Sep 112013

Self Pooptrait

Self Pooptrait

Younger generations are free to celebrate the landmark anniversary of whatever album blew their mind in their youth, say Beck‘s Odelay (an anniversary party for which even I would attend) or that big Outkast album everyone made a fuss over and probably hasn’t listened to since 3 months after initially purchasing. That’s cool; that’s their music. My generation, however, has officially reached the point of scraping the bottom of the barrel on celebrating “classic” albums by classic artists. I first noticed it late last year, I believe it was, when a special anniversary edition of the final full-length album by The Jam, The Gift, was released. Don’t even diehard Jam fans feel that album is pointless beyond 3 songs? That was a memorial ceremony, not an anniversary celebration.

Recently, things went from bad to weird with the box set special anniversary edition release of Bob Dylan‘s critically lambasted Self Portrait. The new special anniversary edition, packaged as Another Self Portrait, includes digitally remastered alternate takes of the original turd as well as outtakes from the equally dismissed—I’m sorry, “under-appreciated” is the revised critical term—New Morning. If that’s not enough to get you to cough up an anniversary gift, the package throws in some outtakes from The Basement Tapes and Dylan’s personal collection of tasteful nude Polaroid shots of Edie Sedgwick. I think I’ll wait for the special anniversary edition of Infidels.

Where do you draw the line on buying a special anniversary edition release from one of your favorite artists?


  19 Responses to “The Future of Album Anniversaries”

  1. misterioso

    Hey Mod, things’ve been too hectic lately to have much time to say anything here in the hallowed halls, so it’s my own fault for not following through on my intention of posting something about Another Self Portrait, which I think is mostly magnificent, certainly fascinating and revelatory, and anything but dull. But not a special anniversary release. I think anyone who bothers to listen to this collection who is familiar with Self Portrait and the generally moderately well liked (in my experience) though far from great New Morning will have one of two reactions: it will either make them like those records more or it will make them wonder how and why (esp. Self Portrait) turned out so badly. Dylan himself has floated various explanations through the years for Self Portrait and they may be partly true–e.g., that he deliberately put out a record that his hippy followers would hate. Could be. But it looks to me like he just lost control over the process of making a record that started out with the idea that he would just record a bunch of songs, old and new, that he liked and which meant something to him. Maybe even that became too much of a self-revelation, I don’t know. This is what a lot of the stuff on Another Self Portrait is, and most of them are wonderful, including some that got scrapped and some that got totally crapped on with overdubs and very dubious production. But it is hard for me to imagine, anyway, anyone with any level of interest in Dylan not liking the collection in general.

    The larger argument I would make is that Dylan appears to me to be unique in that for various stages of his career–generally those stages in which his records are the weakest–the Bootleg Series (setting aside the matter of actual bootlegs) provides material that forces a reassessment of what was actually going on. Another Self Portrait does not present to us someone who has “lost it” though it probably does present someone who has “lost his way.” The original Bootleg Series provided ample material from the early 80s that cast the dodgy releases from that period in a very different light. The Tell Tale Signs edition of the Bootleg Series presents a Dylan in the late 80s-early 2000s whose “resurgence” was deeper than met the eye.

    Not sure what your level of irony was regarding the special edition of Infidels, but I await that as well, since even the material that has already been released that was not used on that record (on the 3rd disc of the original Bootleg Series) is vastly superior to most of the record itself–and I actually think the record itself is ok.

    I really cannot think of another artist whose “official” work–that is, beyond the “no argument” years of 1962-66, because of Dylan’s own perversity or incompetence at presenting his best work, stands in greater need of reassessment in the face of “supplemental” material such as the Bootleg Series. The Beatles, for example, seem the total opposite: as much as I enjoy a lot of the Anthology material and unofficial stuff like Ultra Rare Trax and the like, I can’t think of too many cases where it changes my perception of a record or is better than what got released. (Except, of course, for “Leave My Kitten Alone” vs. the unlistenable “Mr. Moonlight.”) I’m not a Dead fan but I don’t think that all those Dick’s Picks releases really change the picture, do they?

