I love the snow and the ice, and the ice on the snow that has fallen on the iced snow! I marvel at such a natural phenomenon! I might never experience it again, yet this is the second year in a row that Christmas time has been robed in white, glistering from every angle.
My musical ruminant, the erstwhile Bob Dylan, yes, he of the approaching 70th birthday (May 21st 2011), is becoming popular Christmas listening. His music has blessed us this Christmas and last in so many ways.
In 2009 the record label, Sony, released a Bob Dylan record (sorry to my nephews and nieces whose understanding of the term ‘record’ is beyond belief, literally!) called ‘Christmas in the Heart.’ While many might scoff at the voice of the counter-culture becoming involved in such a venture it begs the question – Who knows what or who that ‘voice’ is? The record is already a classic to those of us who have some appreciation of what the High Priest of contemporary music is doing. ‘Christmas in the Heart,’ for the record, (no pun intended, for the older folk!), is an album of Christmas carols and songs – the sacred and the raucous.
The album is contemporary yet timeless as it blazes from the sanctity of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ to the rowdy, out of control partying on ‘Must Be Santa’ (see the video on bobdylan.com/#/media/videos). ‘Must Be Santa’ is a huge favourite with children. For some reason they tune into this version by His Bobness. My young friend, Seán Goberville, will verify this as will my nieces Ava and Emily and my nephew Culainn.
The play-list includes Dylan at his most tender on ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ and ‘The Christmas Song.’ Both songs are beautifully produced, evoking Christmases of the past yet comforting in the present. Dylan’s voice captures the spirit of the songs perfectly, aided by the Mixed Voice Singers. That slightly crackling, almost breaking voice never falters, it just encapsulates the words and their meanings, like a layer of understanding between the singer and the listener.
Essentially the album is a faith-filled profession. All the emotions are featured as each song and carol tumbles forth. ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ melts into ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ and ‘Winter Wonderland.’ Dylan dons the Latin cap for ‘Adeste Fideles’ using a soft ‘g’ sound on ‘regem’ and ‘angelorum.’
During the snow-capped ice-ins we have experienced over the past two years this album has been spinning relentlessly in the house. The more you hear it the more you want to hear it. The album moves from the ‘Silver Bells’ of the kitchen to the ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ in the car and to ‘Christmas Island’ in the sitting room. Echoes of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ (also with animated video), ‘The First Noel’ and ‘O’ Little Town of Bethlehem’ transcend all areas.
Last week there were many moonlit nights with the light reflected by the snow. Here in the country the fields are draped in white. This is a wonderful sight, especially at night. Sitting in darkness listening to Bob, looking out, waiting for the fox to come for his nightly food parcel, can be so refreshing. Reynard becomes so visible as he makes his way through the snow.
One of my neighbours is truly living ‘Christmas in the Heart.’ This year, driving into town up the Coguala Road has been made so much easier by the ongoing unselfish and kind acts of this wonderful neighbour, Gerry Corcoran. He has spread the grit dropped off by Mayo County Council from the top to the bottom of the road – public service at its best, without a word of complaint, like our faithful postman, Ger McGing.
Bob Dylan has donated all royalties in perpetuity to charity from this record. Money raised in each country will be used to buy Christmas dinners through recognised charities from Feeding America to SVP. The only complaint is that Sony, the record company, does not seem interested in promoting the album in any meaningful way.
Regardless, the joy for those of us who enjoy Bob is that this album, for so many peculiar reasons, will become very important in his pantheon of works, not least of all because it will be dusted down every year. ‘Must Be Santa’ would be an appropriate Christmas No 1, rather than the X Factor set-up! And for every copy sold or downloaded Christmas dinners would be provided for people less fortunate.
The last track on the album is ‘O’ Little Town of Bethlehem’ and finishes on the word ‘Amen’ – a fitting tribute from a man reared in the Jewish tradition, the chosen people. It will soon be time to put the album away for another year. 2010 is close-kissing the past tense. Happy 2011.