Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volume 9, The Original Mono Recordings
Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volume 9: The Witmark Demos 1962-1964
Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings
As it rapidly approaches its 20th anniversary, one would have to go back to The Royal Albert Hall Concert to find anything in Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series as significant as this historic cache of 47 demos he recorded in New York City for his first two music publishers, Leeds Music and Witmark & Sons. Despite a tempo change, an altered lyric or a voice-clearing cough, there is little variation relating these rough demos to the final cuts of such protest-era hallmarks as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Masters of War.”
The early alternate takes of Dylan’s mid-‘60s material, such as the bare-bones run through Bringing It All Back Home’s signature hit “Mr. Tambourine Man” and the lovely solo piano rendition of the Blonde on Blonde outtake “I’ll Keep It with Mine,” are the album’s far more interesting selections. Yet the real treasures on The Witmark Demos are the 15 tracks which are available commercially for the first time, including the heartbreaking “Guess I’m Doing Fine” and the probing murder ballad “The Death of Emmett Till.” Legacy is going to have to cough up the complete Basement Tapes or those Nashville Skyline duet sessions with Johnny Cash to rival the magnitude of this most essential ninth volume of The Bootleg Series.
The Original Mono Recordings, a nine-disc box set that contains Dylan’s first eight albums in monophonic sound – that single channel recording technique devised to accommodate one-speaker systems of the time like transistor radios and Califone record players – is also available. And you can definitely notice the difference from their stereo counterparts, whether it’s the intimate closeness of Bob’s voice on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” the stinging proximity of guitarist Mike Bloomfield’s electrifying solo on the title track to Highway 61 Revisited or the heightened sense of claustrophobia in the thin, wild mercury boogie of Blonde’s “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat.” This collection might have been made for the discerning audiophiles of Dylan’s fanbase, but anyone who takes a vested interest in the art of recorded music can appreciate the original sound of these iconic LPs.