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Album Review: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 by Bob Dylan
Absolutly essential, Based on 11 Critics
Drowned In Sound - 100 Based on rating 10/10
'All the great performers that I’d seen who I wanted to be like, all had one thing in common - it was in their eyes. There was something in their eyes that would say "I know something you don’t know. " I wanted to be that kind of performer.
Since debuting in 1991, The Bootleg Series has become an essential archival library of previously unreleased Bob Dylan material. Some of the recordings have been widely bootlegged, but most have been unheard until their release as part of the series, and even those that die-hards knew about had never been presented in such pristine sound quality. Everything about the series has been top-notch in terms of quality control and presentation, from track selection, to sound, to packaging.
Familiarity hasn't necessarily dulled the impact of these three records, all written and recorded within a span of 14 months -- a period of time when Dylan also filmed Don't Look Back, electrified the Newport Folk Festival, and was declared a Judas at the Royal Albert Hall -- but they have made them seem inevitable, works carved out of granite whose fates were preordained. The gift of The Cutting Edge is that it makes this, the greatest run of creativity in Dylan's career and perhaps in rock & roll in general, once again seems wild, nervy, and quicksilver, upending expectations and undercutting conventions. Within one of the three sets of liner notes, Bill Flanagan calls these six discs of outtakes, alternates, and rehearsals "work tapes," which is technically true, but undersells how this music crackles as it shape-shifts, sometimes soaring, sometimes stumbling, but always feeling fiercely alive.
Bob Dylan The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: 1965-66 The Cutting Edge (Columbia) Rating: 5 out of 5 stars When Bob Dylan released the first three volumes of his Bootleg Series back in 1991, he created a whole new paradigm for classic rockers and their audiences alike. An artist like Dylan could keep moving forward in real time while also indulging in an alternate past full of outtakes and unreleased songs.
Tomorrow may be a long time, as Bob Dylan once sang, but listening through The Cutting Edge it’s hard to remember that the brash, aggressive, thin wild mercury sound of the music it captures is half a century old. The Cutting Edge, the 12th Bob Dylan release in the Bootleg Series, is comprised of studio outtakes from the three albums—Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde—that Dylan recorded during an unprecedented creative spree in 1965 and 1966. Following on the heels of his first four critically acclaimed solo acoustic albums that featured such enduring songs as “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Blowing in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” this newest full-band electric music driven by Dylan’s surrealistic amphetamine-charged lyrics left many of his earlier fans scratching their heads—if not completely in the dust.
After 2013's Another Self Portrait, and given the continued brilliance of Dylan's bootleg series in general, you start to get the idea that Bob Dylan has alternate versions of damn near every album in his career in the hopper. The Cutting Edge, gathering music Dylan recorded over 14 months in 1965 and 1966, for the albums Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde, does not dispel this notion. The set exists in several editions (2xCD highlights, ultra-limited 18xCD complete, and this set, the deluxe 6xCD edition) and could conceivably be mined to assemble two or three alternate versions of each of those three albums.
Bob Dylan was on one of the best creative runs in the history of rock and roll during 1965-1966. The three seminal albums he released during those 14 fruitful months, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, revolutionized the music industry, and fully transitioned his sound from the dusty folk troubadour of the early ‘60s to the amplified, electric bard who helped shape the creative direction of the rest of that decade and beyond. The exhaustive new box set, The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Volume 12, provides fans with a comprehensive glimpse into the recording studio with Dylan and producers Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston during that productive time.
Editor's note: In what was considered a "radical" choice, Bob Dylan was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature on Oct. 13, 2016. Read the story here. Among the many things Thomas Edison famously said, he remarked that “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” and he also insisted that “I have not failed once.
Always revelatory, Bob Dylan's storied Bootleg Series takes its most process-oriented turn with The Cutting Edge, a genuinely awe-inspiring take-by-take breakdown of where the three most significant rock records of the 1960s came from. Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde were all conceived of and released within a year. That's insane.
In the span of one year and some change, Bob Dylan rattled his fans’ expectations to the point of nearly deserting them — and, in the process, rerouted the course of popular music. That is not hyperbole when you consider that he released three indelible albums right in a row between 1965 and 1966: “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Blonde on Blonde,” classics that gave rock some of its most enduring anthems. Just as he had prophesied the year before, the times indeed were a-changin’.