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Rich Banks

Rich Banks
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Salon.com
NOVEMBER 25, 2009 7:54AM

Diamonds and Rust, Live Blogging Christmas in the Heart

Rate: 8 Flag

 

Christmas in the Heart

 

Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart somewhat live-blogged review:

(I put on the record just as we sit down to dinner.)

1) Here Comes Santa Claus

She: "No, you're not doing this!"

 Me: "Sweetie, it's Bob Dylannnnnn... Please???"

She: (glaring intently.)

2) Do You Hear What I Hear?

Travis had told me about Dylan's voice being gone. Sadly, it's true.

 Many people don't know that "Do You Hear What I Hear?" is the official theme song of Christmasreviews.com, plus we have a lawyer. (Thanks for the tip o' the hat, Zimmie; we never hear that one enough!)

3) Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Ohhh, The Ditty Bops!! Nice! They were very nice to me once, when I was an aspiring rock photographer (ha!), at South by Southwest. 

She: (Not sharing my Ditty Bops moment.)

 4) Hark the Herald Angels Sing

You think you can imagine what a Bob Dylan Christmas CD would be like, don't you? Well, you're wrong. No one, besides Dylan himself, could possibly have imagined this crazy record!

Did Mr. Dylan undertake this project with a keen sense of irony, as some might have hoped?

Ummm, no.

She: "I have a migraine."

Me: (turn off music)

5) I'll Be Home For Christmas

I can imagine him sitting around a campfire, a tin can of pork and beans simmering, somewhere in the midwest, near the rail yard, looking to board the next slow-moving freight train back east.

I see a cold morning,  icicles glistening, a leafless tree with a single yellow ribbon blowing in the breeze.

Oh, it's the next morning, and I have earbuds in now.

6) The Little Drummer Boy

Dylan and The Ditty Bops are channeling The Ray Conniff Singers.

I was just enlightened. At 8:04 a.m. CDT on a Saturday.

7) The Christmas Blues

Ahhh, here comes the FM radio hit. Yep, it's a 12-bar blues. It almost swings.

8) Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful)

 Dylan is singing in Latin now. His voice sounds like some old guy trying to "do" Dylan.In Latin.

Now, some people will think Amanda and Abby give the recording a saccharine taste. But I'm here to tell you, those two are pure honey. I know they don't care, but I have the biggest crush on both of them!

9) Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

The gravel comes through most on the high notes. On a few low notes, you can still hear the Dylan of old. Wow, such a contrast with his backup vocalists.

10) Must Be Santa

God, this is a great song! Sorry, false sighting earlier: this one is the radio hit! Exquisite arrangement of a somewhat underused holiday chestnut. Nice! (Sometime, listen to Brave Combo perform this song. Their rendition is definitive.)

Bob Dylan must be Santa!

 11) Silver Bells

This is one of my favorite Christmas tunes. I don't know how many times I've felt the spirit of the season shining through this song. So, so many excellent renditions, this song adapts to a number of styles. La. I like the almost Nashville flavor Dylan chose for this. See, I think part of Dylan's genius is his complete lack of ironical distance fromhis increasingly traditional materian, his reverence for the old-fashioned. This tendency  really breaks through here. You know, it was popular for a time (maybe it still is) for the hipsters to sort of roll their eyes at Christmas music generally and popular artists' Christmas records particularly. It was an annual rite for many music critics; maybe it still is. For some, a Christmas album is itself artistic anathema. It may be partly generational, and gen-X-centered, and in that respect I am somewhat old-school, too, because I never "got" that angsty-jaded--they call it "snarky" now--vibe, myself. Bob Dylan didn't get it, either, because this is a completely true rendition of a '60s era Christmas record. Schmaltzy as hell after a eggnog and a couple of tall boys.

12) The First Noel

 Possibly the most religious of all the songs included on the album, I think I wish he had left it out.

13) Christmas Island

Is this a Ditty Bops record? What a great showcase for Amanda and Abby! You could insert Leon Redbone here in place of Dylan, and the arrangement still works. Maybe it works better. I don't know; Dylan is putting on a really nice tribute to American pop. His song choices are not second-rate.

14) The Christmas Song

Bob, meet Mel. Some called him the Velvet Fog. I'm resisting the urge to call you the Velvet Frog. No, I'm not.

