Dylan Criticism and a Sense of Proportion
The Irish historian Joseph lee once claimed that Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the ‘Easter Rising’ in 1916, has been a victim of being both ‘mindlessly adored and mindlessly reviled’. At a lower pitch, it npow seems to me that Bob Dylan’s recent work has suffered something of the same fate.
From a point where fine albums like Street Legal and Shot of Love were subjected to an over-the-top critical bashing, we seem to have reached a point where even the most inconsenquential Dylan track is suddenly an overlooked masterpiece and can only be discussed in the most hyperbolic terms…
in my opinion, this situation is almost as unhealthy for the artist as the first. What seems to be missing in both is a sense of proportion and a sense of the broader context of Dylan’s work.
I also happen to come from the school of thought which sees ‘Self Portait’ as a very minor work in the broader Dylan canon. While it may have some historic importance as a transitional work, the effect of time will leave it at best as little more than a footnote or a curiousity (along with the outtakes from it) within his broader output. I feel the same way about Tempest, which was one of Dylan’s poorest efforts, to date…
With these caveats in mind, there are some beautiful cover versions of traditional songs on ‘Another Self Portrait’. What stands out for me in the best of these is the care, respect and attention Dylan gives to their lyrics and a few of them are among the best vocal performances in his entire career.
Will single out for mention here the beautiful ‘Copper Kettle’ and ‘Pretty Saro’ and the magnificent ‘Tattie O’Day”. Of these, ‘Pretty Saro’ is available on ‘You Tube’ at: