These Just-Released Bob Dylan Recordings Go Behind the Scenes of His Iconic Albums

Daniel Kramer

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Bob Dylan
The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12
Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings

The archival Bootleg Series plumbing Bob Dylan’s illustrious (and sometimes not so illustrious) history has produced such gems as the complete Basement Tapes and a compilation of his early Witmark publishing demos, but The Cutting Edge is far and away the most exciting entry yet. This dazzling six-disc set covers the period when Dylan plunged wholeheartedly into rock’n’roll and created one masterpiece after another, turning out Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and the two-record Blonde on Blonde in a frenetic 18-month burst of genius.

Consisting largely of previously unreleased material (actual bootlegs aside), The Cutting Edge collects early versions, rehearsals, alternates, and other fascinating leftovers from the sessions for those albums. What’s immediately most striking is how hard Dylan and company worked in the pursuit of perfection, and how much songs evolved during recording. Want to hear “Like a Rolling Stone” as a waltz? “Visions of Johanna” as a spiky uptempo rocker? They’re here, along with other classics-in-progress, and tantalizing orphans such as “Lunatic Princess,” “You Don’t Have to Do That,” and “Sitting on a Barbed-Wire Fence.” For those who want even more, there’s a hefty (and pricey) 18-CD version available via Dylan’s website.

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