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 ClausShe: "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?
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.)