I can't believe Dylan himself panned this album! It's hard to argue with that, but I'd like to anyway. In a nutshell, Self-Portrait is a chronicle of Dylan kickin' back, unwinding, enjoying the country air, taking a load off. Possibly dealing the corporate world a joker, to see just what they'd do with it? Listen to the Basement Tapes, Nashville Skyline, and The Band's Music From Big Pink before even trying to approach this album. The landscape will then seem quite familiar: the laid-back country blues of Living The Blues, the timeless balladry of Days of '49. the gentler side of the great man in Early Mornin' Rain. Yes, there are clunkers on this album. In Search of Little Sadie is an interesting experiment in melody gone embarassingly awry, and All the Tired Horses, while lush and poignant, only needed to be about a minute long. The heart of the album is his cover of "Copper Kettle," ostensibly the narration of a bootlegger. Here Dylan is clearly reveling in his bucolic idyll: "You'll just lay there by the juniper while the moon is bright.." It's the anthem of his Woodstock sojourn if there were such a thing. At least one reviewer has noted that the Isle of Wight tracks peppered throughout break up the continuity of the album; think of the album as a documentary and I think the puzzle pieces fit together a little more nicely, all spread out to give you a feel of the larger picture. The so-called "lackluster" Isle of Wight performances sound just like the Dylan and Band I would expect from this period: laid back, more than a little bluesy. It sounds like they might even be- gasp- enjoying themselves. Just perfect. To sum it up, leave it behind if you would be disappointed by anything less worthy than Blonde on Blonde. But if you are already into The Band, or american roots music, or dig Bob's country stylings, this album may surprise you.