The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9. The Witmark Demos 1962-1964 (2010)


 
Disc One 1. Man on the Street 2. Hard Times in New York Town 3. Poor Boy Blues 4. Ballad for a Friend 5. Rambling, Gambling Willie 6. Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues 7. Standing on the Highway 8. Man on the Street 9. Blowin' in the Wind 10.Long Ago Far Away 11.A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall 12.Tomorrow is a Long Time 13.The Death of Emmett Till 14.Let Me Die in My Footsteps 15.Ballad of Hollis Brown 16.Quit Your Low Down Ways 17.Baby, I'm in the Mood For You 18.Bound To Lose, Bound To Win 19.All Over You 20.I'd Hate To Be You On That Dreadful Day 21.Long Time Gone 22.Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues 23.Masters of War 24.Oxford Town 25.Farewell Disc Two 1. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right 2. Walkin' Down the Line 3. I Shall Be Free 4. Bob Dylan's Blues 5. Bob Dylan's Dream 6. Boots of Spanish Leather 7. Walls of Red Wing 8. Girl From the North Country 9. Seven Curses 10.Hero Blues 11.Whatcha Gonna Do? 12.Gypsy Lou 13.Ain't Gonna Grieve 14.John Brown 15.Only a Hobo 16.When the Ship Comes In 17.The Times They Are A-Changin' 18.Paths of Victory 19.Guess I'm Doing Fine 20.Baby Let Me Follow You Down 21.Mama, You Been On My Mind 22.Mr. Tambourine Man 23.I'll Keep It With Mine

 

This is one of those albums that is interesting to listen to - very interesting if your a Dylan fan, but this is also one of those records that almost merits study while listening, rather than simply putting on a CD and enjoying some good music. This type of record seemed to be more and more the norm ever since The Beatles released their "Anthology" series, and record companies now became a bit too greedy by wanting to release stuff in popular artist's vaults as opposed to focusing on new, undeveloped talent. The background behind these recordings is that Dylan was, at the time, known as an extremely talented songwriter, but no one was really serious about him making it big on his own as a recording artist. This was more a given during this particular time when artists didn't often record their own material. So this was Dylan the "songwriter" laying down some demos for Witmark Publishing with the main intention that these songs would mainly be recorded by other artists. Of course, after the explosion of his second album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963, all of those plans, understandably, changed.

This is why every song on here is one of his own, rather than covers of other people's material. He was selling his material, so that's why we have what we have. "Demos" is a very appropriate word. Even though the songs here are all wonderful, they're very primitive in their arrangements. Sonically, they're very strong, but, like his first few solo albums, very sparse. There's plenty of stopping and starting, coughing, Dylan getting lost in some of his songs, and him telling the people in the control booth that he'll "write the rest of the song later". This is why, overall, this record isn't necessarily that appealing. It's fascinating to listen to, but you really only need to listen to it once, and then that the appeal sort of dies.

Yes, there are plenty of unreleased songs here, and plenty of songs that were recorded by other artists (remember, that was really the whole point), so it is kinda cool to legitimately get your hands on some "new" Dylan songs, but again, there's only so far you can go with demo recordings. Most of the songs here are Dylan at is politically heaviest and there's very few of the light hearted side of him. Since the main artists at the time of this genre were writing and performing political songs, this was probably the type of lyrics that were most in demand, and Dylan was the best of the best, so it isn't a surprise. It's just that the heavy themes can get very wearisome after back to back to back depressing songs.

You certainly can't complain about the volume. There's 2 1/2 hours of music here - just about the maximum that you can cram on 2 compact discs. For my tastes, however, the music gets a bit monotonous after the first hour, so I really can't even listen to this whole thing front to back without seriously getting bored. Many of the songs here are identical to how they would be released officially, and many were obviously in their initial composition stage and would have more refining before they would see the light of day. So if you're buying this record thinking you're getting an exact replica of many of your favorites, you may be slightly disappointed.

All of this to say that this is probably a very necessary inclusion to the Dylan Bootleg catalogue. This is where you can really see the true genius of the man that was still basically an unknown. So diehards will rejoice that something such as this now as an official release, it's just not very strong on listenability - when you want to listen to something more than once or twice, that is.

Back To Main Page
Go to the Next Review