- 09 Sep 01
For the most part, Love and Theft is made up of two distinct musical strands, blues-based floor-shakers and romantic, ragtimey ballads.
Welcome to Bob Dylan’s swinging sixties. And his fearless forties. And his roaring twenties. If this is theft, it’s the crime of the century, as Dylan raids a hundred years of American music. And if it’s love, it’s the infectious passion of a man who, in returning to the roots of it all, appears to have uncovered a whole new lust for life.
Last time we encountered Dylan on record, on 1997’s sometimes astounding Time Out Of Mind, we found him teetering on the brink, staring into the abyss, stretched on his grave and, on at least five songs, making great art out of life and death itself. If, as he has said himself, the darkest hour comes right before the dawn – on Blood On The Tracks’ ‘Meet Me In the Morning’, whose slide guitar blues which would fit neatly into this new collection – then Love And Theft can be seen as the fruits of the exorcism. Sure, there are still a few hellhounds on his trail – he’s alive, isn’t he? – but with a lot of his demons confronted and faced down, this is the most playful, loose-limbed and downright rockin’ he has been in years. Or, at least, most of the time. And we’ll get to those notable exceptions later.
The prevailing mood, if not always the style, will come as no surprise to those who saw Dylan tearing up Nowlan Park. Augmented by the wonderful keyboard work of Augie Meyers, this is the same band that, for quite some time, has been keeping the Never Ending show on the road and, in the process, inspiring some of Dylan’s most memorable live work since the heyday of The Band. For Love And Theft, they’ve effortlessly transferred that spirit into the studio; variously, this sounds like it could have been cut in a club, a jukejoint, a lounge, on the back porch or even, yes, in the basement.