Ranking Bob Dylan’s 33 Studio Albums: No. 13 — ‘Love and Theft’

August 21st, 2012

By Bill Spurge

Last year, I decided to complete my collection of Bob Dylan albums. I was a few albums and some odds and ends short, so I bought most and swapped items with a co-worker and fellow Dylan fanatic.

Then, in honor of the 50th anniversary of his first album, 1962’s Bob Dylan, I set out to rank every Dylan album and song. A monumental task, indeed. I listened to album after album, four or five times through. Even albums I knew in my sleep were placed under scrutiny.

Then came the hardest part: making the list. The albums came easier. The songs, not so easy.

My song list is coming soon. In the meantime, here’s my album-by-album ranking of Dylan’s 33 studio LPs (NOTE: Dylan has actually released 34 studio albums, but I’ve chosen not to include 2009’s Christmas In the Heart.)

These 33 album-ranking stories will take us right up to the release of Tempest, Dylan’s new album, which is scheduled to come out September 11. Enjoy!

No. 13 of 33: Love and Theft (2001)

Here’s another album I came close to ranking a notch or two higher. I find the lyrics humorous and biting at times, and there’s a nice mix of straight-forward rockers, blues and songs in the standards vein.

The opening track is one of my favorite Dylan songs — “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum.” It’s just an awesome, driving song, and I love the rockabilly-style playing. I also appreciate lines like “The rain beating down on my window pane / I got love for you and it’s all in vain / Brains in the pot, they’re beginning to boil / They’re dripping with garlic and olive oil.”

Another favorite is “Cry For Awhile,” another solid rocker with slide guitar and engaging tempo changes. “Mississippi” is probably the track critics like most; some call it Dylan’s best song of the 2000s. “Lonesome Days Blues” is reminiscent of “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat.” “Floater (Too Much To Ask)” feels like a ’20s-style, Paul McCartney-esque number. “Honest With Me” is a solid number with some slide guitar and lyrics like “I’m stranded in the city that never sleeps, some of these women they just give me the creeps.”

Newsweek ranked Love and Theft as the No. 2 album of the decade (I don’t remember what No. 1 was). Rolling Stone loved it too. I think it’s a pretty damn good piece of work. Dylan’s voice fits the music so well, no matter the state of his vocal chords by 2001.

Journalist Bill Spurge of New York City has been a Bob Dylan fan since 1974.

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