The Cutting Edge is the 12th volume in the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series that’s been digging through his archives since 1991 to present unreleased performances, demos and alternate takes. The Cutting Edge tackles his recorded output in 1965-66, covering the albums “Bringing It All Back Home”, “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde”.
The collection is available in three formats: The two-disc “best of” version focuses on the most interesting takes of most of the songs from that period, including a quirky attempt to play “Like a Rolling Stone” in a waltz-like 3/4 time signature (it works!), and a version of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” with a full band where Dylan messes up the lyrics big time. You know, it kind of makes me feel better about my 25 year-long inability to memorize those words…
But this isn’t a replacement for a proper Greatest Hits if you’re just a casual Dylan fan. While you’d probably appreciate the rousing version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” that’s included, you’d likely be frustrated by the fact that the band doesn’t make it through to the end of the song. It’s probably safe to say that your enjoyment of this release is also proportional to your familiarity with the released albums, so you can appreciate all the nuances and differences as Dylan builds these classic songs.
In truth, this set is for musicologist and rabid Dylan fans. For those, this set is a window into the mind of a highly prolific and iconic songwriter and they’ll probably gravitate towards the six-disc edition that presents even more alternate material (there’s even a whole CD devoted to the creation of “Like a Rolling Stone”!)
And if that’s not enough, there is a deluxe 18 (!) disc edition that contains every note Dylan recorded during these two years. This package is limited to 5000 copies and can only be purchased from the Bob Dylan website. You’ll have every single false start, alternate take and aborted attempts, a rare opportunity to study the creative process of one of the greatest pop songwriters of this century.
Any Dylan fan would surely be happy to find this under the tree come December 25th; it’s a one of a kind look into the art of making records in an era where you couldn’t really cheat. An excellent entry into this series.