Ranking Bob Dylan’s 39 Studio Albums- #28- Self Portrait- 1970- 3 stars. Bob’s 10th album it was released on June 8, 1970.
The countdown so far 39- Dylan -1973 38- Down In The Groove -1988 37-Knocked Out Loaded- 1986 36-Christmas In The Heart- 2009 35-Under A Red Sky- 1990 34-Saved- 1980 33-Fallen Angels 2016 32- Good As I Been To You- 1992 31- World Gone Wrong 1993 30- Triplicate 2017. 29- Shadows In The Night and now #28- Self Portrait.
Self Portrait is the first Dylan album to receive a mostly negative reception from the critics. The reaction to his debut in 1962 was basically indifference- the next eight albums were widely praised. One of the most famous and quoted reviews in the history of rock criticism was the opening line in the Rolling Stone review of the album by Greil Marcus- “What is this shit? The problem with the reception of this album at the time is- what it was- a double album of Dylan covering rock and pop songs of other artists and of ‘minor’ Dylan songs. Dylan at the time was seen as ‘the voice of a generation’ and this wasn’t material worthy of an artist of this stature. There has always been speculation that Dylan was at the time wanting to dial back a bit on that tag and that this was his way of trying to lose that tag he’d been given. Also it is worth noting that he must have also had material in the can -four months later he would release his New Morning album- an album of originals which received a better reception. Self Portrait at the time did well with buyers though- #4 on the Billboard album charts in the US and #1 in the UK.
It wouldn’t be until decades later that the rehabilitation of Self Portrait would take place. As part of the Dylan Bootleg series- in 2013 Another Self Portrait was released to very good reviews. I never considered Self Portrait a major Dylan album but it’s a nice listen for what it is.