#1 "Love and Theft" – Bob Dylan – 2001
1. "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum"
3. "Summer Days"
4. "Bye and Bye"
5. "Lonesome Day Blues"
6. "Floater (Too Much to Ask)"
7. "High Water (For Charley Patton)"
9. "Honest with Me"
10. "Po' Boy"
11. "Cry a While"
12. "Sugar Baby"
“Yes, I'm leaving in the morning just as soon as the dark clouds lift. Gonna break the roof in - set fire to the place as a parting gift.”
You simply aren’t allowed to be this bad ass and still be alive. You can’t be Robert Johnson or Hank Williams Sr. unless you’re dead. Part of what signifies and ignites their legend is that death hovers over their records when you listen to them. Somewhere in the middle of Summer Days you realize this stuff is just like Crossroad Blues or Lost Highway but the incalculable legend belting out Honest With Me is still alive, and has finally after all this time made the record he always wanted to.
Dylan himself produced "Love and Theft", he liked what Daniel Lanois did with Time Out of Mind but there was a sound, an immediacy of his live shows that he wanted to capture. Well, BAP! ZOOM! POW! He captured it, caged it up, poked sticks at it, made it angry, and then unhinged the cage.
“Jump into my wagon love, throw your panties overboard.”
He sings in High Water (For Charley Patton). When someone else, anyone else, does a song in honor of Charley Patton he is looking up, but not here, no way. Dylan is right beside him nudging him with his elbow. Love and Theft is atomic swagger, it’s as if everything he’d done before was so he could earn the right to make an album like "Love and Theft", to make a record that is full of Robert Johnson’s “the stuff I got will bust your brains out”.
I can completely see this scenario for context:
Some kid, 18 years old has been turned onto Dylan by hearing Time Out of Mind, "Love and Theft", and Modern Times. He goes back to Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde and says..
“Man that old stuff is great but I don’t know I just think "Love and Theft" is better.”
And what kills me is that you can’t dismiss the idea. "Love and Theft" is right on par, it is.
“Well, there's preachers in the pulpits and babies in the cribs
I'm longin' for that sweet fat that sticks to your ribs
I'm gonna buy me a barrel of whiskey - I'll die before I turn senile
Well, I cried for you - now it's your turn, you can cry awhile”
This crazy old bastard is tap dancing on burning coals in a dapper suit and walking cane!
“Well, the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay
You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long”
You simply aren’t allowed to be this bad ass and still be alive. "Love and Theft" is my best album of the decade. The world has simply never seen the likes of a Bob Dylan before. A songwriter with an unequaled catalog making records that haunt and inspire awe on the level with the likes of monumental ghosts like Charley Patton, Hank Williams, and Robert Johnson while still being around to grin in the face of it all.
So how do you wrap your head around all of it? Screw it, jump up on your coffee table – no seriously - turn Summer Days way up and just soak in the atomic swagger.
BAP! ZOOM! POW!