Christmas in the Heart
On the opening track on his 47th album, Bob Dylan brings us news that Santa Claus is on his way with “a bag that’s filled with toys”. Dylanologists may regard this as a terrific enigma – does “Santa Claus” represent the day of judgment? Or is he a reference to a bearded folk singer from Dylan’s past? – but the less obsessed may notice from the singer’s impish tones that he’s having a bit of a lark.
Christmas in the Heart finds the 68-year-old rasping out cheesy festive songs with a twinkle in his eye, a trace of jauntiness in his ruined voice, hands outstretched in giving: the album’s proceeds are going to charity.
It’s not all plain sailing – a vigorous but gnarly “Hark the Herald Angel” evokes that sinking “Oh no, grandad’s been at the eggnog” feeling – but mostly it’s daftly entertaining, with nostalgic country-and-western, Hawaiian exotica, kitsch girl group choruses and nods to Christmas albums by Nat King Cole and Phil Spector reflecting Dylan’s obsession with antique pop.