Well, it happened.  The famed Bootleg Series just released “The Cutting Edge” an amalgamation of recordings from the three different albums at the pinnacle of Bob Dylan’s creative peak:  dylansleeve

  • Bringing It All Back Home, 1965
  • Highway 61 Revisited, 1965
  • Blonde On Bonde, 1966

These three albums are all master works of creativity.  At the time, and really, since, no one had written anything like Dylan.  He had already been crowned the king of folk music four years earlier, emulating his idols growing up such as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie, as well as his contemporaries in the “protest” era.

Dylan was funny in that much of what he wrote and did at the initial part of his career was simply improving upon what others were doing, I don’t think he was nearly as passionate about the political issues of the time as some–yet he was seen that way initially.  He revolted from his anointed position from fans and was labelled a pariah, a Judas, by some as he moved from the conventional acoustics to a more complex musical styling in the above records.  His writing was always best, no one really held a candle in that regard, but it changed over that time period.

Thirty four songs were actually put out over those records.  The Cutting Edge has three versions,  but the most commonly purchased will be a 36 track compilation of different cuts.  If you’re a fan, it’s fascinating to hear the different versions–there are lyrics not used in the final versions that show up in other songs later.  There are sets that are completely different in timing and instrumentation than the final releases.

Putting out this grouping of songs is a big deal.  This time period was his most relished and distinguished him as truly unique.  Sony could easily have done three different bootlegs for each album to make more money, but putting it out as a compilation is better for fans.  People who are truly fanatical can buy the larger edition with basically all the different takes–Like a Rolling Stone has an entire disc dedicated to it with 20 recordings!  For me that is overt and unnecessary, however there are likely many rejoicing at being able to pore over  multiple renditions.

My adoration of Dylan’s stylings and abilities is not completely unique, but compared to anyone in my real life grouping of friends, it’s quite over the top.  Trying to explain what set him apart from others of that era, as well as others, is a continued pursuit, yet ultimately futile.  You either get it and appreciate it or you don’t.  Most are in the latter category, but every now and then I’ll run into another big fan and we’ll gush accordingly.  This album is for those of us who want to reminisce about our first experiences with Bob, hearing a virtuoso of multiple respects putting it all together in a bright wave of creativity–fueled by drugs, publicity, raw talent, pop culture, cynicism and love of music.  It was an amazing period in time for music and it altered where everything went thereafter.