Bob Dylan | Love and Theft | Columbia

Love and Theft, Bob Dylan’s 43rd album is Forest Gump without the upbeat, guileless hero. It is a full-bore binge through the hardest-drinking juke joints of America’s pop-music past. And not one bottle is left unfinished.

The first song, “Mississippi,” gallops with a pace that would fit highlights clipped from an old television western mixed in with footage of road-lane paint whizzing under the wheels of a muscle car. Dylan’s voice is now a sight to hear; it deviates from the laws which govern it – jangling at the last second, stirring from its slumber – to punctuate a phrase or eerily break as only chaos decides.

A solo and a Chuck Berry chord structure shape “Summer Days,” an almost perfect tribute to the days just before Bob Dylan, when Rock ‘n’ Roll literally was a dirty word. On “Moonlight,” a deeper venture into America’s musical past, he assuredly croons, “It takes a thief to catch a thief / Who does the bell toll for love? / It tolls for you and me.” There is a scintillating touch of Southern hospitality that pervades Love and Theft, like the quick tug of a skirt above the ankle during the fit of a baptismal dance.

On the back cover, his pencil-thin mustache and long, hungry look give Dylan the semblance of an MGM cartoon wolf – all dressed in white and ready to sink his teeth into the next helpless rube to pass his way. The sermon is meant to mesmerize the audience while he silently ushers its daughters through the side room door.

With Love and Theft we have not just another chapter in an ongoing saga, but a collected work with an intensely personal note presented by the author himself. He seems to be relating to us his mood; he wants to stir up a little trouble, storm the barns and get into a barroom brawl over a dame he’s never met. Fortunately for us, we are all his good drinking buddies. [Patrick Wright].