Love and Theft  Bob Dylan’s Southern Journey Through Time Finally Shines On Mobile Fidelity Vinyl (Where's Your Copy?)

(If Music Direct took your order, when the second half of the 3000 copies are pressed you will receive it. MD stopped taking orders once the 3000 copies had been sold out) .

Talk about bad luck: Love And Theft Bob Dylan’s first album in four years, his 43rd (at the time, including live and studio) and the follow up to the million-selling, triple-Grammy Award winning (including “Album of the Year”) Time Out of Mind had a September 11th, 2001 drop date. Buildings dropped instead.

The attack didn’t prevent the album, which sounds like a wild “roots” re-imagining of the stuff Dylan probably heard as a kid on the radio, from becoming another best seller and Grammy Award winner (for Best Contemporary Folk Album).

Backed by his touring band that then and now included guitarist Charlie Sexton and bassist Tony Garnier, Dylan tears furiously through a set of 12 bars blues, swing, rock-a-billy and folk beginning with the opener “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” that musically could have appeared on Highway 61 Revisited, though when he’s pushing it as on the opener Dylan’s now diminished voice here kind of sounds like Mickey Katz’s tbh with you, though Mickey too was a great singer!

Dylan opens the epic “Mississippi” with “Every step of the way, we walk the line/Your days are numbered, so are mine” and later prophetically sings “Sky full of fire, came pouring down…”.

It’s a heavy song of entrapment, suffocation and regret yet it’s somehow optimistic too. It’s followed by “Summer Days”— a raucous, humorous Lindy-hop jump sung by a Cadillac driving guy “with a house on the hill” and that’s followed by an old school shuffle that glides easily along with a Les Paul style guitar fill and a Leon Redbone feel, though the lyrics are downright creepy.

Same with the hilariously bizarre and cartoony “Floater (Too Much to Ask)” with lines like “I’m in love with my second cousin/I tell myself I could be happy forever with her.” Okay….

When you’re finished listening to this Southern romp filled with dark humor—sometimes vicious— you’ll have traveled through time and place and sit in wonderment at Dylan’s still rumbling imagination, even if some of it is borrowed. Who doesn’t borrow? You float through “Moonlight” thinking the edge is off, and you’re hit with the barbed wire “Honest With Me.” The record covers a lot of territory musically and lyrically. It’s been picked apart mercilessly by the Dylan-obsessives, but it’s more fun to just listen and pick up passing references than it is to academically analyze.

The original vinyl double LP (Columbia C2 85975) was cut by Ray Janos at Sterling Sound, with mastering credit going to the late George Marino. That tells you it was cut from a digital source. My ears tell me it was cut from the CD master. Because the original vinyl was rare, it goes for big bucks despite the just okay sound.

It’s a fine Chris Shaw recording (the same engineer responsible for Rough and Rowdy Ways. Unlike Oh Mercy, which was originally mixed to DAT (and which Mobile Fidelity has also reissued without the “Original Master Recording” band across the jacket top), Love And Theft was recorded to tape. I write that because the hybrid SACD edition (Columbia CH90340—part of a box set) also includes a Chris Shaw surround sound mix produced at Sony Studios, N.Y. and there’s a “tape research” credit. But again, it could be that the tracks were recorded and mixed to tape but never assembled into a cutting master.

Maybe this was cut from the DSD master produced from the individual analog tape reels, which would qualify for the “Original Master Recording”? I don’t know. Mobile Fidelity says its still in print SACD was “mastered from the original master tapes” and is superior to the original out of print SACD to which I refer.

However, the source really doesn’t matter for three reasons: first because this double 45rpm limited to 3000 edition sounds far superior to the original double LP and second because it sounds better than the already fine sounding original SACD and third, it appears that this double 45rpm version is already sold out. Sorry it took so long to review. That said, if a used copy becomes available, if the price isn’t too stiff, it’s definitely worth obtaining. Love and Theft is one of Dylan’s finest later releases, and one of his best, period: dark, but so much fun, lyrically and sonically.

mraudioguru's picture

...this hasn't been released yet? I've had it on pre-order since the first day it was announced. Does anyone know for sure?

mraudioguru's picture order with Music Direct and it says "shippable", but it never shipped and I never got it. Looks like a phone call is in order.

