Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas With The Smithereens

Here's another repost from last year's selection of Christmas CD reviews.


The Smithereens first dabbled in Christmas music back in 1992 by recording a silly and energetic take on “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” for the Rockin’ Christmas compilation. The song later appeared on the 1995 Attack Of The Smithereens rarities collection, as well as on the Songs Of The Season compilation sponsored by Borders Books & Music and WXRT in 2000.


In 2007, the band, which by then featured new bassist Severo Jornacion, really showed its holiday spirit by releasing the full-length Christmas With The Smithereens. It’s a fun party from start to finish, as The Smithereens bring their engaging power pop approach to a mix of originals and cover versions. “Waking Up On Christmas Morning,” which can also be found on the Hi-Fi Christmas Party and Ho Ho Ho Spice collections, is a catchy tune penned by guitarist Jim Babjak. The fast-paced “Christmas Time All Over The World,” written by Babjak, singer Pat DiNizio, drummer Dennis Diken, and original bassist Mike Mesaros, celebrates hugging and kissing under the mistletoe, and compares the holiday to a big rock show. The other Smithereens original, “Christmas (I Remember)” takes a melodic look back and notes, “The kid inside my heart won’t die.”


There are also guitar-driven interpretations of Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run,” Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” and The Beach Boys’ “Merry Christmas, Baby.” “Christmas,” taken from The Who’s Tommy isn’t traditional holiday fare, but the authentic arrangement here gives a preview of band’s later decision to record their own version of the entire rock opera. “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” doesn’t have as much edge as the version by The Ramones, but it’s still a solid effort, and The Smithereens also do well with “Christmas Time Is Here Again,” one of the rare songs The Beatles recorded for their fan club members.


The Smithereens set Clement Clark Moore’s classic poem, ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” to a jazzy percussion-led arrangement, and open “Auld Lang Syne” with acappella vocals before launching into a rollicking instrumental jam session. All in all, Christmas With The Smithereens is a date worth keeping.

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