CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART by Bob Dylan just rolled by, and I had to stop and have a listen. My quick take: it’ll be easy to make fun of. But only those who have patiently observed Dylan’s career over the decades, only those who have been heartbroken by the singer himself, can really wallow in the assurance that whatever digital zomboid “program-directing” husks still remain, they cannot fail now to include a track or two from this album (right next to Springsteen’s by-now-perennial live “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”) on the actual Xmas Day playlist of every still-existing radio station whose “jocks” would by then like to throttle frickin Mel Torme! (Bob makes it the five gagazillionth cover on this very record!)
Here are some other things you should know.
#1: It’s not a novelty record, like Shatner intoning. Dylan is serious: this is his Xmas album. Like it or not.
#2: All of Bob’s U.S. royalties are going to a national food bank in perpetuity, international monies will be donated to international charities.
#3: He sings. He doesn’t fake it, like Rex Harrison. He shows you that he knows what notes are, and if you think what I just said is funny, then you haven’t kept up with Bob for the last twenty years.
#4: He doesn’t care what you think about Christian blah-blah. He heard of Sammy Cahn long before you did, ‘cause about songwriting, he does care. He intends an album you can enjoy for the “Holidays.” (This is my very first record which iTunes automatically placed in that sorely needed genre.)
#5: One day, if global warming doesn’t seize us first, your grandchildren will look up from their quantum-whatevers that you just bought them for Christmas, and if you’ve raised them correctly, they’ll say, “Grampa [or Gramma], who’s that guy who sounds like Louis Armstrong on ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas”’?
#6: There’s a bitchin’ painting of Bettie Page as Scanty Santa opposite the disk. Take that, downloaders!
#7: As Bob has always wished, since his first Lp in 1962, just chill, and listen. I’ve strayed in those fifty years, sure, but I’m with him on this one. Old fans from the early days will agree with me. I want you to go and look at the young turk staring out from the cover of THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’, the one who called out senators, congressmen, mothers and fathers throughout the land. Now listen to him croak out “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane…” and try not to smile.