Bob Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart” (2009) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2009-11-29 02:28:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Throughout Christmas in the Heart, Bob Dylan and his band are clearly enjoying themselves, embracing the timelessness of the Christmas music genre.  More specifically, Dylan and company are transporting themselves and their listeners back to a simpler time of deceptively simple songs and sentiments.

Still, not every nostalgia-inducing feature is practiced or purposeful.  For instance, that’s not static you hear on your compact disc or mp3 copy — that’s just Dylan’s voice.

Over the fifteen songs that comprise this new album, Dylan moves fluidly between the religious and the imaginative, from solemn, sacred hymns describing the birth of Jesus Christ to classic tunes about jolly old Saint Nicholas himself, Santa Claus.

Interestingly, this is the first time Dylan has included more than thirteen tracks on a studio release since 1970’s Self Portrait, the runner up being 1992’s Good As I Been To You, clocking in at thirteen tracks.  Granted, these are not the most positive comparisons in his considerable catalog, but fortunately, the comparisons end at the track count.

Christmas in the Heart is a unified collection of songs that are unlike anything Dylan has recorded before, and yet they somehow fit perfectly with the material he has released in the past decade or so.  Ever since the two albums of covers he released in 1992 and 1993, Dylan has seemingly been drawn to the sounds and styles of the past.  2001’s Love and Theft saw a wide variety of styles, and the songs on both Modern Times (2006) and this year’s Together Through Life have progressively relied on mid-20th century styles and arrangements.

In many ways, this is the most logical time for Dylan to contribute to the very American tradition of popular Christmas music.

Bob Dylan's "Christmas in the Heart" (2009)

Bob Dylan's "Christmas in the Heart" (2009)

I will admit that, upon a first listen, I was unimpressed.  Bob Dylan fanatic that I am, the deterioration of his voice initially alienated me and I felt distanced from these classic compositions, most of which I had heard before in at least one or more arrangements.

“The Christmas Blues” is perhaps the most Dylan-esque of the tracks, especially when considering the predominance of recent Dylan tunes with blues structures, the harmonica solo, and the more serious, even downtrodden tone.  In this song, his vocals are stretched and utilized to heartfelt effect.

As I listened a second and third time, the subtlety of these tracks began to set in.  The lead guitar in “Do You Hear What I Hear?” that more than adequately takes the place of the typical “answer” vocal components, the choral background singers with spot-on, traditional harmonies, and the variations in Dylan’s vocals — the rough edges in “Little Drummer Boy” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” the softened edges in “Christmas Island” — all contribute to what is largely a relaxing and entertaining record.

Is there a better description for a Christmas album?

What strikes me about Christmas in the Heart is the proof which it provides for the argument that this time of year is a special season, one which captivates the hearts and souls of men and women and inspires us to be better people.  Certainly, if Bob Dylan put this much effort into not only a holiday album, but also a specifically Christmas-themed release, then there must be something to be said about the power of music influenced by the Christmas spirit.

Dylan, known for turning around and surprising even his most loyal fanbase, has done it again.  It may not be as revolutionary as going electric, or as polarizing as songwriting from an explicitly born-again Christian perspective, but it is at least as dramatic a development in his career.  Rarely has Dylan prepared such well-known cover songs for a studio release, much less songs with such a concrete set of lyrics and straightforward message.

If nothing else, this album will provide some interesting fodder for the ongoing “Is he Christian?/Is he Jewish?” debate that continues to rage on…

For me, Christmas in the Heart is a clear reminder of the universal qualities of the Christmas spirit.  It is an album that further diversifies Dylan’s hand in American popular music, and likewise carries the torch for another generation to hear and appreciate a style that originated almost six decades ago.

All in all, Christmas in the Heart would make for a strong addition to any pop/rock music fan’s Christmas album collection.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (Band-Aid Christmas Song Cover)

Originally posted 2007-12-24 01:07:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Here again with another Laptop Session for Christmas! This song, originally made famous by the supergroup Band-Aid, has been a favorite of mine since I was little.

I got 4/5 of MoU together and we did this tune in Fusco-Moore Studios a couple days ago. We had a lot of fun with it- a bit too much fun, considering the subject matter of the song. Please note that we don’t take the subject of starvation in third-world countries lightly- we just had a lot of fun getting together and singing Christmas songs!

I hope you’ve enjoyed The Laptop Sessions’ tribute to Christmas over these past few weeks. I’m already looking forward to next year! I hope everyone gets what they’re hoping for this Christmas- and the Laptop Sessions will be back again in a couple days!

To hear MoU’s original music, visit http://jimfusco.com/albums.html. To hear my original music, visit http://jimfusco.com.

