Bob Dylan: ‘New Album The Cutting Edge: Bootleg Series Vol. 12,’ 1965-1966[REVIEW]

By Thomas Swan on Oct 31, 2015 03:57 PM EDT

Bob Dylan was an atomic bomb ready to explode and when the calendar turned from 1964 to 1965.  The Loki of pop music was about to unleash a whirlwind trifecta of albums that would make the rest of the music world, including The Beatles, look rather pedestrian.  Now, with the release of the 12th volume of the Bootleg Series, entitled 'The Cutting Edge', we get to listen to the construction as the tower of Bob Dylan's genius is being built. And as anyone who is worth the salt knows, Dylan cast-offs are unequaled by many others' best.

The Bootleg Series has been a goldmine for Bob Dylan's fans. It has mined the treasure troves that were formerly only available in inferior quality, if at all. The collection also has put out quality material when Dylan has either been quiet or putting out less stellar material (e.g., the Christmas album or the most recent studio album, Shadows in the Night). What has been avoided up to this point is probably Dylan's most successful and prolific period.  Beginning with the 1965 Bringing it All Back Home, and ending fourteen months later with the masterwork that is Blonde on Blonde, those disjointed recording sessions would nevertheless produce music of incomparable lyrical and musical genius. Those albums ranked #31, #4, and #9, respectively, on the 2012 edition of Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of All Time.

While the above sampler from NPR doesn't really offer any new tunes, it does offer hugely intriguing takes on songs you thought you knew. Take, for instance, 'Outlaw Blues' with a little Bo Diddley shuffle mixed in—

Or the slightly brooding 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues.'

Or maybe the odd jaunt that Dylan turned 'Pledging My Time' into:

Whatever the case, you may know the songs, but Dylan proves, as a wise man once said, "Music is thought, not entertainment." Sure, these songs are great in their original form, but their creator has imbued them with such a multi-faceted language that to pin them down to one form would be a great injustice. Drawn from what arguably could be called the most meaningful period for a recordind artist, this collection, available in 2-CD and 6-CD form, encompasses the Bringing It All Back, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde albums. Critical analysis alone can not do mere justice to this period.

Without Dylan crashing headlong into the cozy confines of pop music, the history of music may be quite different. After all, it wasn't until Dylan's influence began to be felt that John Lennon shook off simplicity of the early Beatles lyrics and dove into tripfests, such as 'I'm Only Sleeping' and 'Norweigan Wood (This Bird Has Flown)'. Three-minute songs suddenly became passe when Dylan struck gold with 'Like a Rolling Stone.' He literally would bring cinema to the pop song, and this collection shows the world inside the soul of a visionary. There are a lot of people wandering around with that title slapped to their bio, but very few are as deserving as the man who once went by the name of Robert Zimmerman. 

Yet, he's still out there doing it. The rogue cowboy continues to jaunt across America, summoning demons, demagoguery, and eluding the Cursed Death that caught his idol, Hank Williams, early on. 'The Cutting Edge' is a tribute to a man, who has not only created masterworks unparalled, but shows us that even the songs that we thought we knew could also be shone in a different, no less genius, light.

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TagsBob Dylan, The Cutting Edge, The Cutting Edge Bootleg Vol. 12, Bob Dylan 1965-1966, Bob Dylan Bootleg Vol. 12, Blonde on Blonde, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited

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