on 25 September 2001
"Blood on the Tracks" is one of my favourite albums, but "Love and Theft" comes close. It has the classic hallmarks of growling vocals, intelligent and sensitive lyrics that couldn't be sung by anyone else and subtle melodies that you'll be humming for days. There's nothing clever about the production or the music; it's just simple, warm songs played by exceptional musicians. My only complaint is that one or two songs are dragged out, but overall it's refreshing to hear such a simple and enjoyable CD. Album of the year so far -I haven't stopped listening to it since I bought it.
on 6 February 2003
This album is just a gem. Dylan the magpie steals melodies from Old America, Ancient England and Billie Holiday, amongst others, and his new settings manage to both age and update the music in a way that only he can. The albums opener Tweedledum and Tweedledee is fine, and recalls 60s Dylan lyrically and musically but it is actually the album's weakest track. It gives way to Mississipi, which is an instant classic, but the true feel of the album only really emerges with the swinging third track, Summer Days. Dylan has never sounded better. His voice has decayed markedly in the last 25 years and it has only been over the last few years that I feel he has truely learnt how to sing again. He now opens his throat fully and there is little or no sign of the nasal tone to his voice which ruined much of his work of the eighties. There is humour to be found on all 12 tracks and although Dylan is haunted by the same ghosts as when recording Time Out Of Mind, he seems to be able to live with and poke fun at them now. Floater (Too Much To Ask) is the album's best moment. A gorgeous melody, beautiful backing and a great Dylan narration. The album's closer Sugar Baby's melody is lifted from the old traditional song Lonesome Road, made famous by Paul Robeson, and is a perfect continuation of the themes of Time Out Of Mind, and its choruses unsettlingly echo Idiot Wind and You're A Big Girl Now, showing that the pain of his divorce is as as bitter to him now as it has ever been. Very painful but as ever, vital and even uplifting for the listener. This may well be the case for Dylan aswell, who probably has a deep need to get these feelings off his chest. If you don't own this album I strongly suggest you go out and buy it. This really is Dylan at his best.
on 10 September 2001
As a 15 year old, I can still remember the shock of hearing 'Desire' for the first time, and I have never had that incredible buzz from a Dylan album after 1978's 'Street legal'. Until this afternoon, when I put this record on in the car on my way home from work and laughed, sung and partied my way home. OK, so first impressions may be deceptive, but I haven't enjoyed a new Dylan Record this much for, well, you work out the number of years for yourself.
Whether he's recycling his 'Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat' riffs with his great touring band (the best I've ever seen him with, since 'The Band'), or sounding like Tom Waits circa 1977, Dylan's having a ball, and I defy you to do otherwise when you listen.
On the back of some of his best shows ever over the past 4 years, the band is great, the singing is astonishing, and the songs, for once, deserve the 'Written by Bob Dylan' tag. 'Mississippi' is worth the price of admission alone.
A magnificent piece of work. The extra tracks are a couple of expendable outtakes from the early 60's, but that's not the point.
Buy this record if you've ever been moved by Dylan, The Band, any of the Library of Congress recordings, the Broadside Box Sets, Tom Waits, Springsteen' s Nebraska and Tom Joad material, any record that came from Sun Studios...... The list goes on.
Dylan may be a cantererous old man, but watching him smile on stage last time round in the UK, and listening to this record make me believe that we truly are sometimes in the presence of genius. Moving people - isn't that what it's all about?
Fabulous - buy this CD!
on 15 December 2001
I would like to endorse all the positive comments made about this album other reviewers have made here. I bought Highway 61 Revisited back in '65 at the tender age of thirteen and have been listening to the man ever since. With that long term perspective in mind I'd like to say that this is going to be one of the all time great albums in the Dylan canon. He has often struggled to bring all the elements of a succesful recording together. This one has it all. The unfetterered production, in contrast to the Lanois approach, gives a clear window into a backing band that are both musically tight and uncomplicated. A perfect backdrop for this batch of songs that twist and turn around Bob's humor, and that voice. A new Dylan voice that blends it all together. If you thought you knew what Dylan was about this will make you think again, its fresh, driving and above all an innovative take on areas of music Bob long claimed to be his inspiration. Country blues, Texas swing, even a seeming parody of 40's crooners on 'Moonlight'. Enjoy
on 20 November 2001
Bob is back, just when we thought it was impossible to produce two decent albums in a row. The signs were all good, his current touring band, who provide the backing, are stunning in their technique, sensitivity and versatility. His last album and academy award-winning single Things Have Changed were lauded by critics and returned Dylan to the charts. The only fear with Mr Zimmerman is, despite all the odds in his favor, he was just as likely to produce a stinker as a masterpieces. Fortunately, he opted for the latter.
