The latest in the Bob Dylan Bootleg series, Volume 9, is somewhat a revelation about the young Dylan developing his talent and these 47 demo tracks recorded for `Leeds' and `Witmark' show not only how prolific he was but also how his talent evolved into being one of the most important artists of the 20th Century. These demos were recorded as much for other artists to hear these songs (e.g. Peter Paul and Mary, Judy Collins, etc.), as they were to demonstrate the raw talent of an upcoming unknown artist. I am sure that many people would have heard these songs previously on the various bootleg recordings, but these sound completely different after they have been cleaned up and digitised, and are really a revelation.
On the first disc we can hear some of the early attempts at songs that would be well known throughout his career, such as `Blowin' In The Wind' and `A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' , but you can also hear him steal from other artists, creating new lyrics for songs of the folk and blues musicians who had a big influence on him. As we move on to disc 2, there is a marked change in Dylan's song writing and playing, and though just a year or so later it's clear that he is developing into the person who would be known and loved across the globe, and influence artists for several generations. Some of the better known demo songs from this period were `Don't Think Twice, It's All Right', `Girl From The North Country' , `When The Ship Comes In', `The Times They Are A-Changin' , `Baby Let Me Follow You Down', `Mama, You Been On My Mind', and `Mr Tambourine Man'. Many of these songs would take a few years before Dylan released them on his albums, and they were very different in these early formats, with lyrics still under development and surprisingly being played on different instruments e.g. `Mr Tambourine Man' on piano.
These recordings in demo form are extraordinary, and clearly helped him with becoming more professional with his recordings, and allowed him to play with the lyrics so they turned into the ones that music lovers and academics wax lyrical about. This truly is a historic document and adds a lot to the understanding of an unknown young man in the early 60's with prodigious talent that would eventually influence musicians for decades ahead. It really is a great addition to the Bootleg Series, and `The Witmark Demos' is probably the best album release of 2010.
N.B. If you are able to track down the Limited 3 CD version, with the bonus disc, then you get the recording of `In Concert at Brandeis University 1963', which is an excellent early acoustic performance (`Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance', `Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues', `Ballad Of Hollis Brown', `Masters Of War', `Talkin' World War Three Blues', `Bob Dylan's Dream' and ` Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues'), with very good sound quality.