Vital Signs

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, like many of those in the lively arts, frequently urges us to admire his present work rather than to dwell on his past triumphs, although he has been known to make an exception to the rule when it comes time to release his latest greatest-hits package.  Unlike some rock-music critics, I’m happy to oblige Mr. Dylan and acknowledge what is, at the time of this writing, his most recent commercial offering.  Entitled Christmas in the Heart, it’s a collection of 15 seasonal songs so uniformly awful that one begins to wonder if, like a marginally less-abrasive version of Don Rickles, Dylan may actually take delight in abusing the people who pay money to listen to him.  (This is the moment also to acknowledge that the artist’s royalties from Christmas in the Heart continue to be donated to the World Food Program, and a variety of other worthy hunger-relief charities.)  The sound of pop music’s most fabulously discordant voice groaning its way through “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” would appear to be just the latest stylistic departure for a man who has already adopted a disastrous, faux-Elvis rhinestone wardrobe and become a shill for Victoria’s Secret, among other recent career follies.  The only redeeming parts of Christmas in the Heart are the occasions when Dylan declines to sing and gives over the performance to a band and choir, and even then some of the tunes barely...

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