Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2001 13:25:05 EDT
Subject: my review of "L&T"
"Love And Theft"
I don't believe in astrology, but I think one thing is for sure -
Bob Dylan is a gemini. Revolutionary/traditionalist,
acoustic/electric, Jewish/Christian, Artist/Sellout. Dylan, and his
art, brings drama to the contradictions in us- and around us- that
often co-exist in various degrees of (dis)comfort. "Love And Theft"
continues this tradition - the title already hints at this -
sharing/stealing, "steal a kiss", "stole my heart". It can be two
different forms of possession. "Love And Theft" also expresses
other mixtures- country swing and the blues, 1940's-style crooning
song delivered in Dylan's gloriously rough voice, light arrangements
with lyrics of unblinking honesty.
"Love And Theft" doesn't sound particularly like any other Dylan
album. In some ways the structure resembles 1967's "John Wesley
Harding" - 12 songs that sound like they came from another long-gone
era, so full of ideas that there are hardly any solos. "JWH",
however, was an acoustic album, "L&T" is electic - performed with
Dylan's excellent touring band, augmented by Augie Meyers on
keyboards and Clay Meyers on congas. It is Dylan's most focused
collection of original material since 1979's "Slow Train Coming". As
great as Dylan's last studio album "Time Out Of Mind" (1997) was,
one gets the feeling that there was more material recorded, but
decisions were made based on the physical limitations of one compact
disc. On "Love And Theft", Dylan sounds confident, upbeat, even
playful at times, mixing insights into the human conditions with
silly little jokes ("Freddie who? He say Freddie or not here I come",
"Room service - ...send up a room").
As poet and commentator on the world we live in, Dylan has
chosen, with his first album of the millenium, to focus on another
century, roughly from the Civil War to the Sun Sessions, bookending
two important eras in race relations. (A recent book called "Love
And Theft" dealt the mistrel shows). When Dylan was hospitalized in
1997 - just before the release of "Time Out Of Mind" - Dylan said he
thought he was "going to meet Elvis". In "Love And Theft", Elvis is
everywhere - "Mississippi", "Teddy Bear" in "Honest With Me", "Toast
to the king" in "Summer Days" and especially in the opening
rockabilly song"Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum". Not only is "Tweedle
Dee" the name of a song Presley sang live in the mid 1950's, but it
contains this line refering to Elvis's early raw recordings, and the
lure of lucre from RCA records - "They're makin' a noise to the Sun -
His Master's Voice is calling me". This whole song sounds like it
could be about Elvis' controversial manager Col. Tom Parker, and all
of those who have made money off of the King's corpse. (Dylan
actually gave props to Peter Guralnick's recent Elvis biography "Last
Train To Memphis"). Elvis was, of course, a walking - or should I
say hip-shaking- contradiction. A mix of black and white music,
artist and tool, handsome and bloated, dead and alive.
The mention of family is also a recurring theme on the album.
Not only have we learned of the success of The Wallflowers, and a
secret second marriage (preceded by a daughter), but also the recent
death of his mother ( a mother's death in mentioned more than once on
the album). This might explain Dylan's exploration of 1940's style
ballads (think Leon Redbone - an early favorite of Dylan's). There
are also rmulitple references to bablies , weddings, and funerals.
But this is not to say this album sounds like a museum piece - far
from it. Dylan sounds alive, the arrangements are possibly the most
complex in his career. Eric Clapton and Brian Setzer- two artist
that Dylan shared the stage with in 1999 - recently has great
success with albums of "traditional" music- blues (EC's "From The
Cradle") and swing music (Setzer's cover of "Jump Jive And Wail").
Dylan's new CD, however, is all original material, all sounding
fresh and alive (it was recorded in a very productive two-week
period). For every old-fashioned romantic moment like "Moonlight",
there is a modern reference (Bob actually uses the phrase "booty
call" in "Cry A While").
As for the actual songs, "Highwater (For Charlie Patton)" is
probably the most stunning. Named for a relatively obscure artist
(one of his riffs was the musical basis for Dylan's 1997 epic
"Highlands"), "Highwater" is a haunting tale of ruin - given an extra
feeling of authenticity by Larry Campbell's banjo - reminiscent of
the great writing of "Down In The Flood" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna
Fall", complete with quotes from old blues and folk songs, as well as
They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway 5
Judge says to the High Sheriff , I want them dead or alive
Either one, I don't care
Many of the songs are reminiscent of Dylan's best albums- most
notably "Highway 61", "Blonde On Blonde", "The Basement Tapes" and
"Blood On The Tracks" as well as the nursury rhymes of "Under The
Red Sky"- without ever feeling like he is reliving past glories. The
closing "Sugar Baby" is a distant cousin the "Idiot Wind",
"Lonesome Day Blues" explores electric blues a la "Pledging My
Time". In the hands of fools, the blues can be tedious - in the
hands of a master, it is sublime.
