Dylan’s work from this period has long been derided, in part because of Greil Marcus’s review of Self Portrait, which started with “What is this shit?” While it’s far from his best release, there are some good songs on the album. Together with Nashville Skyline and New Morning, Self Portrait shows Dylan at a period where he clearly did not seek hits; he almost had contempt for them at the time. Yet this new set shows, through demos and outtakes, that he took this music a lot more seriously than what he said.
Perhaps it’s time for revisionist history about this period of Dylan’s oeuvre. I’ve found many very likable songs on this set, after just a couple of listens. There’s a lot to absorb here, and it’s worth even comparing some of these outtakes and demos with the versions that were released, but the unreleased songs show that Dylan was doing a lot of interesting work at the time. Perhaps his attitude kept him from releasing some of the better outtakes; perhaps he just didn’t care. At least, 40 years later, we can hear them.
Note that the iTunes version has a remaster of the 1969 Isle of Wight concert with The Band; the Amazon version, on CD or download, only has the outtakes and demos. There’s a high-priced deluxe version (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) which also contains a remastered version of Self Portrait, and two books with extended liner notes.
I can only hope that the next Bootleg Series release will be from the Blood on the Tracks period.