So what's the difference between the regular and the Deluxe copy of this CD? The deluxe version contains 5 greetings cards bearing the same picture as the album cover which, I guess, are limited editions. Now back to the album.
Listening to a preview of these tracks a week ago I assumed that Dylan fans would buy this with a completely uncritical ear - and that these fans would probably be the same ones who'd hated 'Self Portrait,' now mellow and soft shoe shuffling along to 'Winter Wonderland' and bopping to 'Here Comes Santa Claus'. But then I realised that Dylan has constantly added new generations to his fan base so it is more difficult to make predictions concerning his newer listeners. I didn't know what to expect but then, I thought, 'nothing will surprise me with Dylan.' There has been a lot of merit in his last four albums - though I believe they are over-rated on account of The 'BobCat' factor which must opine that the master can do no wrong these days. This album can hardly be judged alongside his recent studio work as it is pure Christmas 'Product' and, without its status as a 'Charity Record' would be less easily forgiven - though to many of his fans Dylan can do no wrong.
'Christmas In The Heart' sounds as though Dylan has enlisted The Mike Sammes Singers/King Brothers and somehow pasted The Andrews Sisters into the mix. Where this album follows in the wake of his last couple of albums is in Dylan's ear for that 'Old Timey' music, reflected in the choice of album cover and in much of the music played on 'Theme Time Radio Hour'. This music oozes Christmas past.
With the album playing on a continual loop I came to a deeper enjoyment of it as I listened, 'The Little Drummer Boy' is quite affecting in Dylan's burnt out vocal, 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' which I confess to quite enjoying though not necessarily in the spirit I should do. Dylan intones rather than sings it. 'Do You Hear What I Hear?' [Ahem] 'The First Noel',[with a heavy Andrews Sisters sound] 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful', a slightly strained vocal as Dylan tries for notes beyond his reach and rasps out the latin verse with comic pronunciation; a frantic 'Must Be Santa Claus', a croaked 'Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem' and a mellow 'I'll Be Home For Christmas''. - '[I Guess I've Got] The Christmas Blues' sounded as though it could be an original but now I have the full credits instead of an info free demo I find it isn't. Another 'stand out' track is 'If You've Ever Spent Christmas On Christmas Island' to the tune of Patsy Cline's 'Have You Ever Been Lonely' and awash with Hawaiian guitars The whole concept is a link back to the late forties and early fifties, in particular to Bing Crosby purveyor of many a Christmas album. Dylan has included three of the songs most closely identified with Crosby--"I'll Be Home for Christmas" (1943), "Silver Bells" (1952), and "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
So what do I think? Well it's a 'Christmas Album by Dylan' - art imitates history. For back in the late sixties there was a rumoured bootleg of 'Dylan's unreleased 'Christmas Album' and there was even mock up art work and a tracklist. But considering I'm impervious to Dylan's X Factor [I can't give him 5 stars automatically because he's DYLAN!'] this album grew on me with each listening and Dylan charmed his way so far into my consciousness that I was humming and singing along to myself as I went through the rest of the day.
This is a 'Good' record but not a great one,there are few 'Great' Christmas records, though, A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector [Digitally Remastered By Phil Spector
], is certainly one that I'll be playing alongside Dylan come Christmas. Unlike some of my detractors I can't automatically award 'Christmas In The Heart', five stars just because it is by Bob Dylan and the royalties are all going to charity.