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Bob Dylan - The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 (the Bootleg Series Vol. 9) (Columbia, 2010)

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A feast for the fans of the young Dylan, this is a collection of demo recordings that Bob Dylan made to try to pitch his songs to other artists. The music has a nice off the cuff feeling, with Dylan on acoustic guitar and harmonica and occasional piano. With the music stark and unadorned, the lyrical content really comes through, especially the harrowing anti-war anthems “Masters of War," “John Brown" and “A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall" which are as resonant now as they were almost forty years ago. The plight of society's less fortunate was a subject of the songs as well with a brutal version of the murder ballad “Hollis Brown" along this the journalistic “Man on the Street" and “Only a Hobo." There are some flubs and studio chatter which gives one the impression of being a fly on the wall at the sessions. It's interesting that Dylan's managers felt that his music, often rife with social commentary and scathing criticism had popular appeal. Turns out that in the right hands (like The Byrds) they were exactly right, and Dylan's music became successful not only for its own intrinsic value, but as for a launching pad for many other artists and bands. The Witmark Demos—amazon.com

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