Inspiring Conversations

Christmas Sing-a-Longs…or Not

  • SumoMe

It’s that time of year where Christmas tunes are all out on the shelves. We tell you which to spin, and which to bin.

Text by Kim Hana, first published in Silver Lining (Dec ’09-Jan ’10)

Christmas in the Heart by Bob Dylan Christmas in the Heart by Bob Dylan
Sony Music Entertainment

Seems I wasn’t alone in my excitement when I first heard Bob Dylan was dropping a Christmas album. The Internet was ablaze with comments including “Can’t wait!” and “Bob Dylan releasing a Christmas album? I’m still waiting for the punch line.” Ever the elusive singer, Christmas in the Heart is Dylan’s latest unpredictable career move.

Featuring the festive season’s must-haves like “Little Drummer Boy”, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “The First Noel”, Christmas in the Heart is better than expected. The tunes are warm and nostalgic but Dylan’s folksy twang is what makes this Christmas album stand out as one that is comforting and unexpected all at once. Dylan’s signature croak nestled in a soothing bed of harmonised vocals adds to the charm of this album.

Some may call it the worst Dylan album ever made and others deem it hypocrisy since his spiritual affiliations remain ambiguous. I would have to beg to differ. This album is made in good humour but also very much with good musical craftsmanship. It’s the sort of album that you will grow to love, if you don’t fall in love with it at first hearing.

If you’re not convinced, get a copy even if it is just to help others: all proceeds from the disc will benefit hunger relief organisations: Feeding America, the UK-based Crisis and the United Nations’ World Food Programme. The spirit of giving – that’s Christmas in the heart, all right.

If On a Winter’s Night… by Sting If On a Winter's Night by Sting
UMG Recordings, Inc.

In sharp contrast to the typical holly-jolly tunes of Christmas, If on a Winter’s Night presents an arc of songs that conjure the season of spirits, the eerie silence of the snow and days of solitude and reflection for some. With traditional music of the British Isles as their starting point, Sting and his guest musicians draw the listener in through a collection of songs, carols, and lullabies that span centuries.

Sting explains in his liner notes, “For many, [Christmas] is an intense period of loneliness and alienation.” Indeed, the soothing and contemplative sounds of this album represents his ambivalence towards the celebration of Christmas.

Traditional instruments with Celtic overtones coupled with the choral-like voice of the former Police lead vocalist, come together to warm the heart in a most surprising way.

If On a Winter’s Night is the perfect album for quiet and intimate Christmas get-togethers or best kept for the latter parts of the month when all the festive cheer is over and the impending new year of work is just around the corner.

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