Another theme, which in some ways is an extention of the
contradiction theme, is the way things not turning out the way it
was planned. In "Floater (Too Much to Ask)", Dylan sings
One of the boss' hangers-on . . .
Tryin' to bully you, strong arm you,
Inspire you with fear,
It has the opposire effect
and this from "Sugar Baby":
Try to make things better for someone sometimes
You just end up makin' it a thousand time worse.
Getting back to the contraditions, let the lyrics speak for themselves:
I got love for you and it's all in vain
(also the name of two classic blues songs)
Sky full of fire, rain pouring down
Some people they ain't human/ they ain't got no heart or soul
I'm a-cryin' to the Lord to be meek and mild
What do you mean you can't repeat the past?/ Of course you can!
as well as
My future's already a thing of the past
And these wonderful puns (which are double-edged in themselves):
Lookin' at the window with a pecan (peeking) pie
I'm stark naked . .I'm hunting bear (bare)
Plus lyrics that just hit you in the face:
The siamese twins are coming to town.
I'm standed in the city that never sleeps/
some of these women just give me the creeps
My back's been to the wall so long it feels like it's stuck/
Why don't you break my heart one more time just for good luck
These contradictions, like "Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee" , "live
in happy harmony". Ying & yang. As Dylan sang in the Grammy
-winning "Things Have Changed" : "People are crazy, times are
strange." And look at the people in these songs: Romeo and Juliet,
Desdemona and Othello, plus police, preachers, the Devil, and, of
course, God. By revisiting the past, Dylan shows us where we've
been, where we are, and where we are going. Looking like a roving
riverboat gambler, Dylan wants to step out of the present day, to
reflect on what is going on. Poker-faced, you can't guess what's he
is thinking until he shows his hand. ("You can't win with a losing
hand" he also sang on "Things Have Changed") This way Dylan can get
some perspective- something that in our media-saturated world, we
have little time to do ourselves:
I'm watchin' the boats, I'm studyin' the dust
One day you'll open your eyes and you'll see where you are
As usual, Bob Dylan and his band - multi-instrumetalist Larry
Campbell, guitarist Charlie Sexton, drummer David Kemper, and bassist
Tony Garnier, will be back on the road shortly, hopefully playing
many of the songs on "Love & Theft". Dylan may actually be referring
to his devoted fans, many of whom secretly record shows with hidden
recording devices (some of these recordings have made it onto Dylan's
offical website, as well on CD singles) near the end of the album:
Some of these bootleggers, they make pretty good stuff
plently of places to hide things if you want to hide them bad
In a way, recording shows is another form of "Love And Theft".
Life is complicated, love can be a mess, both are fragile. Yet
we must all live with each other in a world that seems to be spinning
faster every day.
Plus it's got a good beat, and you can dance to (most of ) it.
I'll give it a ten!
Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2001 04:23:30 EDT
As great as he is, with _Love and Theft_ he's proven greater than
himself. LaT enters the pantheon, that short list of studio albums
that are Dylan's masterpieces: Freewheelin', BiABH, BoB, HWY-61, JWH,
BotT, and TooM. It's been almost thirty-five years since Dylan has
released back-to-back certifiable studio masterpieces, and that he has
in 2001 added it to his list of musical accomplishments is
mind-blowing and frankly frightening. Dylan has followed that dark
view of one's own mortality in TooM with a perhaps even darker look
into the mortality of others in LaT. With wry, indeed hilarious
lines, scattered throughout these tracks, you have to dig deeper than
TooM to uncover the darkness below the surface.
The major theme running through LaT appears to be a line from the
album's closer, "Sugar Baby": "There ain't no limit to the amount of
trouble women bring." The characters in these songs are violent, many
even delusional and insane. Some long for lost loves that won't be
theirs, others hope for new loves that likewise won't be theirs. One
narrator no longer has hopes and dreams, and, well, when you ain't got
nothin' you got nothin' to lose. Frequently, though, if those on LaT
don't get their objects of affection, nobody will.
The album's title, which might sound strange at first, is perfect.
First, there's the book _Love and Theft_ about black-faced minstrelsy
and working class white people. Cultural appropriation. That's what
happened to some of the people Dylan pays homage to here. Is there
even rock 'n roll without Charley Patton? Is he the man who is
remembered by the public at large? He's had an enormous effect on US
culture--after all, rock 'n roll has had such an effect--but, when
there's a tribute to the "king," how many are thinking Elvis?
The title also refers to what Bob is doing here. He's taking from
those he loves and creating something new. Love and Theft. And it
refers to Bob's most passionate fans and their relationship with Bob.
