Self Portrait Vol. 2 (Song & Dance Man BDO9001)
(78:25): A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Tell O’Bill, Waitin’ For You, Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking, Return To Me, I Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind, Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache, Train Of Love, Chimes Of Freedom, My Blue Eyes Jane, Ring Of Fire, Boogie Woogie Country Girl, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Heartland, You Belong To Me, This Old Man, Most Of The Time, People Get Ready, Dignity, Pretty Boy Floyd
Self Portrait Vol 2 is a twenty track compilation of rare recordings which were considered for the Bootleg Series Vol. 8 which were eventually not used by Columbia. The sound quality on all of the tracks is excellent and the new label Song & Dance Man use a clever idea for the cover art and title, placing this in line with 1970’s Self Portrait which was a similar collection of oddities and originals not destined for other releases.
The tracks are arranged in descending chronological order beginning with “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” recorded for the Expo Zargoza in Spain in 2008. The event is an international exposition held from June 14 to September 14 coordinated by the Bureau of International Expositions, the organization that is responsible for sanctioning World’s Fairs, held in Zaragoza, Spain, with the topic of “Water and sustainable development.” Dylan himself performed there on June 23rd but this recording was done in studio beforehand with his touring band an a message of support from Dylan himself at the end.
Several songs from lesser known soundtracks are featured including “Tell Ol’ Bill” for North Country, “Waitin’ For You” for Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and “Ring Of Fire” from Feeling Minnesota. “Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking” is taken from the LP Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan. The track is Dylan’s only contribution to this tribute album and catches Dylan in his own studio playing his gospel song being interrupted by Mavis Staples. They engage in some chit chat about food before singing the track together the opening line to “I’m sitting at the table / I’m so hungry I can eat a horse.” It is a cute track although Dylan sounds very stiff and nervous speaking to Staples. “Return To Me” is a cover of the Dean Martin classic taken from The Sopranos recorded in 2000 and is very effective with it’s Italianate ornamentation.
“Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache” is taken from Good Rockin’ Tonight, the 2000 tribute album for the legacy of Sun Records and “Train Of Love” is a cover of the Johnny Cash tune taken from the Johnny Cash tribute Kindrd Spirts. This is followed by “Chimes Of Freedom” recorded as a duet with Joan Osbourne on October 31st, 1998 in New York. This track appears on The ’60s (Mercury/Polygram 314 538 743-2) released on January 26th, 1999. This is a country ballad rearrangement of the track with unknown musicians playing back up.
“Ballad Of Hollis Brown” was recorded on May 19th, 1993 at Grandma’s Warehouse in Los Angeles, California. The recording contains Dylan on acoustic guitar and vocals and Mike Seeger on banjo and was officially released on Mike Seeger: Third Annual Farewell Reunion (Rounder CD 0313) on November 1994. Except for the banjo line the arrangement is almost identical to the original recording. “You Belong To Me” is taken from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack in 1994 and still includes the annoying voice over at the very end. “This Old Man” is from the 1991 compilation album For Our Children and is an interesting take on the popular children’s song.
“Most Of The Time” comes from a video session with Don Was on March 16th, 1990. The track was played three times with David Lindley (guitar), Randy Jackson (bass), Kenny Aronoff (drums). Included here is the first take which was released as a promo CD single. Dylan’s voice is much more rough than the version found on Oh Mercy but does contain all of the verses.
“People Get Ready” is a cover of the Curtis Mayfield classic. It was recorded at the Belmont Hall Studio in Boomington, Indiana on November 20th, 1989. Recorded five days after the fall tour, he is backed by unidentified musicians. The arrangement is much closer to easy listening gospel with back up singers and a moody organ underneath the melody. It was featured in the Kiefer Sutherland film Flashback and released on the soundtrack album Flashback (WTG Records NK 46042) in 1990. The CD is currently out of print and very hard to find and the song’s inclusion in this collection is much welcomed.
“Dignity” comes from the Oh Mercy sessions in March 1989 and released on Greatest Hits Vol. 3. This version differs by the backing vocals being overdubbed. The last track on the disc “Pretty Boy Floyd” is a cover of the Woodie Guthrie song recorded during the June 16th, 1987 session for Down In The Groove. It was omitted from that release but included on Folkways: A Vision Shared – A Tribute To Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly (Columbia OC 44034, and CK 44034 (CD) released on August 24th, 1988. Overall, given this was considered for official release it’s hard to argue with the selection and sound quality and having these rarities together in one disc is very handy.