At this late date, Dylan still mystifies, mesmerizes and galvanizes; besides this official boot, volume seven for those counting, there's the '62 Gaslight disc being served at Starbucks, venti-style, and two Brit-mag tribs, too, with Westerberg and Oberst and two dozen more blowin' ballads of the thin man into the rusty mike. But it's this collection, the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's PBS-DVD doc debuting at month's end, that means the most, tearing sketches and scribbles from Zimmy's back pages and putting them on the cover for the first time. There are no revelations here, just the raw and reedy Bob pre-John Wesley Harding; alas, no Blood on the Tracks alternates here, which are brilliant as they are infamous, and no extra Basement Tapes making the upstairs climb. (Sony, too, would be wise to release the entirety of the Witmark office-space sessions, 41 addictive tracks of crack for even the casual user.)
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But one need not unearth lost gems to dig this 28-track collection, which takes you back to when Dylan was young (and comprehendible), and the songs bore the sting and heart and heat of the brand-new. You can still smell the sulfur on the 1959 home recording that's as rustic as a Lomax field recording, the Witmark demo of "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" that's better than the official original, the hellacious Newport "Maggie's Farm" that reveals once and for all the boos were aimed at Pete Seeger, the sweeter version of the acerbic fuck-off "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," the raggedy-ass take of "Leopard-skin Pill-Box Hat" and on and on and on, all of it forever young.