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Bob Dylan: Christmas In The Heart

By Karen Bailey Gearhart
Published: Nov 01, 2009
Category: Rock

Just because it was a Bob Dylan Christmas album, I ordered five. Some might say I could not possibly have thought that through. Well, I didn’t. I just knew this is what I wanted to give to family and heretofore best friends.

And why not? Bob Dylan has released 47 albums. Christmas In The Heart is his only Christmas album; it’s not likely there will ever be another.
 
The money-making impulse? Can’t be found. All of his royalties will go to one American and two international hunger causes.
 
What that means: Dylan has guaranteed that this CD will feed 500,000 school children in the developing world via the World Food Programme, 15,000 homeless people in the United Kingdom through Crisis and more than 1.4 million families in our country through Feeding America. And there’s more — after the holidays, he’s giving away all his royalties forever.
 
But charity only takes you so far. You buy music because you want to listen to it. And this compilation of traditional and pop tunes is a pleasant surprise — just like the Bettie Page Christmas pin-up will be when you open the jewel box. [Note: That's not a link to the picture of Bettie that Dylan uses, just to one that may startle or amuse.]
 
Thinking about that image, I will have to say it also sets the tone for the recording. Because on this CD, you will hear female harmonies from the ’40s and ’50s, guys singing back-up who sound like the Ink Spots or the Jordannaires, some bluegrass and folk rock, jazz and cocktail piano — oh, and there’s a male vocalist named Dylan, who has apparently just gargled with a sack of rocks and a bottle of bourbon.
 
Everything is holiday perfect.
 
You just have to imagine that Bob is wearing a Christmas sweater — you know, with battery-powered lights so the reindeer sewn on the chest blink all the time — and you’re there.
 
Oh, the eggnog. Maybe with more bourbon?  Don’t forget that.
 
From the opening notes of “Here Comes Santa Claus," I knew I would be playing “Christmas In The Heart” throughout the holidays. Like you could feel anything but bemusement for Dylan’s happy chuckle: “Bells are ringin’! Children singin’!” His lightheartedness is fanciful and nostalgic and conjures visions of times forever past and hope for those to come.
 
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" "Winter Wonderland". "I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. A polka. A Mexican beat. Is he sincere? Does he “believe” what he’s singing here? Your guess is as good as mine. Better, probably, because I don’t care.
 
What I do understand: This CD has an instant, wacky permanence. It has earned its place in your Christmas CD shuffle, just like that. It’s not King’s College or even Nat King Cole, it’s just Bob Dylan, who, as you know, has never given a sugarplum about what we think of his work and has reminded us there really is no deeper meaning to anything he has written or sung.
 
And so it is with “Christmas In The Heart“– another simple gift from Dylan, only this time it just happens to be at, and all about, Christmas.
 
— Guest Butler Karen Bailey Gearhart is a wanna-be-retired psychotherapist who resides in Decatur, Alabama.
 
To buy “Christmas in the Heart” from Amazon.com, click here.
 
To buy an MP3 download of “Christmas in the Heart” from Amazon.com, click here.