the release that feels a bit off, it doesn’t fit.
Rainy Day Woman at the end is fine, and again I sit and marvel at the quality of the sound. Like the best live albums, we get a little bit of what it must have felt like to sit there and see the concert.
By the way, you don’t need to by the big box set to get the concert, you can buy it on iTunes (all from the box set) for under 20$ if you don’t want to shell out for the physical copy.
You can not get a better deal on music this year!
29 thoughts on “The Best of Another Self Portrait: The Isle Of Wight concert”
It’s just such a shame that to have the Isle of Wight performance, you have to put down a hundred bucks for a pile of crappy Self Portrait outtakes.
The Self Portrait outtakes are actually quite good, but if you want the Isle of Wight music you can buy them much cheaper than the physical box set on iTunes. If you need to have the discs you have to bring the bucks…
I am dying to get hold of a Cd with Dylan’s 1963 accoustic duets with various persons eg Joan Baez for Blowing in the wind and with God on our side!
I’ve never seen an album like that, someone should start compiling…
Thanks for the comment!
The dvd “The Other Side Of The Mirror: Bob Dylan Live At The Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965,” released in 2007, includes these tunes:
With God On Our Side
Blowin’ In The Wind
It Ain’t Me, Babe
With God On Our Side
Yes it has, thanks for reminding me!
This ‘Isle of Wight’ concert remix/remaster is most excellent and a good quality companion to ‘Before the Flood.’
The rhythms of The Band are loose and are a throwback to their ‘party of falling down drunks’ style of ‘Up on cripple creek’ and the swagger of ‘Rainy day women #12 & 35.
This is really an extension of their ‘Basement tapes’ period most notable on the ragged starts and stops on many tunes. It really sounds as if Bob had forgotten the chords for a moment. Of course, Bob never forgets the chords nor the lyrics…he just changes them and rewrites the song as the others join in. Magic!
As for the balance of the box set…if it had been released on some TMQ label with a striptease cover the critics would be trampling each other to obtain their own copy…don’t be fooled by their forked tongues.
Thanks for your comments, we are on the same page 🙂
Looking forward to listening to it – I was there in 1969 for the gig, having walked most of the way from south London and slept the night under Southsea Pier. There were large communal tents where everyone crashed out in their sleeping bags. On the final day we queued for ages in the morning before they opened the gates and there was a stampede to get close to the stage. It was a long day and an even longer evening before the Band appeared and then Dylan. Then there was the long walk back to Ryde for the ferry and the train. I’d been to the RAH in 1965 and 1966 to see Dylan and was still stunned (as one is at 20) by the power of those two events, but I don’t remember being disappointed by the IOW gig itself – surprised maybe by some of the unfamiliar folk material, but not disappointed.
Like you i’ve had various versions over the years – some good some bad. The Mighty Mockingbird CD which came out 2 – 3 years back was the best of the bunch I think. Rather like “Guitars Kissing and the Electric Fix” which presaged the formal release of the Judas concert, so Mockingbird now sounds like a forerunner for Botleg Series 10 IOW. If the new recording is better than Mockingbird then I’m in for a treat!
What a great story!
Thanks for sharing it with us.
I’ve heard the The Mighty Mockingbird boot, the official IOW is way better! 🙂
I’m not sure I would say the Isle of Wight is the best part of “Another Self Portrait” but it certainly exemplifies the brightness, optimism, good feelings, and humor evident throughout the period stretching from the Basement Tapes to Planet Waves where darkness descends.
That said the concert is a great joy to listen to. Listening to it in a properly mastered version makes a mockery of all the illegal bootlegs that Dylan was being increasingly cynical about in the aftermath of the release of the Great White Wonder.
While good feelings and joy is evident throughout the concert there is a edge to it. Recall that the previous time Bob Dylan was in the United Kingdom he was widely booed. He was stoned at the mike as it were.
The concert begins with a clear statement of his independence as an artist prepared to follow his vision no matter how much his “fans” disagree with what he is doing. Consider the line “She’s an artist. she don’t look back.”
More to the point are the two encores: Minstrel Boy a story of the sadness of life on the road and the need to save “your soul”; and a totally revamped “Rainy Day Woman” that ends with a lyric about being stoned on your bike/stoned while you are singing at the mike.
The narrative of the concert is framed between the introduction and the coda.
Thank you for your comments
I agree about the light-hearted feel of the show, and I can also sense a bit darker background or edge (after reading, watching and listening extensively to the tapes and books from/about his earlier visits to Britain).
These are interesting points.
Great review. I always liked Self Portrait. Haven’t listened to it for about 25 years (never bought it on cd, no longer have a record player…..many reasons…) so was very excited for this release. Decided to buy the deluxe version, although I thought I may be wasting my money. But, what a gem! I knew the unreleased songs would be good, I just never expected the Isle of Wight to be as good as it is.
Thank you, and yes, it’s a great live album and it should be given it’s own release.
Thanks for you comment!
Nice review. I’m also digging this release, especially after years of listening to muddy bootlegs of the show. The highlight for me is Levon Helm’s raucous vocal accompaniment on “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.” The boys all seemed to having a wild mountain time.
I also love Levon’s shouting/singing on Highway 61 🙂
Thanks for the comment!
The vocal passion & musical variation that seem to be missing from the original Self Portrait are here. The Isle of Wight mixes are particularly engaging. We are pleasantly surprised yet again.
I must say that I like the studio stuff as well, but for me, the Isle of Wight concert is the stand-out disc!
Thanks for the feedback!
I too have had a secret liking of the original Self Portrait although I was never a fan of the 2 versions of Little Sadie. To have 3 more versions on this album makes me feel a bit cheated as there is not that much difference, however I like the album overall.
As an 18 year old in 1969, I saw BD for the first time at the Isle of Wight and have great memories of that weekend. I have never had the bootleg so it is great to listen to the concert and the remastered tracks make it sound better than the original I’m sure.
Thanks for some interesting comments.
Lucky you! To have been at this historical show!
I was blown away unexpectedly too. I’d avoided the poor quality bootlegs and just heard a few songs over the years. I always loved Wild Mountain Thyme, I had no idea the concert was that good. It made me wish Bob had recorded JWH and NS with Bob, just fantastic, they give the songs a more muscular, complex, and bright sound, plus backing vocals!
Yes, The Band was the best backing band anybody could hope for.
Thanks for your comment!
I have always liked Self Portrait 1970, always hungry for Dylan’s Isle of Wight material ( this began to reappear only in recent years ). Even so, I enjoyed reading your enthusiasm of sound quality then and now. High-tech stuff, no doubt. Finally, to be fair, may I strongly recommend the DVD of Leonard Cohen at the Isle of Wight, too ?
You may! …and I will check it out
Thank you for the comment!
Even by your amazingly high standards,this is a wonderful post……….thanks for the research and your attention to detail……..and,of course the music.
Thank you for the praise, always appreciated 🙂
We are having so much fun doing this, it is such a pleasure. And we get to revisit all the music that we love so much.
It always seems like you are having a good time………..so are the readers!
Comments are closed.