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Love and Theft
Bob Dylan has been a wily chameleon throughout his illustrious musical career bohemian poet, icon of the protest movement, Judas to the folk traditionalists, reborn religious messenger, Traveling Wilbury, washed-up troubadour and eccentric genius.
Through much of the last 20 years of Dylan's career, there have been flashes of brilliance, but the majority of his work has seemed dry and passionless.
Even his 1997 Grammy-winning masterpiece Time Out of Mind seemed shrouded in shadow.
Love and Theft sets a whole new tone for one of the most important cultural icons of our time.
Each track is imbued with a playfulness and insightful irony that Dylan has been missing for decades. It's almost as if Dylan has examined his own mortality and shortcoming, and realized there's still reason to smile.
As you listen to the album, you can envision Dylan's time-worn face locked into a permanent mischievous grin, such as in the jazzy track "Summer Days" where Dylan croons, "Well I'm going through the flats in a worn out car /the girls all say I'm a worn out star."
One thing is clear: he is far from worn out. This album is stunning.
"Mississippi" is one of the finest tracks on the album, a playful Dylan-esque retort to a former lover set over the musical blend of acoustic guitar and a variety of string accompaniment.
The simplistic story-telling splendour of "Po' Boy" brings the audience back to Dylan's early folk-singing days when his songs were elaborate tales woven into a lyrical tapestry.
Overall, Love and Theft combines the folk, rock, jazz, blues and grassroots elements which have fluctuated in and out of Dylan's style throughout his entire career.
Yet after so long, it seems like Dylan is having fun being Dylan again.