CD Review – Bob Dylan: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964


Bob Dylan
The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964, The Bootleg Series Volume 9 – The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

The most recent installment of Bob Dylan’s hallowed Bootleg Series is a daunting collection of forty-seven tracks. That’s two-and-a-half hours of sparsely arranged music, Dylan’s voice, and his economical picking with the occasional harmonica, piano, or foot-tapping accompaniment making an appearance.

Dylan is relaxed, almost as if you invited into your living room, allowing him to prop open his guitar case in your kitchen or to chord sloppily on your living room piano, showing you some of the new tracks he’s had kicking around. He messes up lyrics, plays bum notes, makes clarifications, and jokes openly with the engineer.

Typical of early ’60s Dylan, there are political tunes here, including early versions of  “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” “Masters of War,” and a powerful take on “John Brown.”

Disc 2 shows the young Dylan looking more inwards. Personal favorites, “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” and “Girl From North Country” make it clear that Dylan can write heart-examinin’ as well as finger-pointin’ songs.

Do yourself a favor and get lost in this collection for a while this autumn. It was made to accompany the crunch of leaves on concrete.

Joel Blechinger

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