For those Dylan fans who have never quite recovered from the musician temporarily putting down his acoustic guitar to plug into an amp at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, The Witmark Demos, the latest in Dylan’s stellar Bootleg Series (Columbia/Sony Legacy), is a godsend.
Forty-seven songs spread out over two CDs, featuring the artist formerly known as Robert Zimmerman accompanied only by acoustic guitar, and occasionally harmonica and piano, this collection is classic Dylan. The sparse arrangements serve to highlight what he’s best known for, his poetic lyrics.
The Witmark Demos, recorded at the time for his music publisher (M. Witmark & Sons), the album includes classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” but also 15 songs that have never been released before. While the sound quality of the recordings is overall strong, there are a few that sound a bit weathered.
This two-disc box set also comes with a booklet featuring photos of Dylan taken around the time of the recordings and in-depth liner notes by music historian Colin Escott.