Bob Dylan's unexpected Christmas album is out, and decidedly mixed reviews have already begun appearing.
"Christmas in the Heart" is either "a misguided attempt" to contribute to one of the hoariest traditions in popular music or "a bizarre and bewildering collection" that's nonetheless "awesome." Or something in between.
Many people did double takes last month when Columbia Records announced that the legendary Jewish-born musician, who grew up as Bobby Zimmerman in Hibbing, had decided that his 47th album would be a collection of Christmas songs.
Among the 15 songs are "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "O Come All Ye Faithful." From among the early reviews are these assessments:
Chris Richards, the Washington Post: "Dylan's guttural braying on 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' boggles the ears while the sparse 'I'll Be Home for Christmas' sounds like a reason to bolt your doors. "
Edna Gunderson, USA Today: "Many initially greeted word of a Dylan Christmas album with disbelief, derision or suspicion, then adjusted to the news with expectations of blasphemy and Scrooge-like acerbity. Instead we get the Ebenezer of Dickens' denouement: open-hearted, ebullient and drunk on the spirit of the season."
Paul Snyder, Huffington Post: "An acknowledgment of an underappreciated musical tradition from one of the most important innovators and interpreters of American popular song."
Hear excerpts from the album online at www.nme.com/news/bob-dylan/47428.
BOB VON STERNBERG