Review #411: Love and Theft, Bob Dylan

Karla Clifton
4 min readJul 5, 2023

#411: Love and Theft, Bob Dylan

Wow, the final Bob Dylan album. Look at that pencil stache. So very 2001 of him. Can you believe he’s 82? That this was his 31st album, that he’s made nine more since?

This album came after Time Out of Mind, which had the eternally beautiful “Make You Feel My Love” on it. Unfortunately, shortly after that record was released, Dylan almost died of histoplasmosis, an infection which apparently is “caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings.” (How did he even GET that?) Even more unfortunately, the proximity of these two events sort of made everyone believe that TOOM was about mortality — which pissed Bob Dylan off. (Can’t blame him, I also hate it when people bring up the fact that I’m going to die someday!)

Love and Theft, on the other hand, is a fiery, lively record, captured over 12 spontaneous days in May. If you love hearing musical prodigies when they’re riffing, you’ll love this record — see “Summer Days” and “Lonesome Days Blues” for some verrry sassy guitar riffs, and “Bye and Bye” for some jazzy ones. That said, if you hate Bob Dylan’s voice normally, then you’ll hate this one even more than usual. Good ol’ Bob sounds about a hundred and five here. (See “Cry a While.”)

Nearly two years ago I reviewed Blood On the Tracks, where I mentioned that Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. Well, Love and Theft reminded me that there’s a reason he won. There’s some really beautiful poetry here, my favorite being “Mississippi,” simply because of how it caught my imagination. What sort of consequences are in store for a person who stayed in Mississippi a day too long? Also see: “Moonlight,” “Honest With Me,” and “Sugar Baby.”

But that’s par for the course for any Bob Dylan album. Something different here is how goddamn funny he is. The opening song is “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum,” for crying out loud. Here’s a joke from “Po’ Boy”: Knockin’ on the door, I say, “Who is it?”… Man says, “Freddy!” I say, “Freddy who?” He says, “Freddy or not, here I come!” That’s right, Bob Dylan tells worse dad jokes than your dad.

There’s one song that actually drew a minor bit of controversy. People discovered similarities between some lyrics on “Floater (Too Much to Ask)” and the 1989 biography Confessions of a Yazuka by Junichi Saga. However, Saga wasn’t that pressed about it, and said himself that he was “very flattered” by the implication that Bob Dylan had plagiarized him. Bob was not nearly as amused, saying in Rolling Stone that only “wussies and pussies complain about that stuff.” (Nice, Uncle Bob.) But then he makes a salient point: “In folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition,” bitterly adding, “It’s true for everybody but me. There are different rules for me.” I did take note of how many references and quotations Dylan used — he namedrops Joe Turner, Bertha Mason, and Charles Darwin in “High Water (For Charley Patton)” alone.

All that being said, I’m gonna be honest here: I don’t think this album needs to be on the RS Top 500 list. Not because I don’t think it’s brilliant, it clearly is, it’s just that we’re in the bottom fifth of the list now, and I’m starting to notice some egregious oversights. Where is emo pop on this list? I guarantee you that most working music critics have seen Fall Out Boy live at some point. So where is Infinity On High? Paramore’s Riot? No Panic!? And for that matter, where is Limp Bizkit? Where is the Titanic soundtrack?

We’ve traveled nearly 100 years in the past now, and I know 25 of those years pretty well, and they are massively underrepresented, is all I’m saying. It doesn’t take anything away from Bob Dylan to axe his eighth inclusion. Why not acknowledge the great young artists, too? Twenty-year-old Bob Dylan never had to compete with seventy-year-old Bob Dylan.

Unfun Fact: This album was released on 9/11. There are a whole bunch of albums that came out in 2001 that will be remembered for their proximity to 9/11, which I think is weird. See: Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, PJ Harvey’s Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, The Strokes Is This It

Review #410: Wild Honey, The Beach Boys

Review #412: Going To A Go-Go, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles