Review: Bob Dylan – The Witmark Demos 1962-1964

I want to admit from the start that I am a big Dylan fan and that he is one of my favourite artists of all time. I was already a devotee when I first got Spotify, but my love for him grew as I was able to listen to any and all of his huge back catalogue and wasn”™t restricted to the 7 or so albums I already owned. Then a terrible thing happened. He disappeared from Spotify. Possibly never to return.

This has led to my developing hatred of Bob. I still love the music, but the man seems ridiculous and irritating. I don”™t understand why he removed his music from Spotify and other similar services. How much is he worth? Does he really fear reduced album sales, as a result of music streaming, and therefore a reduced income? Apparently he doesn”™t like big screens at the sides of the stage at gigs because of the opportunity it gives people to record his concerts, which presumably would stop them buying DVDs or possibly even stop them from going to the concerts. Finally there is this Bootleg Series, which seems like a way to sell more albums without any more work. Maybe I”™m a cynic.

But last Friday morning I saw this album listed as one of the recent additions to Spotify and I got excited ”“ was this the start of a return to music streaming? I began to listen to it and was really enjoying it when suddenly it stopped and almost all songs were then unavailable. Now I can find no trace of the album on Spotify. And it seems that the addition of the album was a mistake and Zimmy”™s policy has not changed. So, I downloaded the thing (legally) because, as I said before, I am a sucker for Bob.

At first glance it does seem that this album would be a waste of money. There are only 15 previously unreleased songs from this tracklist of 47. Those aren”™t good numbers. Obviously most, if not all, of the rest are different versions from those previously released. And this series of albums is specifically aimed at people that will buy almost anything with his name on it and who talk about how interesting and revealing it is to hear one of the first recordings of Blowin”™ In The Wind. Personally, I don”™t get that. If the song sounds good, then great, but I”™m not going to get excited about the fact that this album features Mr. Tambourine Man played with a piano.

That all said, it is an incredible album. Not least because of how young he was then. All of these songs were recorded before his 24th birthday. That includes great protest songs like Masters of War and John Brown, as well as beautiful love songs like Boots of Spanish Leather. A more important factor in making this album great is the atmosphere created by the circumstances of the recording. One of the main reasons for making these recordings was to show off his songs to other artists that would then cover him, such as Peter, Paul and Mary. Bob cuts songs short quite often and sometimes explains himself by saying that the song drags or that he will write down the rest of the lyrics for them. There is also coughing and the sound of doors shutting. This familiar and innocent mood really suits the basic instrumentation of early Dylan, so that the occasional background sounds serve the music rather than distract from it.

So, I would actually recommend this to people who don”™t have an extensive collection of Dylan. Not just because I think everyone should be fans, but because this is a really nice collection of acoustic songs that just happen to be by someone who later became one of the greatest contributors to modern popular music.


Dave Christensen

By Dave Christensen

Dave is an identifiably tall PhD student who enjoys pretending he knows what he's talking about. With Spotify, his music tastes, ability to act as if he's well-informed, and desire to sound pretentious have increased dramatically. Now he just wants to demonstrate this to you - give him a chance won't you?

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