    Anyway, going on way too long but hope everyone is well…

  2. Good stuff, misterioso! To be fair, I have not spent much time yet listening to the first few tracks I downloaded from Another Self Portrait. On the surface, I have been bugged by how reverential critics suddenly are to an album they couldn’t give a shit about for years. I own the original release, and it’s good for a track at a time now and then. It’s good for an occasional laugh as well. The line between marketing and critical acclaim may be more blurred than ever. I should be a big enough man to get past that by now, but I’m not.

    I like Infidels, especially that opening song, “Jokerman.” I was only being 75% tongue in cheek with that comment. I have not bought any of the Bootleg series sets. Around the time they started appearing I was already getting tired of such collections, like the mostly disappointing Beatles Anthology series. Dylan’s Biograph box set was pretty good, from what I remember, but I have not touched that box in years.

    I like your final question. I will think about that one. No artist comes immediately to mind.

  3. misterioso

    Not to get all pince-nezy, but I wanted to clarify that I don’t think Another Self Portrait is or is being presented as a connected to any anniversary of the original record (43 years!) or anything else.

    I’m curious what other such collections resembling the Bootleg Series wore you down. The Bootleg Series started in 1991. Other than, say, Townshend’s Scoop releases, which are similar but different, were there many other comparable “cleaning out the archives” releases of mainly studio outtakes and alternates before 1991?

    I’ve read a fair number of reviews of Another Self Portrait, and though probably all of them have been pretty reverential towards this new release, many of them have taken note of the weirdness, if not the sort of awfulness, of Self Portrait. It’s true that some have taken either a “misunderstood classic” approach or a “I liked it all along” stance, but only some. Partly a reaction against the outpouring of bile towards it for so long, which was only partly deserved. I agree with you, good for a track or two at a time and the occasional giggle.

    I forgot to mention before that the complete live at the Isle of Wight concert is part of the Super Deluxe Edition (along with the all-important remaster of Self Portrait) and it’s great, despite it and occasionally because of its rough edges.

  4. Right, I guess the 43rd anniversary of any release is not a marketing angle! The Jam album is the one that stuck in my craw for the last 6 months, or however long it’s been. It makes me fear for the celebration “due” the anniversary of the release of Spike or Combat Rock.

    Wasn’t there a fuss over the 20th anniversary of the double album that pretty much put an end to Smashing Pumpkins? Now, that’s an outside-my-caring instance, but that probably factored into my growing sense of burnout.

    I resisted the urge to explore the Super Deluxe Edition of Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run, the only Paul album I think even approaches GREAT. Did I really want to hear an alternate take of “Mamumia”?

    As I very slowly warm up to the merits of Dylan’s Vincent Price-Look albums of the last dozen or so years, I find it necessary to further resist reconsidering the piles of shit that led up to that re-invention. I feel I would lose my self-credibility if I started investigating outtakes from one of those Daniel Lanois albums, bigger man that I might be aside.

  5. misterioso

    Mod, I can well understand that most sane people will not have my level of interest in Dylan ephemera. But the thing is that in so many cases I don’t view the material on the Bootleg Series as “outtakes” with all that usually implies (not quite good enough to release, marginal, interesting only to completists or psychopaths) when in so many cases it is actually “the stuff that should have been on the album.” I mean, the first take of Like a Rolling Stone in the first Bootleg Series, that’s an outtake. The very silly “Working on a Guru” on the new Another Self Portrait, that’s an outtake. But there is so much in these releases that is in the “how could that not have been released” category that it is necessary–well, not necessary, but interesting as a fan–to construct a very different narrative of Dylan’s career. I see no redemption on the horizon for Knocked Out Loaded and Down in the Groove, though.

  6. 2000 Man

    I’ve only got a couple of Dylan albums, and I don’t see any great need to change that, and I don’t like any of them so much that I’m hoping for a bigger, better version. I really like Bowie, but I haven’t bothered with any of his anniversary releases, either. The odds are just good that if it’s a band I’m really interested in, I’ve heard the best of the outtakes and stuff already. I liked that The Replacements added extra tracks to their cd’s awhile back, but I had most of those songs, and the ones I didn’t have were no great revelations. I won’t be buying Elvis Costello’s next round of “found” stuff, either.

    I really did like what The Stones did with Exile and Some Girls, and that was to go back and finish the best of the outtakes. Some results were better than others, but Following the River, Plundered My Soul, Keep Up Blues and an official release of Claudine were worth hearing, and I still put them on. I just wish they’d have put them on vinyl.

