Bob Dylan’s The Original Mono Recordings

This article was last updated on May 27, 2022

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The Original Mono Recordings is unique opportunity to own the original Bob Dylan recordings as we heard them

By Stephen Pate – Bob Dylan is the king of bootlegs. Even before he started officially releasing his catalog, his fans were collecting and trading his unreleased out-takes and concerts.

I am re-visiting the 2010 release of Bob Dylan’s The Original Mono Recordings a unique opportunity to own the original Dylan recordings as we heard them during the 1960s. Collectors and completists will want the package.

I purchased the CD set to review it and to have a digitized copy on my computer and iPad since my originals are vinyl and the SACD versions are stereo.

Featured image Bob Dylan by Jerry Schatzberg

There is not new material compared vis-a-vis the original albums and compared with say the earlier official bootlegs such as Tell Tale Signs, Basement Tapes or The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991.

However, if you don’t have or never had the first Dylan recordings this set is priceless.

I have listened to all nine CDs and compared them with the original vinyl and the SACD releases to compare the differences, which is why it took weeks to prepare the review. You only listen to so much Dylan in a given day. I’ve played this set over and over to figure out what was of value.

What you get in the package

Bob Dylan The Original Mono Recording, cute packaging with tiny print

The release of Bob Dylan’s first 8 LPs includes: 9 CDs, booklet by Greil Marcus, bonus CD of Dylan’s 1963 Brandeis University concert, in a hard board slip case.

The albums are:

Bob Dylan

  1. Bob Dylan – 1962
  2. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – 1963
  3. The Time They Are A-Changin’ – 1964
  4. Another Side Of Bob Dylan – 1964
  5. Bringing It All Back Home – 1965
  6. Highway 61 Revisited – 1965
  7. Blonde On Blonde – 1966
  8. John Wesley Harding – 1967

These 8  albums cover Bob Dylan’s commercial releases from his introduction to New York City and Columbia Records to the point past The Basement Tapes which have recently been released in entirety.

For Dylan this was both his formative and most creative period, spanning acoustic blues cover songs, his first self-penned songs through the protest movement, change to person music, poetic, prophetic and drug influenced songs to his return to roots music with John Wesley Harding.

To listen to all 8 albums together you get a sense of how far and fast he came and how creative Dylan really was. Each album is a gem in itself Some discount various albums like “Bob Dylan” and “Another Side of Bob Dylan”. Those types of comments are the rants of self-appointed critics who could not write or do one song on the same level as Bob Dylan’s oeuvre.

The cases are miniature versions of the original LP covers. That’s cute but you can’t hold them in your hand and read the liner notes and ponder over the Dylan cover art, so its less interesting than owning the The Original Mono Recordings in Vinyl.

On the SACD release, the covers are three folds that allow the liner notes to be legibly printed or include a booklet. Compared with holding the original albums in your hand while listening, this set is low on creating 60s nostalgia.

The Original Mono Recordings exclusive is $124 from which is the original 2010 release. There is also a slightly different set (which I don’t own) The Original Mono Recordings for $94.

In Canada The Original Mono Recordings is $97.47.

The CD-sized booklet with pictures and notes by Greil Marcus is an exercise in miniaturization and one reason to buy the The Original Mono Recordings Vinyl at a $179.  In Canada at $219. Of course, collectors will want to own the vinyl. The vinyl versions of Dylan appreciate in value as they go out of print.

Why Mono?

So what’s the big deal about “Original Mono” versions? Are they better, more like the original?

Greil Marcus waxes eloquent about listening to Bob Dylan through one speaker up in our bedrooms back in the 1960s, in the accompanying booklet to this package.

It is true that most people heard Bob Dylan in mono back in the 1960s. In reality, from Bob Dylan to Another Side of Bob Dylan are mono – the man and his guitar.

From Bringing it All Back Home – the break out rock and roll album – to John Wesley Harding the CD could be listened to in stereo, although some people prefer the mono versions.

Bob Dylan’s first 8 albums

There are millions of Dylan fans who don’t have the originals for whom this collection will be a revelation. Since I’ve been following Dylan since he hit the folk scene 1961, these albums are old friends.

From Bob Dylan to John Wesley Harding is a span of 5 years in which Bob Dylan changed folk music and rock and roll with the prodigious output of 83 songs composed and recorded. Most of the songs are classics such as “Blowin in the Wind”, “Like A Rolling Stone”, “All Along The Watchtower,” Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right. These are songs that have been covered by everyone and become part of our lives.

Bob Dylan songs were meant to be sung by everyone, and everyone has obliged Dylan. They are songs of protest, of love, love gone wrong, get even songs and have a good time songs. They are simple and complex, weird lyrics that spin-off into infinity and lyrics grounded in the feeling of seeing someone you love coming along the beach.

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By Stephen Pate, NJN Network

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