The Bob Dylan's ongoing bootleg series have proven to be a real treasure trove for fans of this renowned singer and songwriter. Not even his most optimistic and devoted fans could have foreseen the breadth and depth of his past catalog which so far has brought to the light things buried deep in the vaults. After all, Dylan is the second most bootlegged artist after Grateful Dead and obviously for a good reason. Thanks to the ongoing multi-disc box set series so far it has unearthed plenty of studio sessions and live recordings that went into the making of some of his most iconic albums.
In an age where due to advanced technologies music is readily available everywhere, when a record company wants to release a good box set, it better delivers. To its credit Sony Legacy did just that with Bootleg Series Volume 12, The Cutting Edge, an astoundingly comprehensive collection that packs over the course of different editions and covers a period of tremendous creative outpouring. Due to the wealth of material, this box is released in several editions which store different materialthe double cd stores alternate takes and rehearsals of songs that are closest to fully formed songs, while the Deluxe 6 cd collection edition includes a huge portion of alternative takes, false starts and studio chatter. On the other hand, the 18 disc Collector's edition is for obsessed fans, completists and archivists who collect everything Dylan has ever said and done during that period.
The Cutting Edge is a real treasure trove, a vast clearinghouse from a truly fertile period, the product of which turned out to be three terrific albums -Bringing It All Back Home, (Colombia, 1965) Highway 61 Revisited, (Colombia, 1965) and Blonde on Blonde. (Colombia, 1966) The three records have long been celebrated as some of his groundbreaking and most purely beautiful albums of his long, storied and multi-faceted career. To have a succession of masterpiece records followed one after another was Dylan's history making achievement here.
In just 14 months, Dylan would record these iconic and straight ahead rock records full of tremendous intensity and towering lyrical achievements. This release focuses on a period of time that produced three memorable albums, but the wealth of material indicates that he could have produced several other albums. This period is brimful of enduring songs, including "Love minus Zero," "Subterranean Homesick Blues" "Positively 4th Street," "Just Like a Woman" and an avalanche of other gems. The feel and the music are on a grand scale, truly oceanic, and the language and delivery is a unique mixture of the visionary and the colloquial.
But the box looks primarily at cuts that were often judged unsatisfactory for an album placement and are in a way diamonds in the rough. Cutting Edge features no final cuts or tracks that selected for the original albums. This wealth of additional material surpasses the running length of the original records several times, and provides new and fascinating new insights into the deliberate construction of Dylan's still-vibrant masterpieces. At moments the songs almost read like pages from someone's diary as they provide an overview of how Dylan was working in the studio and was working towards songs with a satisfactory feeling.
For e.g., there are 20 working takes of the iconic "Like a Rolling Stone" (as part of the Collector's edition) and it gives a glimpse of where was the song taken before it was completed in a form it is known today. The process of writing it and its impact even inspired a book by renowned music historian and writer Greil Marcus Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads Yet actually what comes on these alternate songs as a whole through best is the quality of Dylan and his accompanying band. In general, this period sounds like seems like Dylan's instinctive recoil from the "Times They Are A Changin'" type of protest songs and the protest movement. Indeed, it's striking just how different those three records are from its predecessors in tone and theme.
Cutting Edge also deserves notice on a technical level. The sound quality is brilliant, on par with the label's laudable work with its catalog. The liner notes are very well organized and full of technical details, insightful essays and various photographs. The end result is a good canned history of what is considered to be the pivotal work in Dylan's oeuvre and an indispensable portrait of an artist at the top of his game.
Track Listing: Love Minus Zero/No Limit, Take 2, Acoustic; I'll Keep It with
Mine, Take 1, Piano Demo; Bob Dylan's 115th Dream, Takes 1 and 2,
Solo Acoustic; She Belongs to Me, Take 1, Solo Acoustic;
Subterranean Homesick Blues, Take 1, Alternate Take; Outlaw Blues,
Take 2, Alternate Take; On the Road Again, Take 4, Alternate Take;
Farewell, Angelina, Take 1, Solo Acoustic; If You Gotta Go, Go
Now, Take 2, Alternate Take; You Don't Have to Do That,
Take 1, Solo Acoustic; California, Take 1, Solo Acoustic; Mr.
Tambourine Man, Take 3 with Band, Incomplete; It Takes a Lot to
Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry, Take 8, Alternate Take; Like a
Rolling Stone" (Short Version), Take 5, Rehearsal; Like a Rolling
Stone, Take 11, Alternate Take; Sitting on a Barbed Wire
Fence Take 2; Medicine Sunday Take 1; Desolation Row,
Take 2, Piano Demo; Desolation Row, Take 1, Alternate Version;
Tombstone Blues,Take 1, Alternate Take; Positively 4th Street,
Take 5, Alternate Take; Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?,
(Short Version), Take 1, Alternate Take; Just Like Tom Thumb's
Blues, Take 3, Rehearsal; Highway 61 Revisited, Take 3, Alternate
Take; Queen Jane Approximately, Take 5, Alternate Take; Visions of
Johanna, Rehearsal; She's Your Lover Now, Take 6, Rehearsal;
Lunatic Princess, Take 1; Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,
Take 8, Alternate Take, One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later),
Take 19, Alternate Take, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis
Take 13, Alternate Take; Absolutely Sweet Marie,
Take 1, Alternate Take, Just Like a Woman, Take 4, Alternate Take;
Pledging My Time,
Take 1, Alternate Take; I Want You, Take 4, Alternate Take;
Highway 61 Revisited, Take 7, False Start.
Personnel: Bob Dylan: vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica; Mike Bloomfield, Al
Gorgoni, John Hammond, Jr., Jerry Kennedy, Bruce Langhorne,
Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss, Kenny Rankin, Robbie Robertson:
guitars; Joe South: guitar, bass; Paul Griffin: piano, electric
piano, organ; Al Kooper: organ, electric piano, celeste;
Frank Owens: piano, electric piano; Richard Manuel, Hargus "Pig"
Robbins: piano; Garth Hudson: organ; John Sebastian: bass,
harmonica; John Boone, Harvey Brooks, Rick Danko, Joseph Macho,
Jr., Russ Savakus, Henry Strzelecki: bass; Kenny Buttrey, Bobby
Gregg, Levon Helm, Sandy Konikoff, Sam Lay: drums; Angeline
Butler: backing vocals on "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" take two
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