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Ho Ho Ho? Or Just Ho-Hum?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Every year there's at least one new Christmas album that manages to sharply divide listeners and critics alike. This year, Bob Dylan's notorious Christmas in the Heart easily takes top prize. But there are others that either inspire good cheer or make you wish for a silent night. Pop critics Jim DeRogatis (Chicago Sun-Times) and Chris Richards (Washington Post) face off on Dylan's album, as well as holiday releases by Tori Amos and Sugarland.

Blog: John Schaefer on the new Christmas contenders

Tell us: What do you think of Bob Dylan's "Christmas in the Heart?" Do you love or loathe other new holiday albums this year? Leave a comment -- we might read yours during the show today.


Jim DeRogatis and Chris Richards

Comments [52]

edie from NY

One could also ask, "What was wrong with Satchmo's voice?" Whatever was wrong and is with Dylan's didn't/doesn't stop them from fulfilling the purpose of singing--namely moving the listener with SOUL. The perfect voice of Bing's xmas music nearly put me to sleep. Bob's xmas renditions, on the other hand, fill me with joy, warmth and delight, that increase with each play.

Dec. 23 2009 08:15 PM
Marshall from Ridgewood, NJ

I played Dylan's Christmas album at a house party and one of my guests asked me if my speakers were broken.

Dec. 23 2009 07:12 AM
Jerome Langguth from Kentucky

This is a strange conversation. Both critics seem to agree that the album has "sinister" undertones, that it is "bizarre", and that Dylan adopts an ironic stance toward the Christmas material. I don't hear that at all. I find Christmas in the Heart sweet, sincere, and at times very moving ("Little Drummer Boy"). Dylan sounds both reverential and vulnerable on most of these tracks, not sick and scary. "Must be Santa" is funny and really swings. But then I like Tiny Tim and Bing Crosby too.

Dec. 23 2009 06:37 AM
Lori from Brooklyn

[13] Joel -- silence. It happens. One time they even nixed an iPod playing Pearl Jam in the mix. (?!) It all depends on who's squad leader that night, I guess.

p.s. Apologies for the tardy reply.

Dec. 22 2009 04:39 PM
Soundcheck producer Joel Meyer from WNYC

[48] Pam ... Who's your nominee? (There's no right answer here. But there is one wrong answer: David Cassidy.)

Dec. 22 2009 02:53 PM
Pam from NY

John--Sorely disappointed in YOU: your guest has said that "Dylan is the most important figure in Western music in the last 100 years" and you've not replied. WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF?

Dec. 22 2009 02:46 PM
Soundcheck producer Joel Meyer from WNYC

[43] CJ! That was my error: I mixed you up with CB [9]! My regrets. With a single initial, I've rendered you a Tori Amos fan.

Dec. 22 2009 02:44 PM
Thaddeus from New Jersey

Dylan Christmas; No, No, No!
Must Be Santa? You Must Be Kidding!
His voice was always something to get past before you could appreciate his writing. There's no getting past this bomb, and the rest of the Jerseyites who approve have definitely tasted the Kristmas Kool-Aid.
(and I love Tom Waits - at least he knows how to match it to the material).

Dec. 22 2009 02:37 PM
Matt Austin from Ft. Green Brooklyn

My dog loves to howl to the new " Dylan Christmas interaction" - I am not sure which one sounds better

Dec. 22 2009 02:35 PM
CJ from NY

I didn't say that about Tori Amos.... What are you talking about Joel Meyer?

Dec. 22 2009 02:34 PM
Shawn from Mount Vernon, NY

Sugarbland if you ask me....

Dec. 22 2009 02:33 PM
Sam from Harlem

Any thoughts on NPR's own Garrison Keillor, who penned this article:
"Don't mess with Christmas"

Dec. 22 2009 02:33 PM
CJ from NY

Why would you be wicked on a Christman album?

Dec. 22 2009 02:30 PM
CJ from NY

He wouldn't be Sting if it didn't sound pretentious.

Dec. 22 2009 02:27 PM
Shawn from Mount Vernon, NY

You may love Dylan, you may hate Dylan or you just might not really care. However, you have to give credit to an American Icon, who always tried to raise people's awareness and who is donating his royalties from this album to charity. After all isn't that what the Holiday Season is all about?

Dec. 22 2009 02:26 PM
steve from Englewood, NJ

The Dylan album will replace the fruitcake as the favorite "re-gift" item in the history of Christmas.

Dec. 22 2009 02:26 PM
Nina from Village

And btw Sting's pretension makes me want to yak.

Dec. 22 2009 02:25 PM
Sandra from Astoria, Queens

UGGGGH, that Sting clip sounds worse than the Dylan!!! At least Dylan is having fun with it. I'm with Aimee and her awesome "Nightmare Before Christmas" analogy.

Dec. 22 2009 02:25 PM
Nina from Village

Dylan has always been dead serious about his sense of humor, which is wicked-funny. I dig the album, but admittedly I dig everything Bob.

Dec. 22 2009 02:24 PM
Patrick from Ironbound in Newark

What everyone is trying NOT to say is Dylan's voice is gone, it has been gone for a long time. There's a time and place for everything and he should have rested upon his laurels.

Dec. 22 2009 02:24 PM
CJ from NY

Dig the Rob Halpern one!

Dec. 22 2009 02:23 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Neil Diamond now singing Christmas songs? What another Jew? Next thing you know, they'll tell us "White Christmas" was written by a Jew....

Dec. 22 2009 02:22 PM
CJ from NY

Neil Diamond is just milking his rabid fanbase.