The ones who love him enough to steal his music. The bootleggers who
bring us pretty good stuff.
There's also the relationship between the words "love and theft."
Really, what is love if not theft? We take love. Love isn't freely
given. It's not something people control. Often times, people
actively seek another's "love," not really caring if the other person
wants to give it. There's a close relation between "love" and
"theft." People in love are sometimes even willing to steal for their
love, some will even kill, bringing love and death. There's plenty of
death on _Love and Theft_, and the title is appropriate.
The album starts with some strong rock 'n roll. The album band is
Bob's touring band, and, well, it's nice to finally have studio work
with them. They're so polished, and it comes through in "Tweedle Dee
and Tweedle Dum." The subjects of the song are a pair of losers, Dum
destined to kill Dee ("living in the Land of Nod"), but not before
they cause enough trouble to make the narrator "laugh more than some."
They're also into drugs, which they might have stolen, which are
destroying their minds:
Rain beat down on a window pane
I got love for you
and it's all in vain/vein
Brains in a pot
They're beginning to boil
They're dripping with garlic and olive oil
Tweedle Dee is on his hands and knees
Saying "Throw me something, Mister, Please"
There's a violent end to this one, setting the stage for the rest of
the album, when Dum's has too much of Dee's company.
What follows is a highlight, maybe _the_ highlight, of the set:
Mississippi. It's not as dark as the other songs, perhaps an
indication of when it was written, 1996. Mississippi was left off of
TooM, and for some reason I think that it was a good choice. Dylan is
now quoted as saying Lanois wanted to do something the effect of which
Bob thought would destroy the song's sound. It's lovely, and majestic
(the latter might even be the term Dylan used to describe it). It has
that timeless feel found in Dylan's greatest songs; it passes like a
daydream. It features some of the finest vocals on any Bob recording,
live or in studio (just listen to him say "move"). If you don't get
goose bumps when Dylan sings:
Walking through the le-ee-ves
Falling from the tr-ee-ee-s
Feeling like a stranger
So many things
We never will undooo
I know you're sorry
I'm sorry too
You should just shut the album off, because you're Dylan-proof.
Is the song to a woman (Compare "All my powers of expression, my
thoughts so sublime, could never do you justice in reason or rhyme"
with the song "Sara")? Is this extra day literal? Did something
happen on that last day, an affair, perhaps? Sex that wouldn't have
occurred if the narrator didn't stay that extra day? I don't think
this song is to Rosie--could Rosie be a third-party involved in this
mournful extra day? Is it a weak apology: hey, I'm sorry, but all I
did was stay there a day too long. It meant nothing. Or is the song
about the Delta blues men or their music?
Mississippi, as performed here, is a classic, with some nice wordplay
(the ship's been "split to splinters"). And just listen to him say
"move" (as I do again and again). There's a line where Dylan sings
"You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way."
Sometimes, it seems, Dylan comes back all the way, and then some.
The third song is "Summer Days," and, maybe it's a product of my age,
but the beginning of this song makes me think of Richie Cunningham--I
see _Happy Days_. This song to me feels like something from that time
period. It just seems like raucous, light fun. But it's not. We
have a narrator who wants to know how a woman could say she loves
someone else. I have a feeling she's getting married, maybe because
her father is forcing her into it ("You can't stand up to some old
businessman"). Maybe her father is the politician, maybe even a
senator (who has sold tickets to the wedding). In any case, the
narrator has got somethin' to say, he's not going to hold his peace.
His hammer is working, but the nails (a woman's?) aren't going down.
He's had enough. If he can't stop this wedding, he's going to burn
them all. Literally.
There's a great line in Summer Days, where Dylan sings: "She said 'you
can't repeat the past,' I said, 'you can't? What do you mean you
can't, of course you can.'" Yes, the line is borrowed from Fitzgerald,
and yes, the narrator is a little bit nuts. But there's a truth in
the line, a truth revealed through _Love and Theft_ itself: Dylan is
proving, by this album's very existence, that the past can be
The fourth track, "Bye and Bye," sounds like it could have been
recorded at the Big Pink in 1967. Here we have a lost Basement Tape,
found in 2001, perhaps coming through Bob in 2001, but, make no
mistake about it, this song isn't from 2001. It comes from the same
place those songs came from thirty-five years ago. Here, we have a
narrator, in slow, rhythmic fashion, describing in the opening verses
how great it is to be in love. Then there's a sharp turn; we find out
that the future, for this person, is already a thing of the past
(another character trying to repeat the past). He's chasing a past
love, who, he insists, will also be his last love. He sees a future
that will never exist. He's going to baptize the woman he's after "in
fire" so she can sin no more, so she can be his alone. He's going to
make sure he stays in charge through "civil war," as he does love this
woman, but there's no doubt who's in charge. He's gonna make her see
how loyal and true a man can be, whether she wants to find out or not.
