MALIBU, Calif. (CAP) - Following the surprise success of his 2009 holiday album Christmas In The Heart, Bob Dylan has teamed up with two fellow gravelly-voiced troubadours, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, for a new release, Hallelujah! Christmas In The Heart Of A Hooker In Minneapolis.
"Well my daddy, he didn't leave me much, you know he was a very simple man, but what he did tell me was this," Dylan told CAP News during a joint interview with his new collaborators. "He did say, son, he said, you know two mouths are better than one mouth, and three mouths ... well, there you go." Then he leaned back and took a puff of his Chesterfield, taking a moment to tap the ashes off with a shake of his jade quellazaire.
Christmas In The Heart sold more than a million copies, and Dylan's versions of "Silver Bells" and "O' Little Town of Bethlehem" have become standard fare in shopping malls and at Christmas parties across America.
"I love it when he sings 'the hopes and fears of all the years' in that croaky wheeze that he's got - it sounds sort of like a death rattle, but in a festive kind of way," said Sally Fender of the YuleTunes blog, which gave Christmas In The Heart a four Figgy Pudding rating.
Dylan approached Cohen and Waits about the follow-up album, and the pair was apparently more than happy to oblige.
"One thing I learned during the years I spent living among Buddhist monks is that enlightenment comes in all forms, and speaks in many voices," said Cohen, sitting with Dylan and Waits outside Coogie's Beach Cafe in Malibu. "And one thing I learned when my manager stole my retirement fund was that you don't turn down an offer to make an album with Bob Dylan."
"This album will be colder than a ticket taker's smile at the Ivar Theater on a Saturday night," added Waits in a guttural mumble, prompting both Dylan and Cohen to stare at him blankly for several seconds before changing the subject.
Hallelujah! Christmas In The Heart Of A Hooker In Minneapolis offers an eclectic mix from the trio; for instance, Cohen contributes a version of "Ding Dong Merrily On High" which he says is actually a reference to a sexual liaison he had with Janis Joplin in the late 1960s. "She was, alas, often merrily on high," said Cohen, wistfully with a touch of literary mischievousness.
As for Waits, he contributes an original song entitled, "If It's Christmas, Those Must Be Whores And Bourbon." He admitted it's not typical holiday fare, but explained that while writing it, "I got caught in the middle of a pimp war between two kids in chinchilla coats, they couldn't have been more than 13 years old - they're throwing knives and forks and spoons out into the street."
"Riiight ..." responded Cohen, and Dylan just rolled his eyes.
Waits' only other holiday song, 1978's "Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis" - a re-recorded version of which is on the new record - is considered one of the primary factors behind increased suicide rates during the holiday season, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
News of the album hasn't been well accepted in all quarters. A group of the same concertgoers who booed Dylan's first "electric" performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, and who objected to last year's Dylan Christmas album, describe themselves as "apoplectic" over the development.
"I know we said last year's album was the last straw, but this time I'm really done with him," said Fred Markinson, 69, of Pawtucket, R.I., who bought 20 copies of Dylan's Christmas In The Heart so he would have a steady supply of them to break out of anger and frustration at Dylan's betrayal of his core values. "Judas!" he yelled.
Meanwhile, a version of "Away In A Manger" sung together by the trio has prompted a lawsuit from Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, who claims it's a direct infringement upon his show's "Tarzan, Tonto And Frankenstein" sketches from the late 1980s.
- CAP News Staff