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  • The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964
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The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964

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Audio CD, October 19, 2010
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The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 + Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 + The Basement Tapes Raw: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11
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Editorial Reviews

The Witmark Demos features 47 Bob Dylan songs recorded by the artist – accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, harmonica and occasionally piano – for his first music publisher, Leeds Music, in January 1962, and for his second publisher, M. Witmark & Sons, between 1962 and 1964. Listening to these recordings, one can trace Dylan’s dramatic growth as a songwriter from early traditionally-styled songs like “Man On The Street” and “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie” through the social commentary of “Blowin’ In The Wind, “The Times They Are A Changin’” and “Masters Of War”, and the groundbreaking lyrical genius of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” All of these songs, and all the others on The Witmark Demos, were written – and their subsequent demos recorded – before Bob Dylan turned 24 years old.

Among the many gems found on The Witmark Demos are 15 Bob Dylan songs that were recorded by the artist only for these sessions, and which have never been officially released to the public until now. These include the plaintive“Ballad For A Friend,” the civil rights era-inspired “Long Ago, Far Away” and “The Death Of Emmett Till,” and the poignant “Guess I’m Doing Fine.”

The Witmark Demos also features a deluxe booklet featuring in-depth liner notes by noted music historian Colin Escott, as well as rare photographs of Bob Dylan captured during the same period as these early recordings.

Disc: 1
1. Man On The Street (Fragment)
2. Hard Times In New York Town
3. Poor Boy Blues
4. Ballad For A Friend
5. Rambling, Gambling Willie
6. Talking 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
See all 25 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
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. Girl From The North Country
8. Seven Curses
9. Hero Blues
10. Whatcha Gonna Do?
See all 22 tracks on this disc

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 19, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Columbia
  • ASIN: B0040GJ312
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,979 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Schonbek on October 19, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
So suggests Dylan, at the time twenty years old, recording demos as fast as he could write the new songs for the titans of Tin Pan Alley.

He then fiddles with the tuning of his guitar and launches into All Over You.

Well, a dog's got his bone in the alley
The cat she's got nine lives.
A millionaire's got a million dollars,
King Saud's got four hundred wives.

And then

Well, after my cigarette's been smoked up,
After all my liquor's been drunk,
After my dreams are dreamed out,
After all my thoughts have been thunk.

Who would have thunk it - this amazing stuff is a throwaway.

A door slams.

Dylan coughs; he forgets the words.

Brilliance juxtaposed with banter. An intimate window into a creative outpouring that changed everything.

Dylan delivers the haunting strains of The Death of Emmett Till with a dark menace that just won't let you go. This song ("There was screaming sounds inside the barn, There was laughing sounds out on the street...") seems to anticipate Blind Willie McTell some twenty years later:

See them big plantations burning'
Hear the cracking of the whips
Smell that sweet magnolia blooming
See the ghosts of slavery ships

It's remarkable to glimpse Dylan at work. He interrupts Let Me Die In My Footsteps saying, "Do you want this? Do you want to put this on? It's awful long, I mean it's not that long, it's just it's a drag. I sung it so many times".

And then he announces, "This is the rise and fall of Hollis Brown, it's a true story". And he sings it with a raw emotion from the edge of an abyss.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 21, 2010
Format: Audio CD
It is disconcerting in the extreme to listen to this music.

I don't mean the massive nostalgia factor for listeners who were around when "Blowin' in the Wind" and "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" and "Girl from the North Country" and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" redefined American pop music. That should be a huge factor: where you were when you first heard these songs, who you were with, the way they grabbed your imagination, the thought you really ought to go South and do something. But that factor is, simply and astonishingly, absent.

What takes nostalgia's place?

Delight.

These songs were tossed off. To save money on tape, they were recorded at half speed. But they have been so artfully re-engineered that most of them are just as good as Dylan's recordings.

It says here: They're better than Dylan's recordings.

For the simplest of reasons: The ink on these songs is still wet when he goes into that little studio. He's writing at a ferocious rate --- Leon Russell recalls Dylan telling him "when he was on the road playing by himself, he'd write two or three songs before the show, and do them on that show then throw them away and never do them again." So he's not rewriting or rethinking --- these are some of his greatest songs, recorded right after their birth.

And they're just blindingly great --- Dylan may be just starting out, but as a writer and a performer he's completely professional, totally self-assured. Listening to these demos, even the most nostalgic boomer will feel, "It's like I'm hearing these words and this music for the first time.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on October 19, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Two discs 75,74 minutes each approximately. The sound is, for the most part, good-clean and warm, with fairly good dynamics-a few tracks suffer from slightly muffled sound-different sources were used for these tracks, but are still sonically okay sounding. The discs are snapped into a double jewel case. The 59 page booklet contains information (by noted music writer Colin Escott) on music recording and publishing at the time, and a bit on Dylan during the era. There are many previously unpublished period photos of Bob Dylan throughout the booklet, plus a few reproductions of ads/articles about Dylan. The bonus disc "Bob Dylan In Concert Brandeis University 1963" is 38 minutes long approximately. The sound is fairly good, with some echo heard throughout the tracks. The disc is in a cardboard jacket, which on the back uses a reproduction of a ticket stub that lists the tracks and assorted concert information.

These songs (recorded between the years 1962-1964) are part of the foundation of Bob Dylan's early music. In these songs you hear the beginnings of Dylan's career, when he was virtually penniless and recorded these demos for Witmark Publishing. Dylan began writing for two reasons-some songs he kept for himself, and some he gave away to friends/performers he knew at the time. Dylan began writing so he would have a cache of songs to perform and to, hopefully, make some much needed money. Signing a contract with Witmark Publishing, Dylan received several hundred dollars for his efforts.

Dylan's writing style was similar to what he does today-taking bits and pieces from a number of songs and putting them together until he felt he had something worthwhile.
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Dylan Bootleg 9 Reaction
Just received this email from Amazon customer service:

"Hello,
We're writing to let you know you'll receive a Bonus CD with your recent order for The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 (The Bootleg Series Vol. 9).
"Bob Dylan: In Concert, Brandeis University, 1963" has never been heard,... Read More
Sep 20, 2010 by Doug |  See all 38 posts
Separate Listing For Brandeis Edition?
My understanding is that all pre-orders of the Witmark Demos automatically shipped with the Brandeis bonus disc. Whether that disc will then be immediately removed on release day I don't know. My order arrived today and had the Brandeis disc as expected.
Oct 21, 2010 by Ryan Kegley |  See all 4 posts
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