I don't want to think about what happens if she, as appears likely,
doesn't want anything more to do with this fellow.
"Lonesome Day Blues," the next song, is straight, tough blues, with
some fine, roaring guitar work (is that Bob?). There's some High
Water here, with roads so wet they're not fit for man or beast. Some
of the imagery recalls TooM: a mind a "million miles" away; a lover
left "standing in the door(way)"; winds whispering (to buckeyed trees
of rhyme). I see a narrator here all alone (his father, brother, and
sister have left him. His mother might be dead, although it's "his
gal" who declares "I wish my mother was still alive" (and no doubt
Dylan himself, is making the declaration, too)). He's got some sexual
problems (Samantha Brown lived with him for almost a half-year, and he
never slept with her), and he refers to himself (or is it a Freudian
reference to the real object of his desire, another man) in the third
person. The woman he seeks, she has a lover, but this lover is no
good. Of course, nobody who has her, except the captain, could be
good for her. How can he get this woman to leave her husband? Easy,
King David's biblical conclusion, send her lover out to be killed.
The captain claims he will spare and teach peace to the defeated, and
tame the proud. I don't believe him. I see more violence in his
victory, perhaps as a release of all his frustration. Finally, after
making sure the lover-man is killed, the woman will need the captain,
because, after all, she can't make love all by herself.
The fifth song, "Floater," at first brings a smile to my face, and
it's among the album's strongest songs. "Floater" floats. That's the
only way I can describe the sound. The narrator here seems genuinely
happy, describing a scene of beauty, and it seems like a light, joyful
song. But it's not. We find out that a boss's lackey is giving the
narrator a tough time. What's it about? The second cousin? Whatever
it's about, the narrator has had enough. He ain't got nothin', and has
nothin' to lose. All his dreams and hopes are gone, and he's not
taking it anymore. Even if it costs him his job. Or his life.
"High Water (for Charlie Patton)" is another highlight. This has the
sound of the wild west; it reminds me of the alternate take of
"Desolation Row." I see the narrator as Charley Patton, confronting a
racist society. You dance with who they tell you to (no black/white)
or you don't dance at all. He's with a white woman, he loves this
woman, he's Charley Patton, but he's never going to be greater than he
is in this society: a black man, who faces high water if he sleeps
with a white woman. George Lewes tells the Englishman, the Italian,
and the Jew, to open their minds to Darwin's thoughts (Charles
Darwin=Charlie Patton)--doesn't matter, high sheriff wants him, dead
or alive. Dylan's letting us know, through this very song, what he
thinks of Patton. As he does in "Blind Willie McTell," he recreates
the black experience in America through the use of a ransacked giant
overlooked by popular culture.
Dylan croons in "Moonlight." It's just lovely. Parts remind me of
that _Nashville Skyline_ voice, thirty years later. The lyrics are
great, too, with some of the near tongue-twisters making a return. Is
it just a wistful poem about a relationship that has ended with the
season, a relationship for which the bell has tolled? Or is there
something darker, sinister, on the narrator's mind, looking for the
best time to "strike." This lover is offering peace and
The ninth song, "Honest with Me," is a rocker. The music, the guitar
playing, even the singing, remind me of "Yonder Comes Sin." The
narrator here has memories that could strangle him (apparently the
kind of memories he can't learn to live with). There are women here
who give him the creeps (no limit to the trouble they could bring),
all except one. But it's unrequited love, maybe because the narrator
has another woman, the woman with a face like a bear (the ugliest girl
in the world?). How can he convince the object of his affection of
his feelings? How can he force her to be honest with him? There's
only one way: go hunt bare (bear). He's going to kill the other
woman, the woman with a face like a bear.
I hear echoes of some older, autobiographical songs in "Honest with
Me." I'm reminded of "Restless Farewell" when Dylan sings "I'm glad I
fought, I only wish we won," and I think of the fact that it's never
been his duty to remake the world at large when we're told of the
creation of the new imperial empire. Okay, this is probably just me.
"Po' Boy" was the first track I heard, when it appeared on the
Internet. It's still a favorite. Again, there's a light feel to the
music, but go beneath the surface and we're hearing stories about a
Shakespearean character poisoning her lover. I'm still not sure what
to make of this one: is it as funny as it seems? Just one long joke,
including the poisoning? Or is it more in line with what came before,
"Cry Awhile" is dripping with both blues and booze, and some
astounding guitar work (to my tin ears, at least). There's another
scorned lover--his woman allows people to make 2 a.m. booty calls--and
he's tangled up in blue, he's been crying, singing, trying to get it
out. Looking to the Lord. Not finding salvation, having to make his
woman pay, his plan becomes deadly: "your funeral, my trial" (seems to
be the consensus on the words, due to its lineage).
