Bob Dylan is such a fruitcake. He’s spent the last decade revitalizing himself artistically, so what does he do for an encore? That’s right, a Christmas album—a real one, complete with anodyne female choruses and straight arrangements of the standard holiday repertoire: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Little Drummer Boy,” the works. And of course Dylan plays it totally straight. So no, it’s no joke. But it is, in places, hilarious: Dylan surely knows just how wrong his mangled liquefying-granite voice is for lots of this material, and there are times when he flaunts just that what-the-hell quality, such as on “Winter Wonderland,” in which the backing singers set up the second bridge (“We’ll have fun with Mr. Snowman”) only to have Dylan dryly finish it off with “Until the other kids knock him down.” He fares less well on ballads—here’s hoping “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)” don’t become live staples. But he eases into “The Christmas Blues” adroitly, and rips up a cover of Brave Combo’s polka classic “Must Be Santa” with lightning vocal delivery. Now all he needs to do is perform a Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall, backed by The Rockettes.
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