This is a back-to-basics album produced with clarity by Mr. Dylan himself in the guise of Jack Frost. The arrangements are more song-focused than Daniel Lanois' atmospheric production on Time Out of Mind, a move that suits these rootsy up-beat songs, which are peppered with surreal, playful, jokes and literary and Biblical allusions.
Musically, this is a journey through the 'Old Weird' America last heard on the Basement Tapes, with splashes good ole' country music of the Nashville Skyline model and flourishes of Chicago electric blues and swing ballads.
The first indication of the penchant for latter of these musical forms was Bob's resurrection of If Dogs Run Free and the similarly jazzy re-invention of Time out of Mind's Trying To Get To Heaven, both recently performed in concert. Dylan sings jazz, nice.
Each of the 12 songs are minor gems and a few are true classics destined to stand alongside A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall, Tangled Up in Blue, Blind Willie McTell, Man in the Long Black Coat and Its Not Dark Yet.
Mississippi is a re-worked song left off the last album because of musical differences with the producer. From the evidence here, Bob was right to seek a more straightforward reading of the track. It has a simple but engaging melody and some evocative lyrics that need to be heard clearly.
High Water evokes Dylan's own Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood) and has an epic sweep of Old Testament proportions. Sugar Baby is the song Time Out of Mind-lovers will embrace as it shares that album's gloom and soul searching with a pinch of the venom of songs like Idiot Wind and Positively 4th Street.
Still, there is much to enjoy in the 'lesser' tracks, such as the hard-rocking Lonesome Day Blues, the beautiful fiddle playing on Floater (Too Much To Ask), the subtle humor of Po' Boy and Dylan-as-crooner on the sweet love-song Moonlight.
Whilst it may never re-capture the legendary status accorded to his Sixties albums, this is an album of mature music from an old man unafraid to admit his irrelevance to modern music and happy to carry on forging his own inimitable route.
He told us the answer is blowing in the wind. On Moonlight he states 'the wind has blown', and asks 'Won't you meet me out in the moonlight alone?'. The sensible answer to that is 'Yes, Bob, so long as you bring your guitar...
on 18 October 2002
Well, a year has past since "Love And Theft" was released and I'm still not sick of it. I've tried and tried - listening to it working, walking, on the bus, on the tube, in rain, in sun - it just seems to fit everything. Although there are lots of reviews for this album here, I was genuinely surprised to find that the average rating was only 4 stars - thought I'd do my best to push it up to 5. As you've probably guessed (if you've read this far) I love this album. I did (indeed do) like his previous offering, "Time Out Of Mind", but have two main problems with it: not enough variation; just too damn downbeat. Neither of these things could be said about "Love And Theft". The sheer variety of styles and versatility of the band (rightly considered to be the best group of musicians he's worked with since "The Band") is awesome. Musically it rocks - from the fast-pounding heavy blues of "Honest With Me" (reminiscent of the electric firepower on "Maggies Farm" or "Everything Is Broken") to the doom-laden echoes of Sugar Baby (with a chorus which strangely reminds me of "Pink Moon" era Nick Drake). Listening to this album is a deeply moving experience and feels, as Greil Marcus much more eruditely claimed, like some sort of history of American music - from almost-lost Harry Smith-style bluesmen through to swing and beyond. You'll like it if you like Dylan in general and, I'd be prepared to wager, anyone would like it if they were prepared to give it a chance. Lyrically, the songs tend to start off following the conventions of whatever style they're in and then move on intuitively with multiple scenarios, attitudes and characters - mutating, constantly building up the range of images and the huge world of the album. For example, "High Water (For Charlie Patton)" starts off; "High water risin' - risin' night and day" but soon moves on through lines arguably as memorable as any Dylan's written; "They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway Five/Judge says to the High Sheriff,/"I want him dead or alive/Either one, I don't care." There are even some (slightly weak) jokes, but I won't spoil them! I could write a lot more, but won't waste any more of your, or my, time - JUST BUY THIS ALBUM!
on 15 September 2001
I had heard great things about this album before I bought it so was somehow prepared to be a little disappointed if it was not as good as the hype. But not a bit of it.
