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Bob DylanBob Dylan, Love And Theft (Columbia 2001) - Bob Dylan - an icon in our minds, even if he disdains the honor - delivers a smash performance on Love And Theft. Backed by his well-oiled touring band, Dylan delivers a rocking performance with absolute clarity of mind.

While Dylan's last album, Time Out Of Mind, won the 1997 Grammy for Album of the Year, I found it too dark. The new album is Dylan with a bullet, ready to invite you in, ready to let it hang out.

Bob DylanAnd that seems to be the characteristic that has distinguished Dylan during the last half decade. While some of his early 90s work found Dylan almost mumbling, his recent efforts have reestablished him as one of the most compelling performers in American pop, even at age 60.

The band on Love And Theft includes Charlie Sexton on electric guitar, Tony Garnier on bass, David Kemper on drums, Larry Campbell on guitar, violin, banjo and mandolin, and Augie Meyers on vox organ, B-3 and accordion. The album was produced by Dylan under his clever nom de plume, Jack Frost.

Bob Dylan"Lonesome Day Blues" has a steady, chugging feel. Dylan also shows a more lighthearted side on "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" (also appearing in the new movie, Bandits). Yet Dylan the pissed-off social commentator remains alive and well on songs like "Honest With Me" and "Mississippi."

Dylan also won an Oscar last year for his contribution to The Wonder Boys. Dylan still has the odd little mustache that he wore for his affecting performance at the Academy Awards. Dylan was recently interviewed at length by Rolling Stone. Here's what he had to say:

About Time Out of Mind: "There were myriad musicians down there. At that point in time, I didn't have the same band I have now. I was just kind of auditioning players here and there for a band, but I didn't feel like I could trust them man-to-man in the studio with unrecorded songs.

Bob Dylan"There were things I had to throw out because this assortment of people just couldn't lock in on riffs and rhythms all together. I got so frustrated in the studio that I didn't really dimensionalize the songs. I could've if I'd had the willpower . . .

"I feel there was a sameness to the rhythms. It was more like that swampy, voodoo thing that Lanois is so good at."

Bob DylanHis live performances: "There was a show in Switzerland when the techniques failed me, and I had to come up another one really quick. I was kind of standing on a different foundation at that point and I realized, 'I could do this.' I found that I could do it effortlessly - that I could sing night after night and never get tired. I could project it out differently . . .

"Not only that, but Lonnie Johnson, the blues-jazz player, showed me a technique on the guitar in maybe 1964. I hadn't really understood it when he first showed it to me. It had to do with the mathematical order of the scale on a guitar, and how to make things happen, where it gets under somebody's skin and there's really nothing they can do about it, because it's mathematical."

Bob DylanThe new album: "Every one of the records I've made has emanated from the entire panorama of what America is to me. America, to me, is a rising tide that lifts all ships, and I've never really sought inspiration from other types of music. My problem in writing songs has always been how to tone down the rhetoric in using the language . . .

"The whole album deals with power. If life teaches us anything, it's that there's nothing men and women won't do to get more power. The album deals with power, wealth, knowledge, and salvation - the way I look at it. It's a great album - which I hope it is - it's because it deals with great themes. It speaks in a noble language."

Bless the Boy from Hibbing.

Anita LaneAnita Lane, Sex O'Clock (Mute Records 2001) - Bad seeds don't fall too far from the tree. That's how it is with Anita Lane, one of the founding members of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds. Sex O'Clock is a loop-driven collection, with an emphasis on moods and adventures in the boudoir.

In addition to being an original Bad Seed, Anita also co-wrote such Nick Cave notables as "From Her to Eternity" and "Stranger Than Kindness."

Anita LaneSex O'Clock opens strongly with the driving thrust of "Hope Is Where the Hatred Is," a song written by Gil Scott-Heron. The album was produced by Mick Harvey and recorded primarily at Atlantis Studios in Melbourne, Australia.

The strings were arranged by Bertrand Burgalat, and backing vocals were provided by Jayney Klimek.

Anita LaneAside from the hedonistic string combo, all the instruments were provided by fellow Bad Seed Mick Harvey. Harvey and Lane produce a timeless sexual groove on songs like "(I Think That I'll Make Love) To The Next Man That I See" and the standout track on the album, the sultry "Do That Thing."

With an emphasis on "Tantric Action" and getting to "Do The Kamasutra," Anita weaves a sensual (but not explicit) groove, mixing desire, lust, and bittersweet love. Because of the use of beats and loops, there's a certain sameness to some of the songs. But when Anita finds her groove, you're in for a sweet ride.

Bad RonaldBad Ronald, Four Stars (Reprise 2001) - Bad Ronald are three MCs and a DJ who heard all the trash-talking rap and decided they were going to get some for themselves. Thus, we have Four Stars, whose basis premise his illuminated by the line "Smoke Good Weed/Get a Long-lasting High."

Yes, Bad Ronald is all about white boys who are into dopin', drinkin', and partying. Yet the beats are catchy, and the band has its own "phat-ass hooks."

Bad RonaldBad Ronald consists of Doug Ray, White Owl, Kaz Gamble, and D.J. Deetalx. The foursome have their own version of twisted, ex-rated freestyles: witness "Jaime's Throwing Up In The Bathroom."

Four Stars starts with the song "Let's Begin," with its intro "We're going to light the weed/Tap the keg/Shoot the shit/Now let's begin." The album was produced by Pop Roxxx, the New York City-based production team consisting of the Freshmaka and Duke Mushroom.

Bad RonaldThe album carries a serious parental advisory warning sticker, yet the foursome isn't heavy, and will make you smile. Explains Doug Ray, "It's a dream come true. We consider ourselves to be the luckiest fools on the entire planet. It's our job to get fucked up, rap about it, meet weird people, and travel all over. Who wouldn't want that job?"

I'll leave that question unanswered. Listen to "Popcorn Titties" and decide for yourself.

- Randy Krbechek © 2002

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