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Saving Grace: Bob Dylan's Self-Portrait

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Regardless of taste or aspiration, great artists are bound to fail every now and again. And as they fail, we all sit back idly, wishing it wouldn’t have happened, but slightly elevated by the fact they did – “ah yes,” we think, “they are humans, too.” But great artists rarely fail completely. For that particular reason, it’s important to look at failures not with a grain of salt, but with the same critical eye that we might look at the rest of their albums. After all, assuredly there must be some type of saving grace to even the worst disasters. With that in mind, welcome to the inaugural edition of Saving Grace, a brand new feature in which we examine the shinny spot on what is otherwise a steaming pile of poo.

Bob Dylan’s Self-Portrait is nearly unanimously his worst album, sans, perhaps, Dylan, which was actually just outtakes from Self-Portrait. It’s one of those records that even the most diehard Dylanphiles ignore. Yet, with a brain like Dylan's, even in his half-assed attempts there must be one sleeper hit. If you’ve had the unfortunate luck to have actually heard Self-Portrait all the way through, you’ll find one track, nestled towards the very end, “Wigwam” that operates as a quick wakeup call before the albums abysmal ending, “Alberta No. 2.”

“Wigwam” might only stand out because it is surrounded by the absolute lowest of expectations, and by the time you finally make it to the 23rd track, you’ll likely find yourself in another room, obsessively cleaning the floorboards with a toothbrush. Yet “Wigwam” shines through, with Dylan merely “doo-doo-doo-do-do-ing” through a track that might find itself more at home next to BJ Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” than at the end of a vomit inducing Dylan effort. It proves that even in the greatest of disasters in pop music, a single can still emerge – a fact that Wes Anderson picked up on when he decided to use the track on the Royal Tenenbaum’s soundtrack – which likely led to a slew of neo-Dylan fans clamoring for his worst effort.

--Thorin Klosowski

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