"Santa laughs this way."
Ah, Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart. Oh how music fans far and wide chuckled at the idea of one of the 20th Century’s song writing icons deciding that it would be a shrewd career move to release an album of traditional Christmas Carols and festive favourites.
Down the decades Christmas albums in general have been a bad idea unless you’re called Phil Spector or Tracey Thorn. It’s not only the Daily Mail endorsed favourites who have crashed and burned when faced with the concept of recording a Christmas album wither, as acts as diverse as Cyndi Lauper, James Brown, The Muppets and Rod Stewart have all created laughable attempts at albums celebrating the holiday (though to be fair, at least with The Muppets it was intentionally laughable). Sure, some have tried to dress it up as ‘an album about winter’ (step forward Tori Amos), but it doesn’t save them from releasing an album their fans wished had never seen the light of day. Personally my fandom never really recovered following the announcement of the The Jethro Tull Christmas Album – as bad as their post-70s work could get, I never expected them to plummet to those depths of desperation. Hell, at least with Dylan we had the added entertainment of Adam Buxton mercilessly lampooning the whole venture by recording his own versions.
With all this in mind, why shouldn’t we have laughed at Dylan’s attempt at a Christmas album? Simply, because he’s Bob Dylan, and given what he’s achieved during his lengthy career, no one really has the right to second guess the great man. There are some that see Christmas in the Heart as Dylan having a joke, but given that a portion of the proceeds from the album are going to charity, then at least it’s a generous one if that’s the case.
Thing is, Christmas in the Heart sounds like what it is. It’s Bob Dylan singing a bunch of festive favourites. Some people will enjoy it, but chances are you’ll know if it won’t be your thing even if you never hear a note of it. Ultimately, Dylan is now in a position where he can pretty much do what he wants, when he wants, and if he wants to make odd albums about Christmas, then we should embrace that, because at least he’s not embarrassing himself by trying to convince the world he’s still a cutting edge musical artist.