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Records to Die For 2: Doug Sahm’s The Last Real Texas Blues Band and Bob Dylan’s Self-Portrait

The Last Texas Blues Band
Antones 10036 (CD). 1994. Clifford Antone, exec. prod.; Malcolm Harper, eng. TT: 56.30.

Confession: I had to be coerced into seeing Doug Sahm onstage the first time. I only knew Sir Douglas’ “She’s About a Mover” and “Mendocino,” and there he was playing ringmaster for the most eclectic and perhaps the finest three hours of live music I can remember, a veritable phantasmagoria of pop nuggets, polkas, soul, R&B, tejano and big- and small-band blues. Along with Juke Box Music (the soul version of this big-band collection), this is how I most like to remember Sahm, that bemused grin beneath the cowboy hat, wandering among the ghosts of Texas music, recalling T-Bone and Guitar Slim, mimicking Fats Domino and leading the band to ever higher plateaus. The definition of Texas music. (118)

Self Portrait
Sony 30050 (CD). 1970. Bob Johnston, prod. TT: 73:15.

The only real problems with Dylan’s most misunderstood and unheard album are the timing and the title. Were it released as The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 in 2002, it might not have dismayed critics and confused most of the rest of his audience. Dylan has long claimed it was his response to unauthorized, bootleg recordings, and that description fits — from the scattershot sequencing to the wildly eclectic repertoire. Given the current Dylan penchant for unpredictable covers in his live show, mixing up country ballads, folk standards and contemporary favorites and a sprinkling of his own songs seems downright rootsy. Most interesting is that except for his voice, Self-Portrait isn’t much different from his onstage act today. What goes around comes around. Self-Portrait takes us full circle. (127)

The rules are that the reviews be 100 words or less, and I went a little long on both. These originally appeared in Stereophile magazine in 2002.


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