Sunday, November 8, 2015

CD Review: Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series Continues With "The Cutting Edge"

What Bob Dylan accomplished in fourteen months is unheard of in this day in age. He recorded three monumental albums ("Bringing It All Back Home," "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde On Blonde") toured the U.S. and the U.K. and turned the Newport Folk Festival upside down by plugging in his electric guitar. This era of Bob Dylan recordings between 1965-1966 have been the fruit basket for unofficial bootleg releases, as over 18 hours of studio recordings exist. Now, for the first time ever, Sony Legacy has gathered every single note Bob Dylan played in the studio between January 1965 to March 1966 and released an ultra deluxe edition of the latest volume in Bob Dylan's "Bootleg Series." The new release titled "The Cutting Edge" was released in three different configurations, a 2CD edition titled "The Best Of The Cutting Edge," a 6CD deluxe edition and the for mentioned 18CD ultra-deluxe edition.

The times were sure changing for Bob Dylan. His love for rock and roll music was coming through in his song-writing and this explosion of music has changed the face of rock music forever. His love for story telling has become more complex with songs like "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "She Belongs To Me" as you see the transition from acoustic folk troubadour to rock and roll idol. Some songs in this set only feature a few takes, as Dylan and his backing band knew the direction of the song prior to recording and captured the intensity and spontaneity of songs like "On The Road Again" and "From A Buick 6." The song "Maggie's Farm" was captured and completed on the song's first take, so no other versions of the songs appear in this set.

One whole CD in the deluxe set is set aside to follow the growth of arguable Dylan's greatest song "Like A Rolling Stone." That disc along is worth the price and you follow this musical genius as he creates many different versions of the song that are just as great as the original released version. There is also a microsite ( that allows you to play around with vocals, drums, piano and organ to create your own version of "Like A Rolling Stone." While this set may discourage fellow artists, knowing that many of these tracks that were not deemed good enough for Dylan are better than some of them will ever be able to produce in their entire career.

The different takes of songs they would eventually make up the albums "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde On Blonde" are great to examine as more than one listen of these newly released version are definitely in order. Subtle shifts in lyrics and tempos turn well-known songs like "Visions Of Johanna" and "Stuck Inside A Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" into totally different songs that may or may not have been as iconic when they were originally released in 1966. What you will also find in this set is another whole album's worth of outtakes that may have produced a fourth iconic album, if not for Dylan's motorcycle accident in July of 1966. Songs like "If You Gotta Go, Go Now," "Positively 4th Street" and "She's Your Lover Now" were abandoned in the developing stages and are just as deserving to be heard as the different exciting takes of "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues."

While the 18-disc ultra-deluxe edition of "The Cutting Edge" is limited to 5,000 copies, it still may be a little extreme for the average Bob Dylan fan and the 2CD may not be enough, the 6CD deluxe edition is just perfect to sink you teeth into. Also included in this new deluxe edition box set are newly written articles about the recordings from author Bill Flanagan, author Sean Wilentz and musician Al Kooper, who performed Hammond organ on the "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde On Blonde" albums. Along with the discs is a hardcover book of never before published photos and newspaper articles, as well as artifacts from around the world which gives a slight insight into the chaotic life Dylan had for those fourteen months of greatness. To find out more about "Bob Dylan 1965-1966: The Cutting Edge," please visit

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