15) O Little Town Of Bethlehem

Bobby, I just can't describe how happy I am that you did not sing Silent Night! Fifteen songs, and no Silent Effing Night! I'd sit through 1000 Little Bethlehems before I'd voluntarily listen to Silent Night again. If you had included Silent Night, I might have simply chunked all those old records, even Blood on the Tracks. You just can't know how relieved I am that you closed with this children's favorite instead.

This was nice, especially since I had already read several less than stellar reviews. Sure, it's schmaltzy. Sure, it's retro (It is extra-retro! The honey shot artwork inside was maybe Dylan's one wink to his audience. I took it to be a man's gesture, and I appreciated it.) And, yeah, his voice is gone. But even what's left sort of grows on you. And Bob Dylan (the artist we know, not the one his fans sometimes project) could not have released any Christmas album besides this one. A traditionalist and a pop purist, Christmas in the Heart aligns perfectly with his oeuvre.

Me: (Should I wake her, so she can hear the rest of this? I sure hope her migraine is better.)

 

 

 

 

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Comments

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No War on Christmas here. Dylan is opposed to war.
Well done. I'm buying this one today before I drive for hours.

Thanks for the funny review of the cd and of your wife's take on it all.
I have heard the whole thing and I personally thibnk it is pretty sad.
I have no love for the CD and do not plan to purchase it, Dylan or not Rich.
Thanks, waking. I've been waiting my whole life to review that record. It's like I was born for this one moment.
Rich, funny thing is I was talking to my son at lunch on his birthday Monday and he mentioned with pride that the store where he works is featuring this disc. Between the two of you, I think I should check it out.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and let Laura know I'm sending some Excedrin Migraine down to her by Express Mail.
Mission, I understand where you're coming from. But I cannot support you. It is a stunning Christmas record, and even if one evaluates the record qua record, it stands head and shoulders above most of what I hear, even without a single original cut.

Style, I loved more and more and I continued to be enthralled by the thing over the weekend.
Winter Wonderland!

Oh! (slaps forehead) that makes so much sense. I always thought it was "Walking in Women's Underwear"
Just reading this makes me protest that he made this album. O'Really funny!
Mr E., everyone celebrates Christmas in their own way. You go your way, I'll go mine (in my best imitation of Dylan's imitable voice).

O'Really, it is a spectacular album. My official review is here. (the second review on the page)
the title attracted me here and afterwards I had a good laugh, thanks to you, I have never heard 'Bobby' sing carols, but your post makes me curious, would look it up on you tube... happy thanksgiving
Rich, I really find this hard to believe?!?
Youtube has some clips of his horrible Christmas song, has Dylan gone mad?!? Oy! I totally agree with your dear wife, I now have a migraine too!
I did find a really cute youtube video to share here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFDzeHP46j8
take a peek!
rated:)
Mr. Zimmerman must be hitting the pipe pretty hard.
Rich, I don't think some of the commentors have any idea what you do "on the side".

That aside, I can't Decide if this CD is supposed to be ironic or not. I never Know with Dylan.

In any case, thanks for the review. I look forward to the bluesy cuts.
Rich,
This is hilarious...!
Dylan lost his voice? Not sure that he had one to begin with but have loved his gravely voice. The worst duet was his with Johnny Cash.
Merry Christmas and bless you for your earphones!
I have a lot of Bob Dylan material. I buy all his CDs when they come out. I think he may well be the greatest songwriter of all time.

But....I wouldn't take this turkey in a gift.
This sounds scary. But then my favorite Christmas songs are Joni Mitchell's The River which kinda makes you sad on purpose and the original Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sung by a cowboy guy whose name I forget but we had the album when I was young and I loved it. You have any Cajun Christmas albums? I like those.
Cheers, Rolling!

Debbs4, GeeBee, you must be joking!

o'stephanie, you're right the Johnny Cash recordings and appearances are corny, but I that schmaltzy part is a real part of his musical character that I nevertheless embrace.

Connie Mack, certainly the video supports your point. I really don't know. I tend to think Irony and its cousin, Snark, are more of a young person's game. Dylan, early boomer, is on full display here. He is nostalgic and real. Anyone who doesn't see his greatness in showing so many facets through these holiday chestnuts, well! So many times, his vocalizations are existential and angsty like the guy who invented the pose, and not like the thousands who followed him.

bobbot, no doubt.

Stellaa, you're welcome. You rock!
Dorinda, Dylan opens his set with Gene Autry's composition Here Comes Santa Claus. And you're right: the singing cowboy is famous for his rendition of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Opinions are going to vary on what Bob Dylan has done here, but it has my highest recommendation.