I cannot single out favourite tracks as I feel that as a set this hangs together as well as any of the great Bob albums. Top quality writing - the bitter humour is back - and a very very tight band. Looking forward to hearing some of this live!
Only down side - sounds like Bob is playing one note guitar solos again a la his live shows.
Now quite five stars but almost
on 11 September 2012
Dylan strikes again! You all are probably very curious what Bob Dylan has been up too since we last heard from him in 1997 with the Grammy winning TIME OUT OF MIND, and I was fortunate enough to pick up a copy on September 7th, with the bonus disc of two tracks. Don't worry, you all are in for a treat. The bonus disc has a traditional folk song entitled "I was Young When I Left Home," and has a running length of 5:24, and the other is an alternate version of "The Times They Are A' Changin'," and 2:57. Both are remarkable. But what about LOVE AND THEFT? Well, I'll tell you.
Dylan's miracle working knows no stopping, and with this release, he single-handedly creates an homage to the blues and yet captures all the tensions therein this particular genre. It's truly a greatest hits album, but not of Dylan, but rather the blues. That is the central paradox of this album. He has created a blues album which is simultaneously being torn in two directions, which epitomises the genre itself in the 1930s to the 1950s.
LOVE AND THEFT certainly marks its roots in the blues. Just a little over half the album plays like the successor that this record is to the 1997's smash TIME OUT OF MIND in the sense that it feels really bluesy but without the death obsession that its predecessor had. The other half, (these five tracks: Summer Day, Bye and Bye, Floater, Moonlight, and Po' Boy) sound like they call come from the same synapses of Dylan's brain, as their sound blur into one another. The best way to describe it is it sounds like old, simple bluesy folk compositions with a real 1930s to 1940s feel too it. Summer Day's intro reminds me of old 1950s rock, but then transform back into the similar feel of the aforementioned tracks. On first listening thru these songs, I found myself wanting to skip them, but on second listen I became more impressed with the compositions. It's as if Dylan wanted to make old scratchy records without the scratches from the Depression Era, and generally he is successful. Although I never thought I would make this analogy, the track "Moonlight" reminds me of old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra.
Because this is the release immediately after TIME OUT OF MIND, an album that won Dylan critical praise and renewed interest, I feel I need to clarify LOVE AND THEFT's relationship to TIME OUT OF MIND. TIME OUT OF MIND, which plays like a concept album about death and being in love with a woman he wishes he wasn't, feels like BLOOD ON THE TRACKS aged twenty or so years, and an utter weariness permeates the proceedings. (Taken in this context, "To Make You Feel My Love" stands as one of the most depressing and pained things Dylan ever wrote).
And just like BLOOD ON THE TRACKS and DESIRE, TIME OUT OF MIND and LOVE AND THEFT are two completely different albums. BLOOD and TOOM are very personal albums. DESIRE has a weird world beat, and LOVE AND THEFT, although much closer to TOOM in its musical foundation (for both share blues as their central structure), loses the intimacy of TOOM, which creates yet another paradox, because TOOM has all the intimate factors that make Blues feel so personal to us, and yet LOVE AND THEFT loses that feeling of raw intimacy and yet it better captures the blues genre that TOOM does. TOOM is personal application of Blues principles, where LOVE AND THEFT is more of a textbook study of the tensions of the blues genre.
LOVE AND THEFT keeps the same blues base, but ultimately TIME OUT OF MIND is ultimately the bluesier in the modern context of the two records because there is more of a cohesian of the pain and more commonly perceived blues elements. Each song adds the pain felt in the previous song, making it like a snowball effect and culminating in the 16 minute closer "Highlands". Ironically, though, this record captures more of the blues tradition and the genre's myriad influences, although time may have obscured this. This tension between those old scratchy folk sounding songs and the more commonly perceived bluesy material creates a tension that is not felt on TIME OUT OF MIND at all. Side 1 (the first six songs), opens with two blues, then two of the other, then another one that's like TOOM, and then ends with "Floater". Side 2 is a similar story. Dylan's sequencing proves absolutely essential on this release, for without it the tension would simply be lost. A very notable composition is "Highwater (for Charlie Patton)*," which sounds like a close relative of "Ballad of Hollis Brown," and straddles the fence quite appropriately between the blues and folk but with more emphasis on folk. Because folk's influence on blues is never made more explicit in the context of this record than on here, "Highwater" stands as a very important link to the song cycle that is LOVE AND THEFT.
