Tossing Lines: Bob Dylan is no Nat King Cole when it comes to Christmas

A Christmas miracle has occurred and this time it's not on 34th Street. It's a miracle that during the recording of Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart in 2009, an album of holiday classics, no one tried to stop him.

No one felt comfortable telling the folk icon "Okay, Mr. Tambourine Man, this is clearly not working. Let's stop before we have to rename this Winter Blunderland. Frosty the Snowman's outside begging for a bucket of hot water."

There has never been a recording so bad that it made someone ill, sent them to a psychiatrist or instigated thoughts of suicide but three of many Amazon reviewers earn Dylan that ignominious honor.

One loyal fan renamed Dylan's rendition of a holiday tune "O Little Town of Bethle-Phlegm." He claimed "At some point there is so much phlegm in his voice it actually made me ill. Just listening curdles my innards."

Another sufferer states "Dylan turned the holiday into something to fear. I turned on every light in my house and hid under the dining room table. I made a blanket fort and took 2 days off from work. I have worn adult diapers every December since 2009 and spent hundreds in psychiatrist visits. This album is simply too much for the human heart."

Yet another tortured soul called it severely depressing and said "I might very well have to hang myself by the chimney with care."

I was given a copy when it first came out and have made a tradition of listening while decorating the tree, so far without becoming ill or entertaining thoughts of harming myself. I find it hilariously bad, possibly because I didn't spend my own money on it.

We often entertain a big family on Christmas and I love to sneak the holiday Dylan into the background music unannounced and wait for the groans and bursts of "What the heck is that!" Some claim it can effectively rid your house of unwanted guests.

In response to criticism, Dylan says: "Even at this point in time they still don't know what to make of me." Could this be an art form beyond our understanding? Another mystical Dylan ruse? We must remember that he was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for "his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power."

This suggests he's in full command of his faculties, a point to consider as we evaluate this dreadful effort. There are those who love it but I think they're the people who run medical marijuana shops.

There is a positive side to all this. Proceeds from its sales have been donated to support various food relief organizations and in 2009 brought four million meals to more than 1.4 million people. Profits continue to support food for children in need.

Christmas in the Heart does make an excellent "Secret Santa" gift if you're in the market for something truly unique. This is the kind of thing people can re-gift for generations and have loads of fun sharing the suffering.

How does it feel, you might ask? After giving a listen, you just might pray to be run over by a rolling stone.

JOHN STEWARD OF WATERFORD, A RETIRED AIRPORT FIREFIGHTER WHO WORKS AT ELECTRIC BOAT, CAN BE REACHED AT TOSSINGLINES@GMAIL.COM.

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