  7. “In Utero” gets the 20th Anniversary treatment in a couple of weeks. This is one that deserves a birthday party.

    “In Utero” had the kind of strange production history that should make it interesting to hear what Nirvana had with Steve Albini before the final version was released. Since it’s not hard to have the complete Nirvana catalog, I can see where people who were teenagers in 1993 would want to hear what’s in the vaults. It’s just at 32 tracks on this reissue — what will they have left for the 30th or 43rd anniversary?

    I bought all my Nirvana CDs in the used and I recall many copies of “In Utero” being available not long after it was released. Some people really hated it. Of course, that changed with Cobain’s death as it got put under the microscope. Nirvana’s “Unplugged” also got people to take another look at the songs on “In Utero.” That is one hell of a performance.

  8. In Utero is more interesting than most because so many people HATED the sound of this CD (it was closer to the Nevermind that Kurt wanted) There is going to be a remixed version that sounds more like Nevermind included. THAT I think will be more interesting that another remaster of a CD era release

  9. My favorite songs on In Utero are by far my favorite songs by Nirvana. I love the way those songs sound. I’m curious to hear how Scott Litt (whose work on the second dB’s album always turns me on) “ruined” Albini’s original recordings. I like my share of Albini productions, too, but “Heart-Shaped Box,” in particular, hit me the way classic Pere Ubu hit me.

  10. misterioso

    Tattoo You=dusted off, finished off leftovers=really good record. Exile/Some Girls “bonus tracks”=dusted off, finished off leftovers=lame-ass copout.

  11. diskojoe

    I was quite pleasantly surprised about the latest Bootleg Series. It was my commuting music in my car last week & I played it twice. I especially enjoyed the version of “New Morning” w/the horns & “Went to See the Gypsy”, although I’m still a bit baffled on why Bob didn’t sign on “All the Wild Horses”

    Speaking of reissued albums, here’s news of a reissue of one of Mr. Mod’s favorite albums, news of which would probably rant right up there w/the continuing presence of the Phillies’ GM:

  12. diskojoe

    As the 21st Century cliche goes, “LOL!”

  13. Well, I did always like Self Portrait even as I understood the vitriol piled on it. Now, I came to Dylan with Nashville Skyline and quickly acquired the catalogue up to that point so I’m sure my always high opinion has at least something to do with the fact that it was the first Dylan album I bought as a new release.

    I do think it is easier to see that it “fits in” in light of Dylan’s subsequent career. I don’t know if he was deliberately deconstructing a myth, giving the finger to those hailing him as the voice of a generation, or just having fun in the studio. But given his explorations of American roots music in the last decade and given his theme time radio show, Self Portrait and Another Self Portrait make perfect sense. Somewhere I still have (don’t know where it is) a poster that I acquired somewhere (and I don’t know where that was either) of Dylan as a tree; the roots were labeled with musicians that influenced Dylan and the branches were labeled with musicians he influenced. These albums are those roots, not too different from World Gone Wrong and Good As I Been To You (albeit with a sweeter voice).

    Add in the Basement Tapes to these albums and the radio show and it’s the streams and water that make the river. And me, I just like to watch the river flow.

  14. As for anniversary reissues, deluxe editions and such, I confess to being a sucker for way too many of them, all the while recognizing that – apart from Dylan – nothing much is revealed.

    But I have stopped buying anything from Elvis, stayed away from the Jam item, haven’t bothered with the last few Who ones – maybe there is hope for me. Now, if I can just break the T. Rex habit.

  15. I don’t agree with you about the Jam – I think The Gift is an excellent album (though not as good as Setting Sons). I also really like bonus tracks and stuff, so if a band were to re-release an album I liked with a bunch of demos and unreleased songs and so on, I’d probably get it.

  16. The radio show was so cool. You don’t know what you’ve got til its gone. That will be something that gets released.

  17. And speaking of reissues like these, how about instant reissues? I noticed that tomorrow the new Elvis Costello & the Roots album comes out. And like many albums today, there is a regular release and a deluxe (read: higher priced) version which has an additional 3 tracks. Nostalgia can’t wait – on the day of release you can get tracks that weren’t deemed good enough for the regular edition.

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