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CORRECTED-Bob Dylan’s new Christmas album has the goods, critic says

October 2, 2009

It turns out that Bob Dylan Christmas album due out on Oct. 13 might be a good reason to hit the eggnog after all.dylan

When news of the album was revealed over the summer, many Dylan fans could hardly believe it. Dylan just isn’t the kind of artist who does Christmas albums, or so everyone thought.

But writing at the Los Angeles Times music blog Pop & Hiss, critic Randy Lewis said on Thursday that after a sneak preview listen to some songs from Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart,” he judges that the album is “a ton of fun.”

“Rather than simply a tossed-off session for his kids and grandkids, Dylan seems to be offering up an astute exploration of the roots of holiday music — Christmas records in particular — in the same way he has returned in various albums over the years to mine pop music’s foundation in blues, folk, country and gospel,” Lewis wrote.

In tracing the roots of some of the songs on the album, Lewis wrote that Dylan’s version of “Must Be Santa” harkens back to the Texas rock-polka group Brave Combo, and that his treatment of “Here Comes Santa Claus” reaches back to the stylings of Texas-born singing cowboy Gene Autry, whose 1947 version of the song is remarkably similar.

It’s not the first time that Dylan has borrowed from a Texas-born singer named Gene. His “Sugar Baby” song on the 2001 album “Love and Theft” lifts a melody from Gene Austin’s “The Lonesome Road” (follow the links to hear for yourself).

bob_dylanLewis writes that Dylan’s for-charity Christmas album comes complete with “reindeer-quick accordion” from Los Lobos star David Hidalgo, and Dylan singing the first verse of “O Come All Ye Faithful” in Latin. So it looks like Dylan has shaken up the Christmas standards like a kid shaking a present under the tree.

Meanwhile, “Late Show with David Letterman” bandleader Paul Shaffer on Thursday detailed personal memories of His Bobness in an excerpt from his upcoming book, “We’ll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives,” published on the website of Vanity Fair. Shaffer, who was raised an Orthodox Jew, explained his feeling of disappointment in Dylan when the Jewish “Like a Rolling Stone” singer showed up at a television appearance in the late 1970s wearing a Christian cross. It was during Dylan’s Christian period, but Shaffer writes that he felt “bothered and bewildered.”

Fast forward a number of years, and Dylan and Shaffer were making an appearance together at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Dylan was back in the Jewish fold and refused to play after sundown on Friday, in observation of the Sabbath, Shaffer writes.

There are more memories like that from Shaffer, but in the end, they add up to the oft-repeated characterization of Dylan as a restlessly creative artist, who always does the unexpected — like putting out a Christmas album, and ignoring the “rock icon” mantle.

Comments

Seems like in a Reuters blog post, you could have mentioned that incredibly stupid Reuters story from a few days back. For those who missed it, a Reuters writer mocked Dylan for letting Sony Records use Citibank to help sell advance copies of this music. What the guy didn’t bother to say is that all proceeds from sales of the Christmas album go to charities to help feed hungry children around the world. In perpetuity. Shame on you Reuters.

Posted by John Freedman | Report as abusive
 

Ah, that would be Gene *Austin,” not Autry, who did “Lonesome Road.” Austin had nothing to do with “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

 

Whoops! Gene Autry and Gene Austin are actually two different people. Glad to hear that the new record isn’t a total embarrassment, though.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive
 

The author appears to have mixed up Gene Austin who wrote “The Lonesome Road” and who this article links to and Gene Autry, the singing cowboy. Not the same person:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3O-Vwgs1 NE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeFdUaahP jM

Posted by Paul Rooney | Report as abusive
 

interesting too that the song “Little Drummer Boy” which is sung on the album was conveniently left out of the article. when I saw Dylan in concert about 5 years ago, he sang a Christian song; and I’ve heard this is a tradition of his…he may not be all about it like he was during his “Christian era,” but it seems to me it’s still in his heart–sorry, Paul Shaffer.

Posted by Nancy | Report as abusive
 

Wonder if Paul Shaffer acknowledges what an awful band he
put together to mangle that Dylan tv performance at radio City? Paul Shaffer is such a mediocre musician no one should even spend one minute considering what he thinks of an artist as unique and great as Mr Dylan! Damn, I just spent my time allotment on Paul for a decade!

 

Honestly, who cares what Paul Schaffer thinks about Bob Dylan’s music? He’s a freak. Dylan is the rockstar, not Schaffer.

Posted by Bubba | Report as abusive
 

Why the nasty words about Paul Schaffer- a brilliant, versatile musician. I felt the same way he did- and even John Lennon, who wondered “What happened to ‘don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters?’”

Posted by auramac | Report as abusive
 

Bob Dylans timeless renditions will be enjoyed by many for years to come.Paul Schaffers key banging cacophony is already ancient history.Enough said.

Posted by Rick | Report as abusive
 

Paul Schaffer? What tune did he ever write? And what about Letterman’s seceret bedroom? I wonder if he kepted it in his pants after sundown on Friday nights.

Posted by gatorbites2002 | Report as abusive
 

Wonderful! The Christmas season for 2009 has officially begun! Want some wonderful, blissful, and relaxing moment? Here’s a link to a bunch of good
christmas classical songs

 

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