Chemguy's picture

...everywhere. My order was cancelled by at the beginning of October. Quite a few people did get their copies, but the record quickly vanished. It’s awaiting repress.

Michael Fremer's picture
I'll double check.
mraudioguru's picture shipped the middle of September, so it was released. Not sure what happened to mine? Thanks for checking.

Michael Fremer's picture
Through MusicDirect and it accepted your order you will receive the record once the second half of the order has been pressed.
Tom L's picture

but new, sealed copies are available on Discogs and ebay starting at about $90.
This is my favorite of the "recent" Dylan albums. Lots of energy, great work from the band and memorable (though derivative) songs. I have the SACD so I won't be investing in the vinyl at that price.

mraudioguru's picture

...was $49.99. I actually just found a pretty low serial number for not much more than that. I will find out tomorrow from Music Direct, what the hell happened to mine. This is a first for me from Music Direct. They have always really taken care of me. I've known Jim (Davis) for many, many years. Wonderful man! GREAT company.

Michael Fremer's picture
You ordered a copy through MusicDirect and it accepted your order you will receive the record once the second half of the order has been pressed.
mraudioguru's picture

...being my fault, (well not really, but I'll take the blame). I have a Music Direct Credit Card and sometimes it doesn't process correctly. Music Direct has been wonderful in the past taking care of this, but this time I missed it and so did they. Problem solved.

AnalogJ's picture

It's funny you would say that the original double LP doesn't sound that good. I think it sounds really good. Maybe not demo quality, but a notch or two below that. And if you know my, you know that I have pretty finicky ears.

It's not enough of a must for me to spend $50 on this particular album, but I can assure that, my original copy anyway, is no slouch.

Michael Fremer's picture
It sounds good until you hear better! Start with a good source (probably 1/2" 2 track tape), digitize and it can't be terrible, just not optimal.....
AnalogJ's picture

That's often true. For example, Michael, the AP 45 of Bill Evans' Sunday At The Village Vanguard was thought to be very good, and I have it. But then I bought the MoFi UD1S of it, and the latter wipes the floor with the AP. (In contrast, the UD1S of Portrait In Jazz, is VERY close to the AP, only marginally better).

Certainly a pressing/mastering can sometimes unleash a particular album's potential. An original of a given record can be quite mediocre and a new one surprisingly superb.

But on an absolute scale, my original of Love And Theft sounds really, really good by any standard. Mastered by George Marino, and cut to vinyl by Ray Janos at Sterling, that vinyl pressing was in really good hands. Perhaps I read too much into your write-up of it, but my impression of your review was that the original is really mediocre. And it just isn't. I'd certainly give it, on an absolute scale, an 8/10. It's full-bodied, tonally well-balanced, pretty dynamic. Perhaps, on that same scale, the new one brings it up to 10/10. I'd still put that original against many LPs which ARE truly mediocre and this one will shine.

I may hear the MoFi at some point (which will not likely happen unless I have a friend who buys one) and be slayed, but I wouldn't say that my original sounds compromised, reigned in, or dead sounding.

Critter's picture

The MoFi has more clarity with the instrumentation and a greater dynamic range, but I feel closer to the band when listening to the original. The original has more life/energy/"punch". I suppose this is due to compression. Many audiophile releases have given me a similar impression.

jnp619's picture

Just pre ordered on Acoustic Sound. It said limited numbered addition but the cover looks different.

Michael Fremer's picture
You probably ordered a version from Music On Vinyl. No doubt cut from a digital source.
charliepress's picture

Several outlets are getting this in December, and Acoustic Sounds is one of them it seems.

jnp619's picture

Yes that is what I ordered. Thanks for the info.

jnp619's picture

To clarify I ordered the Mobile Fidelity double 45 from Acoustic Sound. Ill wait and see if it is fulfilled.

jdelpaggio's picture

I see this as well. I don't understand how this would be a pre-order when it's already released, apparently limited, and sold out by the manufacturer? It is also available for "preorder" on elusivedisc. Any insight is appreciated!

