Let My Poor Voice Be Heard (Hollow Horn Recording Artist Vol. 1)
Disc 1 (Leeds Music – January 1962): Hard Times In New York Town, Poor Boy Blues, Ballad For A Friend, Rambling Gambling Willie, Man On The Street, Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues, Standing On The Highway. (Witmark And Sons- July 1962 to March 1963): Blowin’ In The Wind, Long Ago Far Away, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, The Death Of Emmett Till, Let Me Die In My Footsteps, Ballad Of Hollis Brown, Quit Your Low Down Ways, Tomorrow Is A Long time, Baby I’m In The Mood For You, Long Time Gone, Masters Of War, Farewell, Oxford Town, Don’t Think Twice It It’s Alright, Walkin’ Down The Line
Disc 2 (Witmark And Sons – April 1963 to June 1964): I Shall Be Free, Bob Dylan’s Dream, Boots Of Spanish Leather, Bob Dylan’s Blues, Girl Of The North Country, Seven Curses, Hero Blues, Watcha Gonna Do?, Gypsy Lou, Ain’t Gonna Grieve, John Brown, When The Ship Comes In, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Paths Of Victory, Baby Let Me Follow You Down, Guess I’m Doin’ Fine, I’d hate To Be You On That Dreadful Day, All Over You, Bound To Lose Bound To Win, Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues, Mr. Tambourine Man, Mama You Been On My Mind, I’ll Keep It With Me
Let My Poor Voice Be Heard is the first of seven volumes in the new Hollow Horn series. This is a comprehensive two disc set covering the Witmark and Leeds demos recorded between 1962 and 1964. These demos originate from a time surrounding Bob Dylan’s first two albums. His debut (Bob Dylan, recorded on November 20 & 22, 1961 and released on March 19, 1962) is said to have sold only five-thousand copies in the first year and there was talk in CBS of dropping him, snidely called by some “Hammond’s folly.”
One plan was for Dylan to work as a songwriter and was contracted to record these demos for the Leeds and Witmark And Sons publishing companies for use by other artists. As a consequence all these songs are original compositions. A very rare, one sided LP was released (Warner Bros XTD 221567 – 1963 (Krogsgaard: Warner Bros. demo LP Warner Bros.-7 Arts Music, Inc., Demo LP, XTV 221567) containing the songs “Long Ago Far Away,” “Long Time Gone,” “Ain’t Gonna Grieve,” “John Brown,” “I Shall Be Free,” “Only A Hobo,” “The Death Of Emmett Till,” “I’d Hate To Be You On That Dreadful Day” and “I’ll Keep It With Mine.”
Another untitled two sided LP was issued in 1963 before Freewheelin’ which contains “Baby, I’m In The Mood For You,” “Quit Your Lowdown Ways,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” “Oxford Town,” and “Walkin’ The Line” on side one. Side two has “Long Time Gone,” “Long Ago, Far Away,” “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” “Masters Of War,” and “Farewell Pamilina (aka Farewell).” Copies of this are very rare and hard to find. One went up for auction in December, 1992 where it fetched $1,000 and a copy from Suze Rotolo’s collection (an old girlfriend of Dylan) went up for auction at Christie’s in New York in November of 2006.
“Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie” was initially included on the Freewheelin‘ album and test pressings were released but this, along with three other songs were replaced. (The stereo version of this pressing (CS 8786) is the highest-priced Dylan rarity.) The Warners Brother LP is the source for the earliest bootleg of this material in 1973 on the fair to good sounding Demo Tapes (TMOQ gwa-72 A). A second edition was released (71055) several years afterwards and a third in 1978 on the Teufel label (S-113).
