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Bob Dylan Holiday Gift Guide

Gift ideas for your favorite armchair Dylanologist

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D'ya smell that? That's the unmistakable scent of the fourth fiscal quarter, e.g., the holiday consumer frenzy. What fun, matching gifts with people! But do you really want to buy someone a copy of Black Ops? The best gifts are not what people want, but what they need, and everybody needs a little Bob Dylan. Just think, you could be the one whom your loved one looks back on, saying “Yeah, so-and-so turned me on to Dylan. That was the best gift anyone ever gave me!” When someone unwraps Bob Dylan, they're unwrapping a musical awakening. So before you shop this year, take a minute to consider the following gifts.

1. A Solid Dylan Foundation: Your Basic Turntable

Sony

Here's one that Bob Dylan himself would personally recommend. A genuine phonograph is a splendid gift that'll make the young person in your life the coolest kid around. While everyone else rattles on about their Mp3s, your gift recipient will have something truly interesting to show off to his/her friends. There is nothing like hearing a diamond stylus crackling across those aforementioned 33 1/3 RPM vinyl LPs. Believe it or not, manufacturers like Sony and Pioneer never stopped making turntables, and you can purchase them new or used at most big box or second-hand electronics stores. With a turntable, you're not only buying someone a valuable stereo component, but you're giving them originality—a life!

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2. Used Bob Dylan Albums

Columbia Records

Every city has a few used record stores and bins overflowing with Bob Dylan titles, and for a mere $6.00-$8.00, you can pick up a copy of just about anything Dylan ever released. But Dylan is not a one-size-fits-all musician. Each record has distinct personality, just like your gift recipient. So make sure to take whomever's tastes into consideration. There's a huge difference between Blonde on Blonde and The Times They Are A-Changin', and the right fit is imperative. And why not personally escort your gift recipient to the record store and show them first-hand how to explore the secret nirvana of used vinyl? Let them see you burst out with “Look what I found! A first-edition pressing of Before the Flood!" They'll be hooked immediately. Heaven.

3. The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos, 1962-1964

Columbia Records

Newly released on October 19, the Witmark Demos is the long-anticipated collection of Dylan's earliest professional recordings, capturing the 21-year-old singer-songwriter in his first few years after landing in Greenwich Village. These stripped-down versions of his earliest songs feature Dylan singing with only guitar or piano accompaniment. From “Don't Think Twice, It's Alright” to “Mr. Tambourine Man,” these demos differ greatly from the officially released versions, and the majority have never been released. Available in both compact disc and vinyl, this collection is a sure hit for any Bob Dylan fan.

4. The Original Mono Recordings

Sony/Legacy

Released simultaneously with the Witmark Demos, The Original Mono Recordings box set features Dylan's first eight albums in their original mono format. The collection is available in both CD ($129) and vinyl ($259), and the vinyl version comes with a collector's T-shirt. However, both feature the original album covers, liner notes, and any bonus stuffs that came with the initial release. More, both versions contain a special booklet with rare photos and a new essay written by acclaimed music journalist, Greil Marcus. This luxe limited-edition box set will not disappoint any Dylan aficionado.

5. Some Excellent Dylan Reading

PublicAffairs

In the winter, there's nothing comparable to curling up with a steaming beverage and a good, solid book clasped between your paws. A little on the scholarly side, Sean Wilentz's new book, Bob Dylan in America, explores Dylan's career through the lens of cultural history. This is a great fit for those who have already knocked off a couple biographies and are ready to proceed to the next level. Meanwhile, Greil Marcus' new anthology, Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus, 1968-2010, includes essays, liner notes, and magazine features. And you can never miss handing someone Dylan's 2004 autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One. Dylan is an engaging storyteller, and his story is as penetrating as it is gracefully written.

6. A Live Dylan Experience

Rodrigo Galindez, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

While Bob Dylan has cut more than 60 studio albums, compilations, and live recordings over a five-decade career, his music is best experienced live. And the key word there is “experience.” Dylan is known for peddling some of the most reasonably priced tickets in the wild kingdom of live music, usually averaging around $50 plus fees. Not bad, eh? So before buying some easily forgotten material gift, have a gander at the Bobdylan.com Tour Page to see if he's dropping by within a 100-mile radius of your gift recipient's home. A pair of concert tickets tucked into a thoughtful card is one of the most original gift ideas imaginable, and you'll certainly get a pile of bonus points for your ingenuity.

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