Michael Fremer's picture
What sometimes happens is that Mobile Fidelity/Music Direct fulfills its customers orders and the leaves the rest out in the cold. So we will see what happens...
charliepress's picture

No doubt that is true. I was just correcting your comment about it being the Music on Vinyl pressing that the person purchased. Usually Acoustic Sounds and Elusive Disc get Mofi pressings before anyone else besides Music Direct (because they are essentially Mofi). Indeed, the Train Mofi lp was at Acoustic Sounds when it was sold out at Mofi and Music Direct. It may not happen here, but something tells me copies were reserved by these 2 companies.

dbvl13's picture

Agree with Michael on this one. The original lp was just ok, good way to phrase it. i jumped on this one as soon as i saw it coming and i received my copy a couple of days after it was released. I think it is far superior to the original, a real pleasure to listen to if you are a Dylan fan.

john75's picture

I understand Love and Theft was recorded on tape:

The first full Bob Dylan album Chris Shaw did was 1999’s Love and Theft, which the engineer says was recorded at Clinton Studios in NYC—a studio that served the singer-songwriter’s needs well. “It’s a big, bright, airy room that has a nice, natural reverb that doesn’t slap back and decays evenly and naturally,” the engineer says. The console, a vintage Neve 8068, and a one-inch Studer A827 two-track for mixing (15 ips, no noise reduction), sealed the deal at a time when Dylan was recording exclusively to analog. (source:

Brilliant story about recording Moonlight here:

Well, I just listened and he definitely sings "stadows" on my Mofi, so it's cut from the tape!

nobonemovies's picture

trickling out on new vinyl formulation in very limited quantities. Mr. Fremer have you been secretly listening to them (Dylan & Costello)?

DODGE's picture

I'd like to know who stole my comment. I wrote a long piece about this LP a couple days ago when there were half the comments as now. It's one of my top 5 of Dylan's all time. I even looked at the preview to proofread it. Submitted it (or so I thought). Nowhere to be found. Maybe I missed a step? Does anyone know what gives? Thanks!

Michael Fremer's picture
I have no idea what happened. I certainly did not remove it!
DODGE's picture

Thank you for replying. I didn't mean to imply that anything nefarious was going on, I was just making a (bad) pun about the title of one of my favorite LP's. (Of which I found a new sealed copy on Discogs for way too much money). I was seriously wondering how I could have screwed up posting. It's so simple. I've been a fan of your writing all the way back to your TAS days. Thanks for helping keep analog alive. I never gave up on vinyl during the 80's. I even appreciated those who drank the kool aid and dumped their records, which I purchased for pennies on the dollar through the 90's. Those used record stores are mostly gone here in metro Detroit now, and I truly miss the browsing experience! Nothing like discovering something unknown and unusual, or taking a chance buying because of a cool cover, or exploring someone's back catalog at $3 or $4 bucks a pop. Discogs just isn't the same. As I reach my late 60's having amassed nearly 9000 records I can't express how much enjoyment and knowledge I've gained from your writing. Thanks again!
I can't wait to compare my original L&T with the MoFi!
Dave Clapp

rexlibris's picture

I have mine in hand. Ordered it from Acoustic Sounds. Haven't had a chance to listen, but I'm excited after your review.

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

I have a copy on the way. Mains Cables R Us have them if you are in the UK.

Martin's picture

This is one of my favourite Dylan records.
Can't speak to the original US vinyl, but I have two dutch pressed originals. As well as the original CD and the MoFi SACD.

The original Dutch pressed copies are pretty good. They sound a whole lot better than the CD, which sounds, well, like a CD.
The dutch pressed copies sound like they were done from 96/24 files and done nicely.

George Marino probably ran the original analog tapes through that 48/20 bit converted he also used on the AC/DC reissues. Making the original US pressing rather flat sounding. Not to speak ill of the dead, but apart from the 45 rpm Verves, I try to stay away from anything George Marino did for vinyl.

But, the Dutch pressed copies - sound very good.

I will be cleaning my MoFi copy of this - arrived a couple of weeks ago - next week and am really looking forward to it.

Martin's picture

The HD Tracks 96/24 download also sounds very good. And sounds like it has been well mastered - ie., not squashed.
The MoFi SACD sounds a little "warmer" maybe than the HD Tracks download, but both very good. If I had to choose, I would go for the HD Tracks download.

If I was guessing, from the way they sound, I would say that the dutch original LP I have was done from the 96/24 file that has made its way to HD Tracks.

jnp619's picture

Finally got my copy from Acoustic Sound. It was a little bit of a wait but well worth it.

Spewey's picture

1/4" / 15 IPS analog master to Direct Stream DIGITAL 256