Or the Croon is still waiting at the Chimney
I ask who’s in the fireplace
And you tell me Santa Claus
On the Road by Bob Dylan
Only now, it’s Dylan himself in the fireplace, trying to keep warm on a cold December night.
All you newsy people , spread the news around; Dylan does Christmas. Once he advised us to buy her a drum for Christmas, and now he’s singing the Little Drummer Boy. And why not? On the “Love and Theft” tale of Floater he mentioned ring dancin’ Christmas Carols on Christmas Eve, and if ever we wondered what he meant by that, then Mr Zimmerman is going to show us.
To his credit Dylan has made this album impenetrable to dislike; all US royalties in perpetuity are going to charity. Anyone who says a bad word about this album is a Scrooge.
Furthermore Dylan has solved my annual dilemma of what Christmas album by what artist am I going to order from 78 records this year? Last year it was Booker T and the MG’s. This year, it is the Bobster.
So what is the album going to be like? In addition to the previously released track listing I came across this preview of the tracks online. From what I have heard so far Dylan has taken his current crooner fascination to the next logical step. I can’t be certain if maybe the Andrews sisters are still alive and are now backing Dylan, like they once did Bing, or if old unreleased backing tracks were found in the vaults.
The criteria for this album seems to be that if Bing once sang it, Dylan will too. I don’t remember anyone else but Bing serenading about Christmas on Christmas Island. But why the Little Drummer Boy Bob? It is the most boring Christmas song ever, pa rum pum pum on and on. Not even Bing allied with mid 70’s Bowie could redeem that song.
Personally I wish that there were more tracks in the vein of the song Christmas Blues. It would have been great if Dylan had taken the Lightnin’ Hopkins approach, and laid down some red hot blues Christmas songs, with his current live band. Or maybe done a Freddy Fender (I’ve got his Christmas album, naturally) and gone tex-mex with lots of Augie Meyers Vox Continental thrown in. Surely Rob Hunter, who helped pen the last album could have stuck around and together they could have done some desolate Christmas blues, something about Santa is in the alley, with the Yuletide Blues again.
However as the album is for a good cause and the plight of the hungry is bad enough, it is only right to put the blues aside and concentrate on the good time Christmas cheer, those ring dancin’ Christmas Carols. Naturally the cover reflects that, with a vintage piece of Christmas art, which also links this album to the last two vintage covers of Dylan’s albums.
Furthermore the album cover could have been a lot worse. I had visions of it being called Bringing it all back home for Christmas, with a fish eye lens picture of Bob by that chimney surrounded by stockings and lots of toys, and a woman in a fur lined slinky red number on the couch nearby with Dylan holding/patting a detachable white beard.
Inside such an album would be revised songs done Christmas style. Santa Fe rewritten as Santa Claus “Dear(deer?) dear dear dear, dear Santa Claus”.
That nightmare never came to pass, so we have what looks to be a well intentioned faithfully recorded old time Christmas croon album with a whiff of mistletoe and the sound of sleigh bells, and perhaps harmonica.