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Love And Theft
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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.
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on 23 December 2005
If I say this is easily his best album since Desire it's doing this album a disservice. Like all Dylan's best work, it's incomparable. For instance, you can't compare Blood on the Tracks to, say, Blonde on Blonde, but they are both great albums, landmark albums, even. And so it is with Love and Theft. Yes, this doesn't sound like anything he's done before, but it is confident, refined, well-worked and the band he got together is just wonderful. The production credits are given to someone called Jack Frost but I wonder if that's a psuedonym. Whatever, this is a masterpiece. There is not a single track on this album which does not rank along with Dylan's best work. Buy it.
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on 24 May 2004
Like caviar and oysters perhaps this recording is an acquired taste...and it needs several hearings to fully appreciate, after which it becomes addictive; it has a down-home Mississippi muddy feel that makes it Dylan's grittiest album, and one of my favorites. His voice sounds like freshly poured gravel, adding to its charm and old time blues quality.
The musicianship is extraordinary: Larry Campbell is fabulous on guitar, violin, banjo and mandolin, as is Charlie Sexton on guitar, Tony Garnier on bass, Augie Meyers on organ and accordion, and David Kemper will knock your socks off on drums.
The songs are melodic and words poetic and powerful. The CD insert is a single sheet fold-out, so does not include the lyrics, but they are worth searching out to read and relish the brilliance, see the light and darkness, hope and affliction, and the balance of humor. "Po' Boy" even has a knock knock joke:
Knockin' on the door,
I say "who is it and where are you from ?"
Man says "Freddy !"
I say "Freddy who ?"
He says, "Freddy or not, here I come".
There is greatness in this CD, even though it might not seem so with casual listening. Plumb the depths and it will reward you. Total playing time is 57'30.
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on 19 February 2012
As I currently write over a decade later, the release of this album was a beautiful thing at a very bad time. The music is confident, uncluttered, varied, witty. This Jack Frost producer guy really knew how to get the best out of Dylan. It was only later I realised that it was a pseudonym for Bob himself. However, I remember the release date too, September 11 2001. Most people, myself included, remember that date for something else now, and I recall how spooky I found it that the lyrics of one song actually say 'Sky full of fire/Pain is falling down....'
But enough of that. I fell in love with this straight off, in a way that I never did with the slightly monotone Time Out Of Mind. In fact, that sounds like an hour long dirge next to this. Love and Theft fades in with what is actually rather a silly little song, a rocking nursery-rhyme affair. As I stated in my review of Under The Red Sky, that particular musical form and folk go hand in hand, but here it is fully realised. He grabs you and throws you into the midst of the best album he had made since....I would say Street Legal. Take your pick.
The next song, and possibly the best here is Mississippi. This had been tried and tested during the TOOM sessions. Dylan later claimed he cared too much about the song for it to be a victim to a Lanois drum pattern*....Either way, it sounds very strident on here and contains some wonderfully crafted lines. And the rock and roll/blues songs on here absolutely rock! Summer Days, Lonesome Day Blues, Honest With Me and Cry A While all have a tremendous vitality to them and a kind of humour Dylan seemed to have buried in the 60s (Drivin' in the flats in my Cadillac car/The girls all say you're a worn out star). In fact, there are quite a number of jokes and quips spread throughout.
There are also some quite endearing, almost 20's ballads...Bye and Bye and Moonlight, and Floater (in a similar vein) is brilliantly charming, with cascading lyrics and such a laconic delivery. Another one, Po' Boy, has regularly been voted as a fan favourite; Dylan's ability at this time to shift into varying personalities was quite a wonder. Here he is a somewhat simplistic man, useless at everything, but in love with his woman. When he sings the line, 'All I know is I'm thrilled by your kiss/I don't know any more than this' it is absolutely heart breaking. All of this in a song that contains a knock,knock joke....
The last song, Sugar Babe, almost (almost) harks back to Blood On The Tracks. It is very sparsely arranged and a lyrical cousin to that album. The difference being that Dylan of 2001 is nearly twice the age of Dylan 1974 and it puts a whole new slant on things.
It later transpired that there were certain lines that Dylan seems to have 'borrowed' from various poetical sources. Its fine by me though, I love the album as it is. The only downside for me is that Dylan's voice occasionally sounds rather shot, more so than usual.

*On Dylan's Bootleg Series Vol 8, there are three versions of this (on the 3cd version). All differ completely from each other, and the one on Love and Theft is totally different again!
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2005
Thirty-nine years since his Woody Guthrie-pilfering debut and Bob Dylan's last studio album to date was unveiled, his first one since 1997's impressive Time Out Of Mind.
Bob Dylan's voice is now shot. Some would say he could never sing anyway - though some parts of Blood On The Tracks would disprove this - but now it is indisputable; blame it on whatever you want, cigarettes, old age, but his singing is now but a fractured croak.
