Archive for the ‘Matthew Zuckerman’ Category

Bob Dylan’s Christmas In The Heart – reviewed by Matthew Zuckerman

October 12, 2009

Well, Christmas In The Heart arrived in the post today — nice efficient service from Isis.

They always manage to get the new releases on the doormat the day before official release. Many thanks to Derek and Tracy (& great to see you at the Mott the Hoople reunion show!)

The deluxe version is just the regular jewel case in a cardboard sleeve, with five cards — blank inside — all with the album cover and envelope.

As for the album, I downloaded it on to my iPod and listened to it as I walked the dog around the local cemetery. What immediately struck me — well, not immediately, but what started to dawn on me by the second or third song and was clear by the fourth — was that this is not just a little dashed off side project.

Like it or not, the emotional commitment that Dylan has given to these songs makes Christmas In The Heart very much the new Bob Dylan album.

For many people, certain albums — Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61, Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, Slow Train Coming, Saved, Shot of Love — were too associated with something they hated (rock & roll, country, schmaltz, Christianity) for them to want or be able to appreciate the albums for themselves.

You can add Christmas In The Heart to that list.

Those who cannot accept the fact that Bob might want to have such an album in his catalogue — as Bing Crosby, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington and many other of his favourite singers have done — will find the album a closed door. But for anyone else, it could be a small delight.

I have only listened to the album once, and do not have time to write more than the most fleeting impressions.

All I would say is listen to the musicians (Bob’s road crew plus David Hidalgo and a few others — and a startlingly fine piece of harmonica playing on one track); the really very fine melodies; the instrumental and vocal harmony arrangements that both recapture the slick 1940s/50s studio sounds that Bob grew up with and breathe life into them, humanizing them; the battered and beaten voice sometimes flaring and phlegming up but still hitting all the notes – and singing with the same intense intimacy that he invested in A Simple Twist of Fate.

And then there’s Must Be Santa. Bob Has often talked about his love for polka. And with this manic — yet always controlled — performance you can see why.

I wonder what the world would have done if Bob had mixed his folk lyrics and surreal verse with a polka outfit like the one backing him here instead of a rock & roll band.

Would we have booed? And would we all — supporters and booers alike — follow him down his various roads, as we have done in this layer of the multiverse?

I digress, and I must end. I have much to do and time is short.