Meet Me In Montauk

Song of the Day #1,888: ‘This Evening So Soon’ – Bob Dylan

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The latest installment of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series (the tenth) is, at first glance, a bit of a head-scratcher.

Titled Another Self Portrait, it’s a collection of tracks recorded mostly for 1970’s Self Portrait, the album widely considered Dylan’s worst. That was the record that prompted critic Greil Marcus to start his infamous Rolling Stone review with the words “What is this shit?”

That shit was a collection of folk covers, pop covers (including Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’) and crappy live performances of classic Dylan songs. And it was a great big question mark. After a string of 60s masterpieces, Dylan had a motorcycle accident then released John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, very different records than the world expected. Following those albums, Self Portrait made fans question whether Dylan would ever return to form.

The answer was no, and yes. Dylan didn’t have another Highway 61 Revisited or Bringing It All Back Home in him. But he did have Desire and Blood On the Tracks, two completely different albums that number among his very finest.

Looking back with hindsight, Self Portrait might not have seemed so scary if fans knew it didn’t mark an ending but merely a transition. And this new bootleg series release provides a golden opportunity to appreciate that work on its own.

The tracks that make up the double album are a combination of unreleased tracks from Self Portrait and New Morning as well as versions of album tracks stripped of overdubs and unnecessary production. Dylan is in fine voice throughout, sometimes slipping into that country croon that came as such a surprise on ‘Lay Lady Lay.’

It’s hard to imagine the sessions that produced these songs leading to such a poorly-received album. I can see Another Self Portrait redeeming Self Portrait after all these years.

I tell old Bill when he gets home this morning,
I tell old Bill when he gets home this evening,
I tell old Bill when he gets home,
To leave them downtown women alone
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Now old Bill’s wife she was baking bread this morning,
Now old Bill’s wife she was baking bread this evening,
Now old Bill’s wife she was baking bread
They came and told her Bill was dead
This morning, this evening, so soon.

Oh no, that can’t be so, this morning,
Oh no, that can’t be so, this evening,
Oh no, that can’t be so
Bill only left for town half an hour ago
This morning, this evening, so soon.

They brought Bill home on a hurry-up wagon this morning,
They brought Bill home on a hurry-up wagon this evening,
They brought Bill home on a hurry-up wagon
His head was down and his feet were dragging
This morning, this evening, so soon.

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