Dylan said of LOVE AND THEFT that the songs don't really have any genetic history, and that they're probably not like his previous works. Dylan said he thought of it more like a greatest hits album, either Volume I or II. There weren't any hits on this record -- at least, not YET.
Again, Dylan proves the most perceptive of his work. Although LOVE AND THEFT's closest relation in Dylan's catalogue is TIME OUT OF MIND, it stands as a greatest hits record of blues' history and the struggle with in the genre to find its own sound, and yet these are all new songs created by Dylan in the new millennium. That is the central paradox of LOVE AND THEFT, and what makes it so incredibly interesting.
*If you have any information on him please email me.
Love and Theft is easily Bob Dylan's best CD in a long time. I think a line from the song Mississippi sums this album up fairly well: "Things are starting to get interesting right about now." After almost forty years in the business, Dylan is still putting out some of the best music he has ever written and recorded. It lacks the passion and underlying spirit of rebellion found in his early releases, but Love and Theft stands well above the vast majority of music being recorded these days. In Summer Days, Dylan says that you can repeat the past, and in a way, that is what he has done here. This Bob Dylan is a conglomeration of all the Bob Dylans that have come and gone for; drawing on varied aspects of his musical legacy, he manages to return to the basics while at the same time offering a fresh variety of sounds and musical approaches on these twelve tracks.
Mississippi would be my favorite song here; the manner of Dylan's extended delivery of incredible lyrics brings to mind classic songs such as Tangled Up in Blue. If you like energetic, toe-tapping rockers, Dylan proves he won't be performing sitting down for many a year with Lonesome Day Blues and Cry a While, two songs also heavily tinged with the blues, as well as Honest With Me. Summer Days is quite unusual, combining verifiable swing music with a strong pinch of rockabilly. On High Water (for Charlie Patton), Dylan incorporates the banjo and also possibly the mandolin, while Floater (Too Much to Ask) seems to feature violin music that works especially well in the transitions. I normally would not think of violins and Bob Dylan together, but the combination works fabulously. Floater is also notable for its plucky rhythm and subtly humorous lyrics. This album also features some slow, even poignant songs which I find it hard to describe. I could actually imagine the songs Bye and Bye and Moonlight being sung by a Sammy Davis Jr. to the accompaniment of the incomparable Laurindo Almeida. Po' Boy is another slow song, but it has a little stronger guitar playing pushing it along. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum gets this album off to a great start, and Sugar Baby, a reflective song about looking backwards at the past closes it out on a magical note.
Dylan's voice isn't what it used to be, but I find the distinguished, gravel-like nature of it quite enjoyable, especially on tracks featuring a good beat and forceful lyrics. It can sound a little strained at times, but what we get in Love and Theft is the real Bob Dylan. He seems to recognize his place in history, appreciating the great days of the past but charging ahead proudly into the future. The music is what matters to him, and he presents it honestly and openly; the sense of comfort he seems to possess at this stage in his legendary career allows the words and music to emerge naturally, and I believe that is the secret of his unparalleled success.
This is a great release from Bob Dylan, building on the commercial and critical success of hi previous album, 1997's Time Out Of Mind that seems to have kick-started a new era for Dylan and paved the way for a run of great albums in recent times. Dylan cuts loose with a voice shaped by too many cigarettes and one too many mornings, mixing it up musically with a strong blues thread overlaid with elements of folk, rock, jazz, soul, swing and anything else he thinks necessary. It's an album that really drives along. Lyrically Dylan is on pretty good form, with tales of love, loss and heroes. At times he sounds like a man possessed, at others like a man inspired. OK, it's very different from the work that made his name, and fans may object to that. But if he just carried on making the same stuff we would all have got very bored long ago (though on the plus side Empire Burlesque might never have got made...) It suits my tastes perfectly, and for me is one of his better albums. It's a joy to listen to. 5 stars.