Anything Bob Dylan puts on record is worth a listen. Yet his new holiday offering, Christmas in the Heart (with all artist royalties benefiting Feeding America), is more of a curiosity than a grand work of art. Still, when not croaking out spiritual fare like Leonard Cohen drunk in a midnight choir (even the Prince of Peace might have problems forgiving the gruff strains of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”), Dylan cuts loose some nice Christmas rarities better suited to his sanded pipes, like “The Christmas Blues” and the chugging, Tex-Mex sing-along “Must Be Santa” (a cover of the version by Denton’s Brave Combo — see page 37 for more). He includes rarely sung lyrics to standards, too: the intro to “The Christmas Song,” both the Latin and English versions of “O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles),” and the final chorus and verse of “Winter Wonderland” (in which Parson Brown trades places with a circus clown the other kids knock down). Backed by many of the musicians who played on Together Through Life, Dylan adds a bell-clear vocal septet that harmonizes throughout the set in crystalline fashion. The record isn’t stellar (how many Christmas albums are?), but it’s unlike anything else under your tree. — Matt Marshall
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