The last track comes from another dimension. "Sugar Baby" is out of
this world. It sounds like nothing I've ever heard before--slow,
mournful, indescribable. I certainly can't do it justice. Like "Bye
and Bye," it could have been a Basement Tape. It's the song that
tells us something we've seen in so many of the previous songs: "there
ain't no limit to the amount of trouble women bring." The narrator
here is jaded, he recognizes the futility of it all--happiness comes,
and then leaves. Hey, you've been without me so long, just continue,
it's all the same to me. For your sake, though, look up one time
before you die, just so you can understand what it's all about.
"Sugar Baby" might just be _Love and Theft's_ stand-out track.
It's a remarkable album, that has only grown on me with each listening
(something not at all rare with Dylan's albums). I have a feeling it
will be recognized as such, and will garner Bob another Grammy. It's
just something completely different from anything he's done before.
And completely magnificent, track to track. Thanks, Bob, for bringing
me even more happiness that, through time-tested experience, I'm sure
will not be leaving too quickly.
The Third Millennium Nashville Skyline: you have to think of what Eric
Clapton once said about Nashville Skyline, that on that particular
album Dylan was tryin' to be Hank Williams, but nobody understood a
thing. Only musicians could understand what Dylan was tryin' to do. I
now think that Clapton was right. 30 years after Nashville Skyline,
and 30 years more into listening (from Dylan) to Hank Williams and to
pre-war country & western, I think Dylan is absolutely in that mood,
so part of Love And Theft, to me, really sounds like a Nashville
Skyline take two, from a 60 year old musician with a lot of (hard)
travellin' in between.
Love And Theft is like a trip from Nashville to the Delta and back,
happening in the 30s, with Bob Dylan ridin' around with (the ghosts?)
of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Robert Johnson (or maybe Charlie
Patton). This way, what Miss Edna said about 'early american music'
makes perfect sense to me. This album, except for two tracks (the hard
rockin' Lonesome Day Blues and Cry Awhile) which, to me, are out of
context, is kind of a concept album. A trip in the imaginary american
landscape of the pre-war, pre-rock'n'roll era.
Also, as Dylan himself said, the music is nothing but the same 12 bar
kind of thing, 'cause country and blues were so much the same context
back in those days.
There's a great job from the musicians, too, 'cause Sexton and
Campbell had a very hard job tryin' to recreate those moods, and the
jazz licks from their guitars are so damn good,
There's an enormous richness (musically) in these songs, I'm sure
many, many things would eventually come out in the future. But I'm
sure that the Dylan fans will be not disappointed at all from this
One of my favourite tracks. Great rockabilly song, in the perfect Sun
Records style (many times in the past Dylan said how much he loves
that sound). Everything is great here, and there's a great rhythm
part, drums and even percussion, very unusual for Dylan (but...
remember the congas in Hurricane?). The singin' is great, Dylan lets
his voice roll in his best way all along the track, and I'm damn
curious to know more about the lyrics.
Nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the Sheryl Crow version. The
interesting question now is: is this the way Dylan recorded the song
during the TOOM sessions? If so Crow did a great job finding a new
tune, but I doubt she did. Probably Dylan recorded the first version
as Crow did it, and now he completely rewrote the melody. Another
favorite. Dylan's singin is great, he is really into the song, there's
a great mandolin (Larry, I do believe), the sound is close to Oh
More rockabilly! And is great, again. Great guitar solos, very jazzy
style (Charlie?). Sounds like a pre-Elvis, forgotten tune.
By And By
Or, if you want, call it Blue Moon Revisited, since the melody comes
from that song (which Dylan recorded on Self Portrait). This is the
other side of Love and Theft, the country side. But, again, it's old
time country, pre-war style. The tempo is almost a shuffle, very
Lonesome Days Blues
The third side of the album. Powerful rock blues,
in the style of stuff like Cold Irons Bound. Great guitar riff,
Nice fiddle at the beginning (Larry) and as interplay between
each verses. It's a very original violin part, not country, more
European. Again, old time country, close to some Hank Williams stuff.
Nice singin' from Dylan. I like it when he sings 'Romeo and Juliet',
which are the characters of the song. When he sings it the way he
does, it makes me think of Romeo Had Juliette, the Lou Reed song.
Possibly, one of Dylan's masterpieces ever. Acoustic
guitars, dobro, banjo (Larry?). Terrific singin', an old country
blues, with Dylan really in the song. Hard to describe, need to be
This one is kinda boring to me. Dylan like a 40s crooner.
