(Columbia) You can't keep a good man down, well not if he's Bob Dylan anyway. Just when we all thought he had finally passed into the tragic land of mediocrity, he surprised everyone with the Grammy Award-winning Time Out Of Mind. A dark record, that found Dylan finally surviving on his self-styled desolation row, it told of a bleak future for us all. However, it seems those days are behind him. Not only has this master of surprise come back with a record as good as his last, he has also found a lightness that has eluded him for years. Love And Theft is such an echo of the Dylan of old, in spirit at least, that you wonder what he's been taking for the past couple of years and, frankly, if we could have some too. For one thing, he has returned to poetry, rather than stark realism. Many of his old cast of characters are back, including Romeo and Juliet, preachers, bootleggers, Othello and the Devil; and they are up to all sorts of mischief. But more than that, it's the sound. Recorded live, with Dylan's long-serving road band, this is a stripped down, salt-of-the-earth production. This is no more evident than on the opener, Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee, which rips along, poking fun at the world. Similarly, Lonesome Day Blues and Honest With Me have elements of Highway 61 Revisited with their driving guitars and guttural lyrics. However, the standout track is Mississippi, in which Dylan, in a moment of both sadness and caustic humour, notes that 'You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way'. Maybe not, but it's clear that Bob isn't done with yet, not by a long shot.