Billboard Hot 100 Fest

Love and Theft

Few '60s icons still inspire the sort of anticipation that is rife for the follow-up to Bob Dylan's latter-day high-water mark, 1997's Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind.

Few '60s icons still inspire the sort of anticipation that is rife for the follow-up to Bob Dylan's latter-day high-water mark, 1997's Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind. With Love and Theft, Dylan trumps all expectations with a very different kind of masterpiece, one that channels a century's worth of archetypal American song forms into a jubilant travelogue of gutbucket rock, front-porch folk, and tin-pan alley pop. Wearing his years lightly—"feeling like a fighting rooster"—Dylan sings with deep blues feeling and sly, ironic humor; he helmed the album himself, leading his versatile road band with a deft hand. The 78-rpm swing of "Bye Bye," the Delta soul of "High Water (For Charley Patton)," and the roadhouse ramble of "Honest With Me" are reference points, but Love and Theft is very much of a piece, a sublime 12-song rumination on fleeting romance and enduring memory, the poetry of place names and the potency of song.—BB