Album of the Week: Bob Dylan, 'The Best Of The Cutting Edge 1965 - 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12'

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The Bootleg Series Volume 12: Bob Dylan 1965-66
The Bootleg Series Volume 12: Bob Dylan 1965-1966. (Legacy Recordings.)

In 1965, Bob Dylan transformed from a folk poet to the artist who would define the future of American rock music. Over the span of 14 months, he: released Bringing It All Back Home; stunned fans with the debut of his rock set at Newport; and completed a trilogy of work that many consider his most iconic period. In the newest installment of Dylan's Bootleg Series, the blueprint for Dylan's transformation is captured in previously unreleased rehearsals, demos and alternate takes of his most famous songs.

The Best of the Cutting Edge 1965-1966 captures the recording sessions that began in January 1965. The recordings are more than what might be considered unfinished versions of the material that would make up Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. They expose the DNA of an artist who made a conscious decision to throw caution to the wind and defy what the music world wanted him to be as a political folk singer. Ultimately, that decision propelled Dylan into bigger success and into the mainstream.

Hearing unfamiliar versions of Dylan's most familiar songs brings new meaning to his work. It's hard to imagine anything other than the album versions of "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Visions of Johanna." Yet, the alternate versions and demos contain the same heart as the final versions and provide insight into Dylan's version of American rock music. While his contemporaries were still imitating the English rock bands and blues clichés, Dylan's lyrical dexterity broke new ground in rock music.

The alternate versions and demos expose Dylan could have easily remained a folk artist. Although some of his work in 1965 still took on the character of The Freewheelin' Dylan, the context of a rock album made Dylan's words carry more meaning. It leaves you wondering if the prolific Dylan of 1965 would have continued his exploration of rock music before returning to his folk roots while recovering from a motorcycle accident.

Regardless, this compilation is arguably the best companion release to Dylan's long and storied career.

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Among The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, two-thirds gave it 5 out of 5 stars. Poll closed at 12 noon on Friday, Nov. 13.


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