In 1974 Ceremonies Of The Horseman was released on the Highway High Fi label and in 1977 Poems In Naked Wonder (FLAT 8210) appeared. In 1983 TMOQ issued this title with the matrix number TMQ 71055 A/B and sides five, seven and eight of the massive Ten Of Swords 10 LP box set was devoted to this material. Three songs were released by Columbia on the Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 in 1991: “Walking Down The Line,” “When The Ship Comes In,” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
More complete versions were issued on CD including The Witmark Demos (Off Beat Records BD 1-2), Witmark Years (Capricorn CR 2021/2022) in 1994, In The Pines (Dandelion DL 063) 1998, and Through A Bullet Of Light (Golom 774554). Hollow Horn is, as the press release suggests, “the first time in many years that this material has been gathered together on one release.” As is common with anthologies, the sound quality varies from session to session but Hollow Horn is generally very good to excellent sounding utilizing very clean tapes for this production.
The first seven songs on disc one are the earliest. Recorded sometime in January, 1962, these recordings fall between the recording sessions for the first album and its subsequent release on March 19th, 1962. “Hard Times In New York,” a song documenting his arrival in the city, appears also on the Minnesota hotel tape and this version is used on the Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3. “Ballad For A Friend” had the title “Reminiscence Blues” before taking on this title.
“Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie” is an interesting Robin Hood story and the first of many Dylan songs celebrating the life of outlaws. This song would be recorded again in April for Freewheelin’. It was subsequently dropped only to reappear in the Bootleg Series. The first “Man in the Street” is a false start and the second the full version. “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” would also be re-recorded, and the final song in the first sessions, “Standing In The Highway,” is basically a rewrite of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads.” The rest of the disc comes from the sessions after Dylan signed his second contract with Witmark and Sons in July 1962.
Albert Grossman brokered this deal on the strength of the song “Blowin’ In The Wind” which became an early hit for another of Grossman’s acts, Peter Paul And Mary. It is appropriate this is the first song from these sessions, and this is possibly the demo he recorded right after he signed the contract recorded in the studio in the Witmark offices on Madison Avenue. These demos, and the remainder recorded over the next couple years and found on disc two were recorded on a mono reel-to-reel and the sound quality is generally very good with some songs being in more poor quality. “Long Ago, Far Away,” which is still unreleased, sounds fair to good with hiss present on the tape but it is an impressive and aggressive performance. The sound quality improves for the next demo, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” There is a small cut in the tape at 5:14 into the track but nothing is lost.
“This is the rise and fall of Hollis Brown. It’s a true story” he says to preface “The Ballad Of Hollis Brown.” This early version is shorter than the final track and some of the verses are different (“there are bed bugs on your baby and /there’s cinches on your wife / gangrene snuck in your side / it’s cutting you like a knife.”)
“Quit Your Low Down Ways” is an earlier version than the Freewheelin’ outtake that appears on the Bootleg Series, and is an attempt at pure, unabashed Delta blues. “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” was played at the April 12 1963 Town Hall concert and included on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II in 1971. Disc two of Hollow Horn contains demos recorded over an eighteen-month period between the spring of 1963 and the summer of 1964. The first track is an early version of the Freewheelin’ song “I Shall Be Free” with come different verses and ends abruptly with Dylan saying he can’t continue without the notebook.
“Bob Dylan’s Dream” contains all the lyrics in the final version and sounds much more polished. As the disc progresses, it is interesting to hear some of the tracks played with a piano arrangement instead of guitar such as demos of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “When the Ship Comes In,” “Mama You Been On My Mind,” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” among others. Let My Poor Voice Be Heard is packaged in a gatefold cardboard sleeve with glossy paper and a track listing on the back. The final song on each of the discs, “Walking Down The Line” and “Keep It With Me” have several minutes of silence afterwards until the disc end. No new ground is broken with this release since all of the material has been released before, but the sound quality is very good and it has been a long time since this has been release for general consumption.
I just started collecting Dylan releases this year and even though i’m no expert and have less than 15 Dylan titles in my collection including other Hollow Horn’s, This is a very enjoyable and well thought out collection of early Dylan studio in overall excellent quality and packaging.