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Music Review: Bob Dylan – Christmas In The Heart

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What do Currier and Ives have in common with Bettie Page? Their images accompany Dylan's new CD produced by Jack Frost (a pseudonym for himself).

It's hard to imagine Dylan without a wry smile on his face while singing these Christmas favorites in classic camp style. Several of the musicians on this project have been in Dylan's touring band, including Tony Garnier and Donnie Herron. All current and future royalties from this project go to Feeding America — an attempt to feed 1.4 million people over four million meals during the 2009 holiday season.

An old friend, a member of America's Greatest Generation, often described Dylan's singing style as "that talking singer," and several cuts on this CD certainly would make him smile ("I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "The Christmas Song"). Is it versatility or courage that prompts Dylan to tackle both traditional songs ("Here Comes Santa Claus" and Silver Bells) and religious favorites ("The First Noel and "O Little Town of Bethlehem")?

Maybe it's a desire to feed the needy and have a lot of fun doing it. My favorite cut is "Must Be Santa." When this track began, I thought Weird Al had come on. Accordions, tubas, and great background vocals introduce a rousing polka with a fast tempo. Dylan concert fans, already familiar with his penchant for changing melodies and lyrics of old favorites, will be right at home with this CD. "Must Be Santa" includes a fast-paced lyrical tribute to previous presidents substituting for reindeer names.

Diction and clarity have rarely been Dylan's hallmarks, but this time you can understand every word. Christmas In The Heart features a coarse sandpaper-textured voice that channels Louis Armstrong. Indeed, when Dylan sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," I thought I was hearing "Wonderful World"!

Even though it is easy to see that Dylan is enjoying himself and having fun, it sounds like he's having trouble breathing. The phrasing sounds like it's controlled by a shortness of breath. All in all though,  it's a delightful experience especially his cover of "Christmas Island" and you'll soon be singing along. Hang your stockings and say your prayers, cause Dylan sings Christmas tonight!

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  • includes a fast-paced lyrical tribute to previous presidents substituting for reindeer names
    One thing you can say about Dylan-he has his own unique way of doing things. Never boring.

    But yeah. I’ve always had to listen to his songs more than once to understand what he’s saying.

  • MattKlomp

    Interesting review! As strange as this album looked on paper, I think Dylan really pulls it off. The album’s also helping a great cause in Feeding America, so all the more reason to feel good about this one.

  • Bentmont Wood

    Your general practitioner has trouble breathing…

  • jc

    “Diction and clarity?’ Listen to the old records, jackas; plenty of both.