I find that every Dylan fan has a particular period his work that they most enjoy or are most interested in and mine was his country phase between 1967-1972. I happen to buy Self Portrait when I was replacing my worn vinyl copies of John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline and New Morning. I had previously stayed away from Portrait because of the reviews claiming it to be one of the worst Dylan albums ever, although that same criticism made me curious to hear what "the worst Dylan" sounded like. I can honestly tell you that I have heard a lot of Dylan and it is far from being the worst, probably about as far as it is from being the best. Admittedly this album has it's good moments and some amusing moments, although you unfortunately have to sit through some pitiful moments as well. While he takes a decidedly schmaltzy turn with "Belle Isle" and "Let It Be Me", "Blue Moon" which one would expect to be the worst track on this album, turns out to be the best, almost prefiguring a sound he would develop on his 1975 album Desire. The live tracks "Like A Rolling Stone", "The Mighty Quinn" and "She Belongs To Me" are not as strong as their original versions, but are still interesting and worth a listen. I would have to say that Self Portrait's real downfall are the country tracks which are not necessarily bad, just sort of flaccid, and flaccid enough to make sitting through all 75 minutes of the album quite a challenge. I do admit that upon my first listen I was a little confused and angry at dear old Bob, but the album has grown on me, especially when I read that it was released so he could shed some fame. There comes a time when it is necessary to alienate everyone in order to get some down time and I think this album effectively did that.
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