At this point in time, nothing that Bob Dylan does should surprise anyone. His satellite radio program Theme Time Radio Hour pretty much laid all his cards on the table and pegged him once and for all as a mischievous kidder with a wit drier than any Sunday in the Bible Belt. Back in 1966, it was irresistible to the international press to try to pin him down into a shape that they could get a grip on. But by now (and thanks in large part to him), no one seems to care much about what motivates a pop star anymore. They do what they do and we like it or we dont.
But when you see the cover of Christmas in the Heart (Sony), with its apparently sincere wintry scene of a couple enjoying a sprightly two-horse sleigh ride, a certain level of WTF creeps into your psyche, no matter how much you want to believe in Santa. You know that, yes, on one level Bob Dylan would not make a 15-song Christmas record as a complete joke, yet you also know that he would not do it completely seriously either. And when you open the jewel case you see that you are correct. Because right there, Bettie Page is perched in an immodest Christmas get-up, smiling at you like she wants to open your presents. Christmas in the Pants is more like it.