Album Review: Bob Dylan - The Cutting Edge 1965-66: Bootleg Series Vol. 12

Album Review: Bob Dylan - The Cutting Edge 1965-66: Bootleg Series Vol. 12

By Andrew Lee

Bob’s back. Can you dig it, man? There’s a lot to dig into on this release, whether you go with the two-disc “Best of” version or the six-disc deluxe edition. The sound is great and has a sort of up close and personal feel to it (as it should!). It’s interesting to hear these classic songs as they evolve and change. Most versions included on the deluxe six-disc set seem to be different or good enough that they are worth listening to. However the two-disc “Best of” version may provide the more accessible, traditional, and enjoyable listening experience from beginning to end. It all depends on how deep you wanna go man, and as Joan Baez said in the film No Direction Home:

"There are no veils, curtains, doors, walls, anything between what pours out of Bob's hand onto the page and what is somehow available to the core of people who are believers in him. "There's some people who'd say... you know, not interested. But if you're interested, he goes way, way deep."

What a great opportunity to step back in time and hear these seminal songs of the ‘60s as they could have been vs. how they were released. The Cutting Edge gives some insight to Dylan’s process during the peak of his powers in ’65-’66 and serves to increase the perception that his was a one-time only comet streak of musical inspiration that arguably burned brightest during the nearly two-year period represented in these recordings.

A particular highlight for this reviewer was "Sitting on a Barbed Wire Fence," which I missed the first time it came out (Bootleg Series 1-3). This song rocks. The guitar work stings and runs you over. Dylan yells. He sings some different lyrics. Words from "Tom Thumb's Blues" make an appearance. And Dylan picks his guitar player over a woman -  "She's good alright but she ain't as good as this guitar player I got right now." A fitting tribute to the singular guitar work of Mike Bloomfield.

The hardbound book accompanying the deluxe issue is called Bob Dylan Mixing Up The Medicine 1965-1966 and it is almost entirely made up of photographs with not much in the way of text. It’s fun to see all these pictures, especially the pictures of lyric sheets with handwritten changes and of newspaper articles from the time period. I also like the section titled “Articles from Around the Globe” that includes magazine and album covers and assorted Dylan-related oddities of the time from other countries. The set's extensive liner notes (54 pages including pictures) are packaged with the discs, which are designed to look like mini-LPs in a gatefold style.

So then, which version is for you? Perhaps I can help…

- The two-disc version contains 36 of the 111 tracks on the six-disc version.

- It appears the two-disc version contains two tracks that are slightly shorter than their counterparts on the six-disc version. There may be others with very minor differences of a few seconds as well.

- The two-disc version contains just two versions of “Like a Rolling Stone” whereas the six-disc version devotes the entirety of disc four's 20 tracks to the song. I’ve read this is the full sessions for this particular song, but I'm not sure if that is accurate.

The two-disc version contains the following number of tracks off each disc of the six-disc version:

- 10 out of the 23 tracks on disc 1
- 8 out of the 19 tracks on disc 2
- 2 out of the 20 tracks on disc 3
- 7 out of the 19 tracks on disc 4
- 4 out of the 15 tracks on disc 5
- 5 out of the 15 tracks on disc 6

How many songs (regardless of take or version) that appear on the six-disc set do not appear on the two-disc set?  Answer = 12

Those songs are:

- "It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue"
- "It’s All Right Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)"
- "From a Buick 6"
- "Ballad of a Thin Man"
- "Jet Pilot"
- "I Wanna Be Your Lover"
- "Unknown Instrumental"
- "4th Time Around"
- "Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way (and I’ll Go Mine)"
- "Temporary Like Achilles"
- "Obviously 5 Believers"
- "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"