Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Bob Dylan: Love and Theft [Columbia, 2001]
Before minstrelsy scholar Eric Lott gets too excited about having his title stolen--"He loves me! Honey, Bob Dylan loves me!"--he should recall that Dylan called his first cover album Self-Portrait. Dylan meant that title, of course, and he means this one too, which doesn't make "Love and Theft" his minstrelsy album any more than Self-Portrait's dire "Minstrel Boy" was his minstrelsy song. All pop music is love and theft, and in 40 years of records whose sources have inspired volumes of scholastic exegesis, Dylan has never embraced that truth so warmly. Jokes, riddles, apercus, and revelations will surface for years, but let those who chart their lives by Dylan's cockeyed parables tease out the details. I always go for tone, spirit, music. If Time Out of Mind was his death album--it wasn't, but you know how people talk--this is his immortality album. It describes an eternal circle on masterful blazz and jop readymades that render his grizzled growl as juicy as Justin Timberlake's tenor--Tony Bennett's, even. It's profound, too, by which I mean very funny. "I'm sitting on my watch so I can be on time," he wheezes, because time he's got plenty of. A+