The most ridiculous thing about Love And Theft is that somehow his lack of vocal strength seems to make the album better. In a musical climate when bands like the Strokes blow away all their good songs on one album and burn out by their sophomore effort, that fact that Dylan is still making records this good boggles the mind.
Mississipi is one of the best songs he's every written, fact. Most of the songs are ruminations on old age and fading heroes, and Mississipi is a perfect example of this. The slow-burning closer Sugar Baby is nearly as good, whereas comparitively simple blues numbers put most modern day artists to shame in the space of four minutes.
Love And Theft is essential for anyone, whether a Dylan fan or not, it is truly, absolutely exceptional.
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on 21 September 2001
This new Bob Dylan record is great. When compared to the frankly disappointing dreary offering that was 'Time out of Mind' this bares comparison with 'Desire' 'Infidels' and 'Blood on the Tracks'. To my mind the last good albums Bob made. The musicianship is excellent, as are most of the songs. A couple of them actually created a tear in my eye - they are so good. We have blues - show tunes - pop songs - old timey songs - all sung with Bob's croaky voice. The lyrics are good too - even when he tries to cram too many words into a bar! Of course, there are the usual 12 bar blues tunes - but even these work well. And of course a mention must be made about the album cover photo's. As usual - when most 'artists' take more time creating the artwork for an album, Bob, as usual, just has a few polaroid snapshots in black and white. I enjoyed this record very much - I hope you do to.
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on 11 December 2013
Love and theft has to be one of the best albums ever released. I lost my original copy, and re-order the CD recently, and I've listened to the CD almost every day since. Bob's rasping voice, and the toe-tapping beats - it's a fantastic album. Would definitely recommend this album to anyone!
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on 13 September 2002
Bob shows here that his sense of humour and songwriting skills are as sharp as ever. Everyone expects another `Blood on the Tracks' when he releases an album but you get the impression that Bob wants to move on, to do something different, to appeal to a new audience just as he did all those yeraas ago when he went electric. This album is simply great. Buy all his others first though, and see how well he's aged.
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on 27 March 2006
I am a long standing fan since I first heard Dylan in the early sixties. Although this album was released in 2001, I only heard it recently. The Scorcese TV programmes rekindled my interest in Dylan. I was amazed that he can still turn out quality such as this. If anything I prefer much of this album to his earlier stuff. It took a few plays to get used to the croaky voice, but is well worth perservering with. A whole range of different songs that have one thing in common - they are all good. My favourites are Mississipi and Lonesome Day Blues and Cry A While. If like me you have not been acquainted with Dylan's later works - go out and buy this - you won't be disappointed!
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on 9 September 2001
This is a great Bob Dylan album. Sure - the so-called lazy 3-chord blues form pops up several times. But so it does on almost every other song from Bob's golden '65-'66 period. Critics might hear a ravaged, burned out croak, but I hear a beautiful lived-in voice shot through with character and emotion. His peers can spend hours in the vocal booth perfecting their 'art'. But when Bob strives vainly for the high register on "Mississippi" (my highlight - some kind of cousin to the standout from 1989's Oh Mercy, "Most Of The Time"), this 60 year-old, airbrushed millionaire enigma sounds so dam human.
The twinkle-in-the-eye lyrics rope in a cast of classic Dylan characters - Othello and Desdemona, Charles Darwin, Judges, High Sheriffs, Preachers, Bootleggers, Romeo and Juliet (with the latter telling the former to "shove off" if he doesn't like her complexion), troublesome women, Big Joe Turner, The Devil...There are plenty of silly jokes - calling room service to "send up a room"..."Freddie or not here I come"...and my favourite line, where "Floater"'s protagonist (Dylan himself?) warns, "I'm not quite as cool or forgiving as I sound". In the opener "Tweddle Dee & Tweedle Dum" Dylan even heads his critics off at the pass, "All the girls say I'm a washed out star".
The production and musicianship are excellent throughout. Well done for bringing your best road band in years (decades?) into the studio, Bob. Where Under The Red Sky, for example, suffered from a slick, session-ville rawk blandness, Love And Theft sounds dirty, rootsy and real. Those drum fills on "Summer Days" are swingin' and Larry Campbell's banjo propelling everything along on the one-chord wonder "High Water" - yummy!
I heard a whisper that Bob was quite taken with the historical Jazz series on national American TV. Ever the magpie, delightful 30s-style crooners "Bye and Bye" and "Moonlight" take their place alongside the bluesy rock n roll. "Po Boy" is another personal fave, sounding like an outtake from Tom Waits' "Heart Of Saturday Night" (in true Dylan style - an outtake that should have been the first track on the album).
Kim Fowley says "the technology got better and the records got worse", a truism reinforced by much of Bob's work since the 70s. Lots of great songs disguised by horrible over-productions. But Time Out Of Mind wasn't a one-off. He is still writing great songs and knows how to record them. How long till the NEXT one, Bob?
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