Christmas In The Heart

Bob Dylan

You can imagine the grins and guffaws at the notion of Bob Dylan of singing traditional holiday hymns. Then again, for the last few years, Dylan’s been caving in to a lot of activities no one ever dreamed he’d do — writing Bob Dylan Chronicles: Volume One, making the Don’t Look Back documentary with Martin Scorsese, having his own radio show. Perhaps Christmas In The Heart is the next logical step in the Bard’s attempt at fun-for-the entire-family accessibility.

Drop the needle, so to speak, and the gruff voice singing “Here Comes Santa Clause,” Winter Wonderland,” “Silver Bells’and 12 other Christmas classics is, at once, warm, comforting, nostalgic. And not just in an it's-getting-to-be-late-Fall-so-let's-get-in-the-mood-for-the-holidays way; rather, the record sparkles in a pure Americana kind of way. This is a Rockwell painting come to life — not some kind of ironic commentary on the past. Dylan surprisingly captures the spirit perfectly without sounding foolish or facetious. It baffles the mind, but this could very well turn out to be one of his most memorable records.

The playing is excellent throughout, although the Mixed Voice Singers tend to get a bit gushy and over-the-top at times. Naysayers may think it’s all one big joke, but Dylan admirers will recognize this album is much better than it has a right to be. Still, it wouldn’t be Dylan without touches of humor here and there. See if you can spot the altered lyrics in the polka-like “Must Be Santa” (“Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen/Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton”). And the colorful and alluring picture of Bettie Page on the backside of the CD booklet seems to tie the whole thing together in some strange way. After almost 50 years, what could be better than discovering that someone as enigmatic and iconic as Bob Dylan has Christmas In The Heart.

~ Shawn Perry

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