Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Love and Theft - Bob Dylan
"Love and Theft"
"Love and Theft" is the 31st studio album by Bob Dylan, released by Columbia Records on September 11, 2001. It featured backing by his touring band of the time, with keyboardist Augie Meyers added for the sessions. It peaked at #5 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified with a gold album by the RIAA. A limited edition release included two bonus tracks on a separate disc recorded in the early 1960s, and two years later, on September 16, 2003, this album was one of fifteen Dylan titles reissued and remastered for SACD hybrid playback.
The album continued Dylan's artistic comeback following 1997's Time Out of Mind, and was given an even more enthusiastic reception. Though often referred to without quotations, the correct title is "Love and Theft". The title of the album was apparently inspired by historian Eric Lott's book Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, which was published in 1993. "Love and Theft becomes his Fables of the Reconstruction, to borrow an R.E.M. album title", writes Greg Kot in The Chicago Tribune (published September 11, 2001), "the myths, mysteries and folklore of the South as a backdrop for one of the finest roots-rock albums ever made."
The opening track, "'Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum', includes many references to parades in Mardi Gras in New Orleans, where participants are masked, and "determined to go all the way" of the parade route, in spite of being intoxicated. "It rolls in like a storm, drums galloping over the horizon into ear shot, guitar riffs slicing with terse dexterity while a tale about a pair of vagabonds unfolds," writes Kot. "It ends in death, and sets the stage for an album populated by rogues, con men, outcasts, gamblers, gunfighters and desperados, many of them with nothing to lose, some of them out of their minds, all of them quintessentially American.
"They're the kind of twisted, instantly memorable characters one meets in John Ford's westerns, Jack Kerouac's road novels, but, most of all, in the blues and country songs of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. This is a tour of American music—jump blues, slow blues, rockabilly, Tin Pan Alley ballads, country swing—that evokes the sprawl, fatalism and subversive humor of Dylan's sacred text, Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, the pre-rock voicings of Hank Williams, Charley Patton and Johnnie Ray, among others, and the ultradry humor of Groucho Marx."
Offered the song by Dylan, Sheryl Crow later recorded an up-tempo cover of "Mississippi" for her The Globe Sessions, released in 1998, before Dylan revisited it for Love and Theft. Subsequently the Dixie Chicks made it a mainstay of their Top of the World, Vote for Change, and Accidents & Accusations Tours.
As Tim Riley of NPR notes, "[Dylan's] singing [on Love and Theft] shifts artfully between humble and ironic...'I'm not quite as cool or forgiving as I sound,' he sings in 'Floater,' which is either hilarious or horrifying, and probably a little of both."
"Love and Theft is, as the title implies, a kind of homage," writes Kot, "[and] never more so than on 'High Water (for Charley Patton),' in which Dylan draws a sweeping portrait of the South's racial history, with the unsung blues singer as a symbol of the region's cultural richness and ingrained social cruelties. Rumbling drums and moaning backing vocals suggest that things are going from bad to worse. 'It's tough out there,' Dylan rasps. 'High water everywhere.' Death and dementia shadow the album, tempered by tenderness and wicked gallows humor."
"'Po Boy', scored for banjo with lounge chord jazz patterns, 'almost sounds as if it could have been recorded around 1920," says Riley. "He leaves you dangling at the end of each bridge, lets the band punctuate the trail of words he's squeezed into his lines, which gives it a reluctant soft-shoe charm."
The album closes with "Sugar Baby", a lengthy, dirge-like ballad, noted for its evocative, apocalyptic imagery and sparse production drenched in echo. Praising it as "a finale to be proud of," Riley notes that "Sugar Baby" is "built on a disarmingly simple riff that turns foreboding."
No. Title Length
1. "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" 4:46
2. "Mississippi" 5:21
3. "Summer Days" 4:52
4. "Bye and Bye" 3:16
5. "Lonesome Day Blues" 6:05
6. "Floater (Too Much to Ask)" 4:59
7. "High Water (For Charley Patton)" 4:04
8. "Moonlight" 3:23
9. "Honest With Me" 5:49
10. "Po' Boy" 3:05
11. "Cry a While" 5:05
12. "Sugar Baby" 6:40
Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, piano, producer
Larry Campbell – guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin
Charlie Sexton – guitar
Augie Meyers – accordion, Hammond B3 organ, Vox organ
Tony Garnier – bass
David Kemper – drums
Clay Meyers – bongos
Chris Shaw – recording engineer