Bob Dylan’s Top 200 Song Countdown – #199 – The Boxer

Self Portrait

1970 – From Album “Self Portrait”

Didn’t Chart – Not a Single

Link to Simon and Garfunkel Original : http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/The+Boxer/xbAo7?src=5

Bob Dylan’s Version : http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/The+Boxer/4tqN4k?src=5

 

If you were to be given but one guess at what an album named “Self Portrait” was, a cover album of country and folk songs would probably be at the bottom of the list. If you were around in 1970, unlike myself, and if you were to think of a Dylan album, this cover would be somewhat unorthodox. Now put those things together with a sound that was so… different, let’s say, and the resulting product is a failure of an album that suprised his audience — and not in a particularly postive way.

There is some really poor material to be sure on this double LP (if you’re gonna make an awful record, go the extra mile I suppose), but the album gets unfairly ridiculed because of it being the first stutter in Dylan’s album career. His original album was met with indifference, and his output in the 60’s otherwise was legendary, being a pop icon. There are songs on the piece, however, that shine through as really well done covers. 

“The Boxer” is not one of those. Simon and Garfunkel’s version is an all-time classic with a buildup that works so well that it even managed to just miss Rolling Stone magazine’s top 100 songs of all time at #105.

Dylan’s version is spectacularly goofy in the same way the songs off of the 1973 album “Dylan” are so odd. He seems to be poking fun at the original artists, but performing it in a way so that it still seems that Dylan’s taking it seriously.

For starters, the person listening may notice a second voice (like the original version obviously does), in the background, and performed by…who else? Dylan himself. Distinctively different tones, but still, one in the same person singing the same song twice.

Singing backup for his own performance is odd enough, but he speeds the song itself up, going from just over 5 minutes to a sub 3 minute song, taking out the buildup and just plays around with the fact he’s singing the same song with himself.

He sing’s soft and slow, with some of his country croon present, having fun and obviously not trying to make high art. Which the critics (of course) weren’t fans of. They may have not been, but I surely love me some goofy Dylan, even if not laugh out loud funny, but just for the human side to him.

#199 isn’t a masterpiece, nor was it really meant to be.

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Bob Dylan’s 31st Best Studio/ Bootleg Album

Self Portrait
1970
Grade — C+

This was Dylan’s first negatively reviewed album since his introduction eight years earlier, catching people so off guard that one Rolling Stone writer so elegantly put it as “What is this shit?”.

It’s true that this mostly covers album is fairly bizarre, especially when compared to the levels of excellence that the 60’s brought for fans. Bob however has said himself that it was something of a joke “to get the hippies off my lawn”.

The album was more criticized for its unnecessary over-production more than Dylan’s actual performances, which is why the stripped down versions released in 2013 were so much better received.

Self Portrait is quite an amusing name for a cover album, as is the cover art, showing Dylan’s frightfully stunning artwork. Not to worry, I’m being sarcastic.

The songs? Well the songs that just fall flat are “Alberta #1”, “Alberta #2”, the live performance of “She Belongs to Me”, and of course the Dylan original, “All the Tired Horses”. The last of these is the leadoff track, using the wordplay, “All the Tired Horses in the Sun / How I supposed to get any writing done.” over and over again, not sung by Dylan. Not that it would of added overly much.

However the songs that work are really nice. The biggest works are the covers of “Belle Isle”, “Copper Kettle”, and the traditional “Days of ’49”. All three have Dylan at his covering best — which is to say he belts out the songs like he would one of his own, instead of a straight forward cover.

Overall this album would have been a lot better if it had better production (or just less of it), but as is, its just a curious music artifact that will have new, uninitiated fans scratching their heads.

Days of ’49 — http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Days+Of+49/2CKzfd?src=5