Following his surprising turn to country music with 1969's Nashville Skyline, Bob Dylan appeared on The Johnny Cash show, and performed at the 1969 Isle Of Wight Festival, backed by The Band. He chose not to perform at the much closer to home Woodstock Festival.
As the 1970s began everyone no doubt was keen to see where his music would go next. Once again his fans and the music press found themselves confused. Self Portrait was a double album, featuring an odd selection of folk traditionals, covers of pop and country songs, instrumentals and a sparse selection of original compositions. Some was sung in the affected croon he had used for Nashville Skyline, whilst for the rest of it he reverted to his 'true' voice. Overall it had a mellow country-folk feel, with occasional strings and backing vocals, both of which he had never used before. The choice of cover songs had some real suprises too, including Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" and Paul Simon's "The Boxer". It also featured four live recordings from his Isle Of Wight performance, one of which was "The Mighty Quinn" (a song he hadn't previously released himself, but it had been a #1 hit for Manfred Mann back in 1968).
In truth Self Portrait is a fine album, with some real nice material. However it was very poorly received on its release, leading many to believe Dylan had finally lost his way. It's generally accepted that Dylan chose to release it because he was tired of being stuck in the limelight, and wanted to put something out that would make people get bored of him and leave him alone. It did mark the end of the most successful era of Dylan's career, and signalled the start of an unpredictable new decade.
Nashville Skyline (1969) <|> New Morning (1970)
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