Bob Dylan, The Cutting Edge, Is Coming at You November 6th
The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series, Vol 12: The Cutting Edge
The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series is about to become infinitely more bountiful with the November release of Volume 12. The time period is 1965-1966, and the records enriched hereby – as if they needed enriching – are Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde On Blonde.
Three different versions of the new Bootleg Series volume are available: a sampler size; a longer version that samples more; and the deluxe, 18-side megaversion that will cost about as much as a weekend road trip to the country, but that will contain diamonds and gold. Among the special tracks are carefully unmixed solos of individual instrumentals and vocals you’ve known all together for fifty years: stubs of each separate instrument, including Dylan’s voice, Paul Griffin’s tack piano, Bobby Gregg’s drums, and Al Kooper’s organ on “Like A Rolling Stone.”
The musicians Dylan worked with on these three albums are spectacular, even those whose work didn’t make it onto the final versions of the songs as initially released. You know them all by heart, and soul. The excellent principal drummers at work are Kenneth Buttrey in Nashville, and Bobby Gregg New York. But I thrill to hear the slap and thump and thud of Levon Helm playing, his style from the tap of the drumstick to the footfall on the big drum as familiar as heartbeat. Feel the peace of Rick Danko’s gentle, grounding bass. Get burned by Robbie Robertson’s pyrotechnical guitar. Hear Dylan cough and clear his throat, snicker with the guys, shout out to Mike Bloomfield (who shines so brightly here), complain about the sound, and start all over again. One thing you will learn from Volume 12, if you didn’t know, or suspect it, already, is what a perfectionist Dylan is. Take after take after take, he experiments with sound, speed, instrumental mix, emphasis, lyrics. There are versions of “Like A Rolling Stone” that you can waltz to, or rock to in a rocking chair. Tracks you think you knew get taken out for a spin as boogie-woogie, two-step, or good old rock and roll.
Bill Flanagan and Sean Wilentz have written the liner notes (a 2007 essay by Wilentz on Blonde On Blonde for the Oxford American is here). Al Kooper provides an essay. Never-before-seen images of Dylan from 1965-66 include a beautiful seated portrait, a rhapsody in blues, by the man who took the cover images for Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, Daniel Kramer.
album cover images © Sony Music Entertainment, via bobdylan.com