Bob Dylan’s Christmas Album


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.

10 Responses to Bob Dylan’s Christmas Album

  1. brenda says:

    Never was a big Dylan acolyte (was just thaaaaaat much too young to be a hippie) but I will at least listen, if not buy. I’m partial to Christmas collections, by whomever. James Taylor’s not-so-long-ago release is a continuing pleasure. Not that anything will ever top Ella Fitzgerald’s “Ella Wishes You a Swingin’ Christmas”…

    But—Dylan’s Jewish!? Not that he isn’t welcome to sing Christmas songs, but, well, was it just a marketing decision? Irony? Sorry to be dim, but this is the first I’ve heard about this collection.

    I’mmmmmm dreaming of a Dylan Christmas…

    “A Hard Snow’s a-Gonna Fall.”
    “Elves Along the Watchtower.”
    “Broke Down Sleigh”
    “Just Like a Snowman”
    “Lay Rudolph Lay” (ewwww…scratch that ‘un…)
    “Toys Minus Zero/No Limit”
    “Stuck inside the North Pole with the Memphis Blues Again.”

  2. Tom Dupree says:

    You obviously haven’t listened just yet.

    No, Mr. Zimmerman wasn’t born into the Christian persuasion, but he sings several sacred songs with great feeling. He’s also no more a Cajun than you are, but he still successfully *laissezes le bonne temps roulette* on one track. He sings a Sammy Cahn holiday blues; more to his ethnicity, perhaps? I thought the holidays were all about *forgetting* that stuff.

    And no, Ella isn’t the top. That rung co-belongs to Nat King Cole (THE CHRISTMAS ALBUM) and the Roches (WE THREE KINGS).

  3. brenda says:

    Oh, of course the Roches rule, slam-dunk, walkover! I have flat worn that CD out, and have burned it for many a friend. As I have Ella’s! Still say she can knock “Rudolph” outta the ballpark.

    I was just responding off the top of my punkin haid and being silly…I like to get into my naughty elf outfit early on!

    Tom, I would never lay an embargo an ANYONE lettin’ the good times roll musically—how can you possibly think otherwise? ME? (Although “if you wan’ to be TECHNICAL,” as Rookie Caroca said: in French, the Cajun is wrong—I don’t care if the phrase is thermographed onto twenty bazillion cheap French-Quarter T-shirts, the sentence should read “laissez rouler les bons temps.” )

    But consider me sledgehammered! *Tu m’as bien tue’ avec ton marteau d’or!* (You have slain me with your silver hammer.)

    I guess this isn’t the moment to tell you that my second-favorite holiday CD is the vastly underappreciated “Christmas on the Ponderosa” released during the last years of the “Bonanza” series…anyone who does not love hearing Hoss Cartwright (okay, Dan Blocker) grunt out “Deck the Halls” or Little Joe (Michael Landon) do “Santa Got Lost in Texas” IS A GRINCH.

    Jimmy Buffett’s “Christmas Island” makes nice listening, too, as one is cutting out the cookies and stringing the lights. And what about Vince Guaraldi’s stuff— the “Charlie Brown Christmas”?

    So many wonderful things to hear, before we even break out the Messiah and the King’s College Lessons and Carols! I can hardly wait for Advent…

    Okay, okay, I’ll give the Dylan a try. I adore pleasant surprises.

  4. Tom Dupree says:

    For the entire holiday season — that is, Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve — I also love George Winston’s “December.” For lush orchestral arrangements, you can’t beat John Tesh’s “A Romantic Christmas.” And *my* favorite “Christmas Island” is Leon Redbone’s! Yep, almost time to crank up the holiday wax!

  5. brenda says:

    YEAH! I won’t wait until Thanksgiving, though—once we’re past Hallowe’en, on goes the “Holiday Shuffle” setting of my iPod hooked up to the house speakers! Disconcerting, but exhilarating, to have every one of our selections just fire out in totally random order—I mean, you ain’t LIVED until you hear Kiri te Kanawa’s *Ave Maria*, followed right by Chuck Berry’s “Run Run Rudolph.”

    And where are your French followers? Nobody caught my grievous error—should have been “marteau d’argent” in prior comment. Although no doubt you wield a golden hammer, Santa Baby!:):)

  6. Tom Dupree says:

    We were always taught in our Virginny house that we couldn’t play Xmas songs until we saw Santa roll by in the Macy’s parade. But, now living *in* NYC, we rolled that back before T’sgiving a couple generations ago.

  7. brenda says:

    I’m listening to les Roches as I type this—and I’ll confess right here, I start practicing my carols at the piano in AUGUST! Probably old choir training, when John Paul and other choirmasters under whom I’ve sung made us start gettin’ ready early.

    Thanks to you, dear Tommaso, I sat right down and played/sang “O Holy Night” this very afternoon! And yes, hit neighborhood of high A on the final ending. I had no audience to offend, except my little kitty-cat, who scurried under the sofa and mewed pitifully.

  8. Tom Dupree says:

    What a cat! I remain: Dylan is *serious*, and even if you don’t like it now, you will….

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I heard one of the songs from this album. I was stunned – couldn’t believe I was hearing such a thing.

    On the other topic Brenda raised, yes, Christmas on the Ponderosa is one of the greatest Christmas records ever made. I don’t know how it has been overlooked.

  10. Tom Dupree says:

    Speaking of cowboys, note that Bob chose a Gene Autry tune to lead off…

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