Not a very original melody.
Honest With Me
Another powerful rock blues with a great job from the
slide. The sound, expecially for the slide, is of a pre-war blues,
very nervous and scaring. This one, not like Lonesome Day Blues or Cry
Awhile, fits perfectly in the context of this concept album.
Another one that I don't like that much (for now...). Another
mellow country ballad. Too much sugar...
Rock blues, not so thrilling. Sounds like routine.
Great, great acoustic song, in the vein of stuff like Shooting Star or
Man In The Long Black Coat. Again, you have to listen to the magic in
Subject: "LaT" First songs
From: SDW S_D_W_@msn.com
Date: 17 Aug 2001 21:14:27 -0700
My first impressions, as eloquent as the occasion permits (which is to
say, well, read on for God's sake, if you have the stomach for it):
Watch out, people. There is some crazy shit on this album. I'm not
talking wild and wacky here, I'm talking bizarreness of the first
order. Pack up da meat sweets, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
Po' Boy, oh my. It's hilarious, yet spooky, and already the
references are piling up: Shakespeare, Prodigal Son, and who's that
knockin' last and first?
Dylan loves to scorn his listeners' obsessiveness but is there any
doubt at all, when listening to songs like this, that he himself
invites it, goads us on, seeks actively to make us mad?
As to specific thefts, well, would I be wrong in claiming that the
bridge to Po' Boy is melodically identical to that of "Blue Bonnet
Girl"? Again, are there any real accidents in Dylandom, motorized or
musical? Now I'd appreciate some confirmation here because, if what I
say is true, then I'd damn well like some credit for discovering it
first. It'd make a musical dope feel good.
Not to mention that "By and By" is tantalizingly reminiscent of
"Return to Me," is it not? Unfortunately this baby whizzed by on by
too fast; we were in the car at the time, reception imperfect at best,
so off we veered at right angles into a vacant lot, with this song as
our marching band as the evening sky grew dark, though, alas, by that
point it was halfway over.
"Summer Days," a definite dose of Setzerization but a thousand times
better with the touring band, and the lyrics, the lyrics--spat out
endlessly it seemed, to this auditor's jaw-drooping delight. What's
with the hogs and swine, anyway ... repercussions of that ten-ton
pre-concert pork delivery, still? Dylan want to drive them all over
some cliff in Malibu?
Seriously though, other lyrical threads already emerging would seem
enough to fascinate one for 3 weeks at the least: as for instance,
the many references to Kings and to Court politics (toast to the
King--well ..., a "feudal lord," asserting one's power by civil war
[Dylan: Cavalier or Roundhead?], etc.), or the--probably not
unrelated--remarkably numerous references to family (uncle who runs
the funeral parlor, grandfathers [remember, "I knew he'd lost control"
...?] a narrator sweetly "in love with his second cousin"!), much more
so than usual for post-Basement Dylan. To what extent, I wonder, will
both these themes reveal themselves to be tied closely to those of
Shakespeare? Time into mind will tell.
Those last two images come from the song that really did me in,
"Floater." Dylan singing in front of Gypsy-inflected jazz, I mean,
come on, I haven't had anything stronger than a Benadryl in months,
people, I swear. Sweet Lord but I needed to hear it again, as the
song lady promised we would; unfortunately, she got caught up in the
antics of a faux-humble, wispy-voiced singer and ran out of bloody
time. Now I would have had nothing against this singer on any other
night. Or maybe I would but I'm just really not sure. However, as to
why the song lady, on this particular evening, did not muster her
considerable bulk to boot this Drake-cakey whinger out onto the cold
hard Boulder sidewalk and commence to replaying "Floater," maybe even
giving "Highwater" a spin, I honestly cannot say. It would have been
well worth it. And it was cruel to keep me waiting.
On the other hand, I am exceedingly grateful that she chose to play
what she did. Thank you song lady. And thank you
and all you other masked marauders. No coward souls are yours.
Exhilarating stuff, people. Completely outre, parlay vew? God's own
"Love And Theft"
***** (five stars)
by David W. Bothner
published in the Ann Arbor News 8.18.01
Don't look back may be the one law ruling Bob Dylan's creative output.