Dec. 22 2009 02:22 PM
vladi from jersey

i love dylan's album... and i'll mix it with los strait jackets 'tis the season for los strait jackets.

Dec. 22 2009 02:22 PM
Julie from Tarrytown

I love Dylan more than words, but was so startled and bummed to hear this record... on many levels. HOWEVER, what no one is mentioning is that Dylan did this record for charity. So to me, that makes it ok. Still don't like it, but I'm much less bummed.

Dec. 22 2009 02:21 PM

From the clips you played earlier, it sounds like Santa Claus is coming to town to murder my children - I'm not sure if it's hilarious or horrifying.

Dec. 22 2009 02:21 PM
Rene Calvo from Harlem

Come on. Its so bizzare it's an instant classic akin to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Dec. 22 2009 02:19 PM
BPage from NH

I played the Dylan Xmas album in the car for my wife last night and she HATED IT. She may never listed to Dylan again after that. But I kinda like the record. It's a crazy album-- some songs are terrible (mostly the ballads) but the other half are, well, charming.

Dec. 22 2009 02:19 PM
CJ from NY

His voice is going...? When did he or Springsteen have a good voice? Voice was never part of Dylan's gig. He is a poet. And that is why a standard Christmas album makes no sense.

Dec. 22 2009 02:18 PM
Ken from New Jersey

God bless Bob Dylan for pounding a stake in the evil heart of phony Christmas cheer.

Dec. 22 2009 02:18 PM
Horace Jones from Bklyn

Drummer Boy has a haunting minimalism remonding me of late Johnny Cash.

Dec. 22 2009 02:18 PM
Frank from Newark

All this strange stuff about bob started in 1984 with We Are the World, Saturday Night Live did spoof on him and it's never ended. He should be a comedian.

Dec. 22 2009 02:17 PM
Rabbi Mike from Nyack

Even at 68, the man can STILL simultaneously

* celebrate the American songbook
* evoke polarizing debate, and
* FREAK OUT cultural critics so that they're rendered apoplectic on public radio

Isn't that what he's done for four decades?

Dec. 22 2009 02:17 PM
Aimee from Plainsboro, NJ

As I listen to this music, I can only think of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' where he is really trying to get it right, but it still comes out oddly scary -- maybe a last minute rescue at the end of the album???

Dec. 22 2009 02:17 PM
garrett from morristown NJ

I think you need to stop playing the dylan album.

Dec. 22 2009 02:16 PM
CJ from NY

What exactly are people expecting? This is Dylan, he ain't gonna sound like an angel on high.

Dec. 22 2009 02:15 PM
Kelly Spoer from Moonachie, NJ

Dude. I Love Dylan's Christmas album. It makes me laugh and smile which is something I always need around this time. And his backup singers are wonderful.

Dec. 22 2009 02:15 PM
cb from brooklyn

I think the worst record ever made was Chris Cornell's Scream but Dylan's X-mas album comes close. Alas it's saved because the proceeds go to a good cause. I can support it on that level.

Dec. 22 2009 02:15 PM
Gabby from Manhattan

it's different, interesting and kind'a cool. after listening to the millions of painful renditions of these Christmas song in the stores (just about to make me pull my hair out), i actually like this one.

Dec. 22 2009 02:13 PM
Soundcheck producer Joel Meyer from WNYC

[2] Lori - Do you recall the song that replaced Dylan on the Park Slope Food Co-Op speakers?

Dec. 22 2009 02:11 PM
Soundcheck producer Joel Meyer from WNYC

You heard it from Jim Derogatis, folks: "One of the worst records ever made. Period." What do you think?

Dec. 22 2009 02:09 PM
Gary from Upper Left Side

So let me get this straight... a Jew is singing Christmas songs?

Dec. 22 2009 02:08 PM
Gary from Upper Left Side

So let me get this straight... a Jew is singing Christmas song?

Dec. 22 2009 02:08 PM
cb from brooklyn

I imagine Dylan's holiday album is really only appealing to solid fans or as irony. As a non-fan (but not a hater) of Dylan, I find it unlistenable. Tori's seasonal album is in the same vein as appealing mostly to hardcore fans although she does have some interesting gems to make it memorable.

Dec. 22 2009 02:06 PM
Martha from Midtown

One critic (on NPR?) said it was the first time "I'll be Home for Christmas" ever sounded like a threat. Bob Dylan, scary stalker!

Dec. 22 2009 02:03 PM
desdemona finch from Brooklyn

Dylan sounds like the Big Bad Wolf singing carols on parts of his Xmas album. Don't know if that's good or bad. There's something almost perverse about it.

Dec. 22 2009 02:01 PM
Joe B from East Village, NYC

I haven't seen fans & critics so divided since his Gospel period.
What a great record! The definitive version of Must Be Santa & a downright menacing I'll Be Home For Xmas.

Dec. 22 2009 01:56 PM
gregg best christmas song

Dec. 22 2009 01:04 PM

best christmas song......

Dec. 22 2009 01:03 PM

best christmas song......

Dec. 22 2009 01:03 PM
Lori from Brooklyn

I'm digging the bits of Dylan's album I've heard on the radio and will likely buy the album. Unlike most Christmas carol renditions, his versions make me smile.

However, the powers-that-be at the Park Slope Food Co-op felt otherwise last Thursday: someone's iPod played Dylan's "Noel" over the speakers, and after a mixed reaction from shoppers, the tune abruptly stopped.

Dec. 22 2009 12:21 PM
David Keeton from NYC

Certainly the scariest Christmas album yet. Paging Lord Buckley.

Dec. 22 2009 11:13 AM

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