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Reviews

Christmas in the Heart

Martyn Joseph

Bob Dylan
Sony

Bob-Dylan---Christmas-In-The-Heart---2009-Front-Cover-18386.jpgChristmas albums are not normally greeted with much enthusiasm by anyone that I know. They are usually the fare of middle-of-the-road artists, ready to sacrifice any last bit of integrity they might have left as they look to make some extra dosh for their own seaonal stockings. Bruce Cockburn did make a decent one some while ago but that's the only record I would ever reach for, other than some cheery compilation to get everyone in the mood on the day itself or maybe the night before.

Now, firstly all proceeds from Dylan's, let's face it, surprise offering are going to feed homeless folk in the USA and UK so a big thumbs up there. The song choice is all rather traditional fare with carols leading the way and the rest of the tunes being of a more 'jovial' nature. There were some that I had never heard of such as the Hawaiian flavoured 'Christmas Island' and 'The Christmas Blues', but it all has the sound of familiarity in terms of the wallpaper music you hear in shopping malls in December.

What might have made you stop and cock your head sideways as you negotiated cash till queues is the voice singing. Is that not Bob Dylan? And yes, it is. There is a strange integrity here resting heavily on the fact that Bob is singing these songs without trying (as if he could) to be anyone else other than the man who many feel could murder any song; but with so many devotees who just love the kill. Of course I am among the latter though I have to say I would only be reaching for this album to get into the 'mood'.
That's not to say that there's not some fine music going on here with an overall retro fifties style of production complete with 'doo wops' and some fine guitar work from the likes of the guitar R&B master Phil Upchirch.

Dylan produced the album under his pseudonym of Jack Frost and, though I think most of it will have fallen into place under the lead of the gifted musicians, there is a good consistent musicality to the whole project. It will make you smile because, if nothing else, at first you might think it's a joke. But after you realise it's not a certain joy kicks in. It's a lot of fun.

So this all does work on various levels and it does exactly what it says on the tin. It's all believable enough and you could surmise that Bob does have 'Christmas in his heart'. My 15-year-old daughter was in the room as I listened through and I asked her what she thought. 'Bizarre' was her reply and its not a bad summary. Other contemporary and well-established artists would never get away with this but Bob can and has. Good man. Happy Christmas and why not? 

Martyn Joseph