Look at the Bob Dylan pursing his lips, readying for a smirk on the cover of The Cutting Edge boxed set, the newest volume in his endless bootleg series. This is, sans the shades, the studio Dylan of the time period—confi dent of his prowess and prose. He’s downright sexual in that pride, which quickly bolstered his ego beyond being the precious poet of Greenwich Village’s folk scene and gave him the necessary sensualist force to carry out the tactile triumvirate Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde in one swift garage/country-blues band clusterfuck.
Already legendary in all this is the lengthy session for “Like A Rolling Stone,” found here in all its wearying 16-take glory, with number four (June 16, 1965) released on Highway 61 Revisited of 1965—the one his audience is most familiar with. Still, its breakdown—as well as shambling, but multiple takes on “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” (acoustic and electric), quickly revisionist looks into “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” and several versions of “She’s Your Lover Now” (one of which gets pared down to solo piano sketchiness)—is exhilarating in all of its study. The repetition allows you to hear how Dylan and producers Tom Wilson (Home into Highway) and Bob Johnston (Highway into Blonde) honed the ramble into something machete-sharp.
That is particularly true of once-unreleased gems like the leering “Lunatic Princess” and lesser-known morsels like “Obviously 5 Believers,” with its early-morning moaning blues riffing and such. There isn’t one moment of the boxed set’s 100 tracks that isn’t as holy or essential as the next.