For the better part of a week now, I've been immersing myself in Bob Dylan's wondrous new release, Christmas In The Heart. Yes, a Christmas album. Now I know there are people in the world who would rather run barefoot over a mile of upturned plug tops than listen to three quarters of an hour's worth of syrupy crooning, but I am not one of them. I adore Christmas, and one of the things I adore most about Christmas is the tat. Give me glitter, give me fake snow and plastic trees and cheesy decorations, and I'm rolling like Porky in a chocolate bath.
But Bob Dylan making a Christmas album? Hardly seems real, does it? Some things are just plain right from the off, Bing with that pipe, for instance, but others seem about as stable as a souped-up cracker. Ole Bob has been rolling pretty well of late, rapturously received chart-topping albums, a hit radio show, a neverending tour that seems to be getting better by the day. But a Christmas album? We know (from the little that we really know of him) that he has always been a contrary sort, the sort who will gladly shatter your perceptions at the turn of a card. But we also know that he is someone who likes to do his own thing, blaze his own trail, as it were, and damn the consequences.
A Christmas album is a risk. Bob's voice has been going downhill for years and is probably fast approaching the bottom by now, and Christmas songs, tacky though they may be, and trite and sentimental and all the other cuss words that people without hearts like to throw at them, are undeniably well written. The have to be, in order to have survived for so long. The best of them have lain down challenges to even the very finest voices of the past hundred years.
Bob sounds great. He's grizzled, warbling, and he steps out of melodies like they are oncoming traffic, yet somehow, some impossibly how, he makes it work. The music is all that it should be, bright and shiny, full of fun, tight as November's jeans in January, but what makes the whole thing work is Dylan's deep and unwavering charisma. I've woken three days straight now with 'Must Be Santa' scratching at my throat and churning my blood to butter, and if I wasn't such a happy elf perhaps I would be reaching for the twelve-gauge by now. But happily for me, and for all those within buckshot's distance, that's not the case. I love it, LOVE IT!!! I am pleased, thrilled, overjoyed to report that Bob's still got it, whatever it is. If you like Christmas the way all good children, even the grownup ones, should, then you will surely love Christmas In The Heart. So go on, bolt out and buy it.
P.S. - If you need further convincing, please note that all royalties go to charity. So not only will a purchase be filling your head with yuletide sounds (and in October, no less - who could ask for more than that) you will also be helping out some of the worthiest causes around.
Well done, Bob, on both counts, and here's hoping for a sequel next year!!!