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"Love and Theft" reviews

Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2001 13:25:05 EDT
Subject: my review of "L&T"

"Love And Theft"  
Columbia Records

   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
 gallows humor:
                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
                Highwater everywhere

     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!



From: 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 Nobody sees 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 repeated. 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 tranquility--forever. 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, and followed? "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 album.

Tweedle Dum 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.

Mississippi 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 Mercy.

Summer Days 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 jazzy.

Lonesome Days Blues The third side of the album. Powerful rock blues, in the style of stuff like Cold Irons Bound. Great guitar riff, probably Charlie.

Floater 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.

High Water 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 listened to.

Moonlight 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.

Poor Boy Another one that I don't like that much (for now...). Another mellow country ballad. Too much sugar...

Cry Awhile Rock blues, not so thrilling. Sounds like routine.

Sugar Baby 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 Dylan's melody.

  Newsgroups: Subject: "LaT" First songs From: SDW Date: 17 Aug 2001 21:14:27 -0700 Organization: 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 Bob Dylan Larry Campbell Charlie Sexton Tony Garnier David Kemper Augie Meyers and all you other masked marauders. No coward souls are yours. Exhilarating stuff, people. Completely outre, parlay vew? God's own jukebox.
  Bob Dylan "Love And Theft" Columbia Records ***** (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 11. 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 results. 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 only knew." 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 abilities. 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!"

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