Bob Dylan's August 31, 1969, appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival represented his much-anticipated return to the live stage following his reputed motorcycle accident three years earlier. Although he passed on the legendary Woodstock festival, Isle of Wight organizers made him an offer he could not refuse, including passage for his family on the QE2 and a farmhouse in nearby Bembridge. But despite the promise of a reunion with the Band, the support unit on the 1966 U.K. tour that remains the unequivocal zenith of Dylan's touring career, the show failed to meet expectations, hampered by an unusually tame and tentative performance coupled with a set list heavy on rustic, nuanced John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline material that failed to translate to the outdoor festival setting. Especially with four tracks later resurfacing on the much-maligned official release Self Portrait, the bootleg Isle of Wight Festival '69 is recommended strictly for serious Dylan enthusiasts. The performance is noteworthy almost solely for its historical significance, its limited entertainment value further diminished by the mediocre fidelity of the tapes in circulation. Reference Recording's edition is recommended over rival releases for the inclusion of a Dutch press conference taped four days before the concert.
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