 



“Elf’s Lament” (Barenaked Ladies Christmas cover song)

Originally posted 2007-12-22 01:05:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Hello everyone! Continuing with our last couple days of Christmas, we give you “Elf’s Lament”, a great song by Barenaked Ladies. We’ve always been happy with the way our live version came out, so I got the guys together to do a special acoustic version for the Laptop Sessions!  This song was perfect for the band to do because it features vocal parts for three members of the band.  Well, in this version, Mike isn’t sitting behind a large (and loud) drum set, so he got to sing the lead parts with the other three of us.  I’ve always been a fan of songs where two or three members of the band get a chance to sing.  Songs like “Two of Us” by the Beatles and “Walking On Air” by the Moody Blues (off of their amazing 1999 album, Strange Times) are great examples where you can hear all of the band members.  And, my favorite bands are ones where each member gets a chance to shine.

Which brings me to the band that we covered tonight: Barenaked Ladies.  Their Christmas album, “Barenaked for the Holidays’ is awesome.  Four of the five (at the time) members wrote and sang lead vocals on songs throughout the album.  That, to me, is the mark of a truly great band.  You get so much variety in an album and that’s probably why I’m such a big fan of the Moody Blues, the Byrds, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys (after 1967).  “Barenaked for the Holidays” features such classic songs as “Green Christmas” and Steven Page’s “Hanukkah Blessings”.

“Elf’s Lament” was originally done by Ed Robertson, Steven Page, and Michael Bublé.  I’m not a huge fan of Bublé’s voice in this song- it just has an odd sound to it.  And, saying his voice sounds odd next to Steven Page’s voice is really saying something. :-)  So, we stuck Cliff with that part to sing.  I got the Steven Page part.  This song was so much fun to sing.  It was a big hit on our Christmas concert CD and DVD set.  For that show, we performed in front of over 60 people, including the mayor of our hometown of Wallingford, CT.  It was one of the highlights of my musical career.  We just had so much fun playing this song- I wish there were more songs like this that give everyone a chance to shine.  I think everyone else in the band would’ve stayed more interested.  Knowing you have a starring role makes you pay more attention for sure!

To learn more about our music, please visit http://jimfusco.com/albums.html.  You can purchase our Christmas concert on either CD or DVD there.  It’s jam-packed with 30 (yes, 30!) original and cover songs.  I personally think it’s the best Christmas album you can buy for the money.  I hope you enjoy tonight’s Barenaked Ladies cover song and hope you’ll come back for more great Christmas songs from the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog!

“Blue Christmas” (Elvis Presley acoustic Christmas cover song)

Originally posted 2011-12-16 04:00:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome, welcome to another edition of the Laptop Sessions in high definition!  Tonight, I bring you the second video from last week’s recording session.  This one is truly a classic off of one of my favorite all-time albums: Elvis Presley’s 1957 Christmas Album.

“Blue Christmas” is a song everyone knows.  And, I’m pretty sure that with tonight’s recording, that every single musician in the last 50 years has recorded a version of it.  I happen to do mine in Elvis’ style, but I love Brian Wilson’s version on the Beach Boys Christmas Album, too.  But, while Brian’s version is sad and melancholy, Elvis gives this song so much raw soul.  It’s his “uh-huh” singing at its best and is on my list of “perfect recordings”.  Those are the songs (like, for instance, the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”) that couldn’t be any better- just the perfect blend of instrumentation, songwriting style, vocals, etc.

Of course, “Blue Christmas” was even recorded earlier than Elvis’s version- as early as 1948!  But, Elvis made it a rock song and that’s the version that everyone knows.

I got to use my colleague Noreen’s 12-string Gibson acoustic from 1967 on this one- what a great sound!  It was so much fun to play.  When you’re using that guitar in a room with good acoustics, you feel like you’re a one man band.  I’m loving this new setup.  And, this week’s video was much easier to edit- literally took just a minute until it was rendering.  It’s such a nice feeling to get something done right the first time.

On a personal note, things have never been busier.  Whether it’s decorating the house, going shopping, cooking, working, etc. I’m never just sitting and relaxing.  I have a feeling it’s going to be like this until after the New Year, but I tell ya- I need some more sleep!  I’m looking forward to a couple of work parties, a couple of get-togethers at the new house, and general Christmas cheer.

If you haven’t done it yet, head on over to WCJM Free Internet Radio at wcjm.com and click on the Moore Hits in the Morning radio in the center of the screen.  You’ll then be taken to all of our radio shows that you can listen to absolutely free- click on any of the numerous Christmas shows and get ready to laugh!  They’re really entertaining and I listen to each of them at least twice each Christmas season to get me in that yuletide mood.

Okay, off to bed now- make sure to keep checking back this week for more great articles and videos from the Only Music Blog- The Laptop Sessions!