Album Review

Bob Dylan, 'The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos 1962-1964'

October 18, 2010

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These days he’s known as a crotchety, pencil-mustached icon, but in 1962 Bob Dylan was a little Midwestern fish in a big New York pond. For a few years after arriving in New York, he cut demos at his music publisher’s office — performing, yes, but also correcting his mistakes, explaining himself, and further honing his unique, if classically imperfect, voice. Those demos are collected for the first time on the ninth installment of the archive-digging Bootleg Series, including many songs that have never been released. It’s funny to listen to these recordings, loose and off-the-cuff and impressively focused, now that Dylan is something else entirely — no longer a post-Guthrie folkie (“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’’), no longer a de facto voice of the civil rights movement (“The Death of Emmett Till’’), no longer tickled by absurd social commentary (“Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues’’). Even the very concept of a songwriter laying down a plethora of new songs in his publisher’s office for others to perform feels out-of-time — quaintly and genuinely so. (Out tomorrow)


ESSENTIAL “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’’

Bob Dylan is at Lowell’s Tsongas Center Nov. 20.