Thursday, 15 October 2009

Bob Slayers

Amusing Reactions to Dylan's Christmas in the Heart

Having duly bought my copy of Christmas in the Heart on Monday I gave it one spin and now won't be listening to it again until December. I suspect Bob had an enjoyable afternoon recording the album and in a weird way I found it quite charming. Then again Dylan's whims and eccentricities are one of the reasons I love him so.

Here's a taster if you've not yet heard the record critics are calling "a challenging listen".

Rolling Stone's favourable review likened the album to "a Woodstock snowfall with the defiance of 1970's Self Portrait". This is the same magazine in which Greil Marcus began his assessment of Self Portrait with the killer opening, "What is this shit?" Not only have Rolling Stone broken ranks with much of the press by being kind towards Bob's fund-raising Christmas efforts but they are also valiantly trying a rehabilitate a 40-year-old Dylan album that was once deemed the "third worst rock and roll record of all time".*

BBC News go crazy for Dylan whether he's advertising lingerie or visiting the childhood home of an old friend so it's no surprise that the Today Programme got David Hepworth to opine about Christmas in the Heart on Wednesday morning.

The clip is brilliant for combining Bob's renditions of carols with more harmonious versions sung by King's College Choir. This, according to John Humphrys, led his producer to quip that Dylan "sounded like a drunk who had burst into King's College Chapel on Christmas Day".

I read in a Facebook comment that one review claimed Dylan "makes I'll Be Home For Christmas sound like a threat". An equally unimpressed commenter on the Word Magazine website wrote amusingly that "When he sings 'Do you hear what I hear?' I'm assuming he's asking the question in all innocence without having had the benefit at any time of a studio playback during the recording of the song".

But perhaps my favourite dismissal of the record is this one-star review on Amazon. Over to you Mr Bradley C Chambers: "This is horrendous. Bob sounds increasingly effeminate these days. Indeed one can almost imagine him singing these dirges wearing women's clothing and lipstick. I think perhaps he's trying to tell us something..."

Thankfully commuter rag Metro took a different slant with their coverage and printed a list of songs that "didn't make the CD". Some that made me chuckle: Sleigh Lady Sleigh, Stocking On Heaven's Door, I Want Yule, The Lonesome Death of Christmas Carol and Sleigh Train Coming.

If you've heard the album or come across any other good reactions to it please leave a comment below.

Buy Christmas in the Heart at Amazon

*In their book The Worst Rock and Roll Records of All Time Jimmy Guterman and Owen O'Donnell place Metal Machine Music and Having Fun With Elvis On Stage as the only albums worse than Self Portrait. "The breakup of the Beatles shortly before this album's release," they wrote, "signaled the end of the 60s; Self Portrait suggested the end of Bob Dylan."

Related Links
Christmas in the Heart - Bob's official site has more on the money being raised for Crisis and Feeding America
Expecting Rain - the best Dylan news source
Related Posts with Thumbnails



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