Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volume #9: The Witmark Demos 1962-1964

“Genius is reckoned to be the innovative transformation of source materials,” writes Colin Escott in these liner notes.

The ninth volume of Legacy’s deep-pocketed “Bootleg Series” of Bob Dylan may be the best one of all since, in essence, you get to hear this scruffy Jewish kid from Minnesota, Robert Allen Zimmerman, actually become Bob Dylan, the character he personally manufactured for himself.

The source material Zimmerman had to work with was Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry, Leadbelly, Dave Van Ronk and a litany of 20th Century folk music. Upon creating a line like “how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry,” he was thrust upon an industry whose gatekeepers totally freaked! Imagine!

This then is that revelation. Forty-seven songs on two discs, complete with false stops, coughs but, most importantly, the initial rush of recognition. All 47 are original. From the humor of “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” to the warning of “A Hard Rain’s A’Gonna Fall,” these are demos of songs in their infancy sung by a hungry-for-success 20-something. (The good thing here for Dylan fans is that there’s plenty of songs you’ve never heard.)

“It’s like re-experiencing the moment of discovery,” writes Escott.

In A Word: Revelatory