And at times throughout his 40-year career, Dylan's determination to
avoid his own stylistic past has thrilled, stunned, stymied and even
offended his audiences. So it should be no surprise that the 60
year-old Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe Award winner has taken an
abrupt turn from the thick, dark sound of his 1997 "Time Out of Mind"
with his new record, "Love And Theft," due on store shelves September
Self-produced and recorded over a scant 2 weeks last spring, "Love And
Theft" percolates the spirit of American music through the vision of
one of the forms' greatest innovators. As one who has conjured new
mutations of folk, gospel, blues and rock from the very dirt of
Americana, Bob Dylan has once again reinvented his sound with stellar
Earlier this summer he told U.S.A. Today that "the songs [from "Love
And Theft"] don't have any genetic history" in relation to any of his
42 previous recordings, which may be true. But more so than any record
since "Blonde On Blonde" "LAT" actively taps specific generic textures
of traditional American music as it forges new stylistic amalgams. Yet
whether spring-boarding from old-timey swing (replete with
melodramatic violin bridge) on "Floater (Too Much To Ask)" or from the
Sun Records rockabilly-charged "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum," Dylan
breaths new life into the ghosts of styles past and passed by.
"LAT" is as sophisticated a recording as any from his catalog (and a
great deal more so than many), rivaling the highly acclaimed "TOOM" in
both its lyrical depth and musical complexity. Recorded with Dylan's
touring band, augmented with other musicians including legendary Texas
keyboard player Augie Meyers, "LAT" presents 12 fully matured new
Dylan compositions. Driven by Tony Garnier's engulfing acoustic bass
and David Kemper's empathetic drums, "LAT" is a more straightforward
recording than the multi-textured and moody "TOOM," produced by the
crafty Daniel Lanois.
Which is not to imply that "LAT" is a simplistic project, lacking
subtlety—far from it. Featuring the exquisite guitar, fiddle,
mandolin, pedal steel, lap steel and bazouki work of Larry Campbell
and Charlie Sexton's punctuated lead guitar licks, "LAT" articulates a
youthful energy and enthusiasm founded in the wisdom and experience of
years at the wheel.
After all, this is a new Bob Dylan record, if not a new Bob Dylan.
Here—in the haunting Sinatra-esque 50's ballad "Moonlight", the torrid
Western Swing of "Summer Days," the surrealistic strutting "Po' Boy,"
and one of the albums several masterpieces, the bluegrass pulsed
"Highwater (For Charley Patton)"—is the Bob Dylan who has had his ear
to the ground, tuned to the waters running below as well as those
rushing across the surface of American music from the last century.
Here, too, is the great American Poet, twisting phrases and
invigorating characters as only Bob can. Proof that he is a
storyteller with few peers, the imagery of "LAT" is organically rooted
around characters captured in specific situations. In the luscious
"Mississippi," a song written but not used for "TOOM" and later
covered by Cheryl Crow, the wizened yet hopeful narrator reviews his
life, declaring "Walking through the leaves, falling from the trees /
Feeling like a stranger nobody sees / So many things that we never
will undo / I know you're sorry, I'm sorry too."
In the lounge shuffle "Bye and Bye," the introspective narrator
depicts his curiously deranged devotion by proclaiming, "I'm not even
acquainted with my old desires." And the hard-rockin' "Honest With
Me," recalling "Highway 61 Revisited," gives voice to another narrator
who's considered his place in the world and claims, "You don't
understand it, my feelin' for you / You'd be honest with me if you
Dylan the grizzled blues player turns up on the lilting "Lonesome Day
Blues" and the restrained boil and shifting tempos of the bitter "Cry
A While." And then there's the crowning jewel closing the record: the
weary and reconciled lament, "Sugar Baby," a ballad of sublime beauty
that puts an end to the infernal debate around Dylan's vocal
So Dylan's journey continues down the roads less traveled, and whether
or not formulaic radio can find a slot for the enigmatic bard is of
little concern. For Dylan the now is all that has ever mattered, and
as he sings on "Mississippi," "Stick with me baby, stick with me
anyhow / Things should start to get interesting right about now."
"En ny Dylan"
Bob, Dylan, "Love and Theft"
Omtalt i Audio 57 av Stein Arne Nistad
En ny Dylan plate er en begivenhet og nå foreligger omsider
oppfølgeren til den allerede legendariske og Grammy
belønnede "Time out of Mind" fra 1997. Veivalget er ikke som
forventet og "Love and Theft" er en overraskende utgivelse . Den
sekstiårgamle legenden slutter åpenbart aldri å
fornye seg. Borte er den tunge og mørkeblå stemningen fra
Time out of Mind - og i stedet får vi et album som preges av en
spilleglede jeg egentlig ikke kan huske å ha møtt
på svært lenge. Produksjonen er direkte - nesten som en
live-inspilling i studio - og så langt jeg kan registrere er
platen nærmest renset for studioproduksjonenes fiksfakseri. Det
handler enkelt og greit om et band som har vært i studio og
spilt inn noen låter. Lyden er rå, direkte og upolert - og
med Dylans band fungerer dette lydbildet perfekt. Det gir opplevelse
av tilstedeværelse og ikke minst av bandets timing. Lydbildet og
arrangementene gir Dylans rustikke stemme rom til å blomstre.
Det er åpenbart at både Dylan og bandet storkoser seg. Det
svinger til tider voldsomt - og aldri har jeg hørt en Dylan med
høyere trampe-takten faktor enn her. Flere av låtene er
så dansbare at en havner på dansegulvet nesten enten en
vil eller ei. "Love and Theft" kan lett vise seg å være
Dylans mest kommersielt tilgjengelige utgivelse noen gang.
Gjennom de til sammen tolv låtene møter vi en nesten
selvmotsigende variasjon - men på et eller annet vis går
konseptet i hop. Albumet danner på mystisk vis en helhet - som
blir svært tydelig når en får sangene under huden.
"Love and Theft" - "kjærlighet og tyveri". Det har blitt hevdet
at den umodne kunstneren plagierer, mens den modne stjeler. På
"Love and Theft" leverer Dylan tolv egenkomponerte låter med
originalitet og personlig preg - samtidig som det er åpenbart at
han øser fra den tradisjonen han elsker så høyt.
Det er det dette albumet handler om - tradisjoner, røtter og
kjærlighet. Dylan sier selv om platen: "It's more like a
greatest hits album, volume one or volume two - but without the hits,
not yet, anyway." Bak spøken skjuler det seg et alvor. Platen
er en rundreise i et musikalsk landskap som dekker et stort spekter av
rotfestede amerikanske sjangre. Albumets merkelapp er bluesorienterte
Dylan sanger - men det er langt fra hele sannheten. Slik jeg ser det
kan albumets sanger inndeles i tre kategorier; For det første
dreier det seg om tre, fire rendyrkede Dylan låter - som
fremstår på sine egne premisser og med sin egen styrke
både musikalsk og tekstmessig. Fire, fem låter kan
betegnes som sjanger-låter hvor Dylan spinner rundt opptrukne
blues og rock konsepter - dog med sin helt egen tilnærming til
stoffet. Den siste kategorien overasker mest - for her tar Dylan
på seg stråhatten og trer inn i tretti- og
førtiårenes musikk. Med crooner stemme fremfører
han sin kjærlighetserklæring til sanger som åpenbart
har betydd mye. "Poor boy", "Floater" og "Moonlight" - er nesten
vanvittige til Dylan å være, men i denne innpakningen
fungerer de både troverdig og meningsfylt.
Dylan har denne gangen ikke tatt bryet med å hente inn en
superprodusent Lanois eller andre musikere utover turnébandet han
omgir seg med. Han har dog hanket inn den gamle ringreven Augie
Myers på tangenter. Resultatet er at bandet fremstår med
sin oppbygd rutine, samtidig som de nye låtene forløses i
et rått og potent konsertlignende uttrykk. Larry Campbell
utfyller lydbildet ved jevnlig å bytte ut gitaren med mandolin
eller fiolin. En stødige bass samt en potent og ganske
fremtredende perkusjon gir musikken fundament. Bandet behersker
stemninger som varierer fra det vare og nære til et røft
uttrykk. Til tider føles røyken å ligge tett
oppunder taket i et eller annet imaginært kjellerlokale.
Så kan en seg da spørre - hvor vil Dylan med dette - og
har han levert nytt mesterverk? Sant og si synes det umulig å
svare på dette nå. For på den ene side er albumet et
fyrverkeri hvor Dylans forvaltning av den musikalske arven i
kombinasjon med et band med en nesten vanvittig spilleglede,
gjør utgivelsen utrolig morsom å lytte til. På den
annen side - kan en konstatere at den tekstmessige delen av albumet
ikke i utgangspunktet synes å være like dypsindig og
poetisk som Dylan kan være på sit mest intense. Enkelte
tekstpassasjer reddes nok mer av Dylans tilstedeværelse og
formidling enn av at det er stor lyrikk. Men det finnes - både
"Mississippi", "Highwater" og "Sugar Baby" er Dylan perler. Dylan har
levert et solid album, med appell langt utover menigheten. Når
Grammy-prisene skal deles ut neste år, spår jeg at han
nomineres i de fleste klasser innenfor, rock, folk og blues. Så
variert er dette albumet!
Jeg lar terningen være utkastet - og konstaterer at albumet
holder i massevis. Tiden får vise om det er et nytt mesterverk -
men det er svært lenge siden jeg har kost meg så mye med
en ny plate! Det er også verdt å merke seg at Dylan -
etter sin geniale utgivelse fra 1997, følger opp med et nytt
virkelig bra album. To "virkelig gode" på rad har egentlig ikke
Dylan levert siden 1976. Mesteren blomstrer fortsatt!"