Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Happy holidays to all who visit this blog.

Here are three edited versions of reviews I’ve done in the past of classic rock and roll Christmas albums.


Released in 1991 on Shoes’ Black Vinyl label, Yuletunes was an ambitious collection of original Christmas songs created by various power pop artists. Shoes led the way with “This Christmas,” a catchy rock song with a monster drum beat, chiming guitars, and the band’s lush harmony vocals. Material Issue’s “Merry Christmas Will Do” features Jim Ellison’s rugged guitar playing, and as a vocalist, he’s a master at selling the pain of unrequited love. The Idea, fronted by vocalist-guitarist Phil Angotti, contribute the fetching “It’s About That Time,” while Leroy checks in with the fun and mid-tempo “Santa Stole My Baby.”

Matthew Sweet contributed the reverent “Baby Jesus,” Marti Jones and Don Dixon created a joyous duet on “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday,” and “The Saddest Time Of The Year” by Spooner reflected on disappointment and loneliness at Christmas. The Spongetones describe a tranquil paradise with their acoustic-based, innocent fantasy “Christmasland,” while “A God Of My Own” by 92 Degrees takes a complex look at religious beliefs.

Bill Lloyd’s deliriously happy “Underneath The Christmas Tree” depicts a guy and his girlfriend sharing an evening of holiday decorating, but Kelly Ryan is inconsolable on the ballad, “It’s Not Christmas,” as she spends the holiday alone “for the first time in years.” Singer-guitarist Herb Eimerman’s gorgeous ballad “You Gave Me” celebrates family traditions at Christmas, as well as the way love and values are passed on from one generation to another. The Critics uncork an irresistible energy on their romantic “She Feels Like Christmas Day.” It’s the one song on this memorable collection that could conceivably be played at any time of year.

Christmas A-Go-Go

Guitarist/actor/radio show host Little Steven Van Zandt morphed into a crazed Santa for this ambitious 2008 holiday compilation, determined to find just the right gift for everyone on his list. Fortunately, he didn’t care if the recipients are naughty or nice, just as long as they listened to his syndicated weekly program, Underground Garage. An ultra rare recording of Keith Richards romping through the Chuck Berry chestnut “Run Rudolph Run” kicks things off in a blues-rock vein.

The Ramones bring their instantly identifiable revved-up sound to “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight).” “All Alone On Christmas” features vocalist Darlene Love, (one of the acts on the Phil Spector produced album A Christmas Gift For You) backed by The E Street Band. Ringing guitars and great harmonies help Brit rockers The Len Price 3 hark back to the original British Invasion on “It’s Christmas Time Ebenezer.”

On the relentlessly cheerful “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday,” Roy Wood’s Wizzard uses a Wall Of Sound influenced approach to build an entire palace. Tina Sugandh’s beautifully sung “White Christmas” begins with the standard arrangement, but soon drifts off to India via exotic sitars and tablas. The Chesterfield Kings’ knack for tapping into Aftermath era Rolling Stones is readily apparent on “Hey, Santa Claus.” Former Stray Cats vocalist-guitarist Brian Setzer’s “Santa’s Got A Hot Rod,” rocks with a highly energetic swinging arrangement. “Santa Claus Is Surfin’ To Town,” delivered by 1950s kids show host Soupy Sales, is another one of those fun rarities Van Zandt was obviously delighted to offer. Swedish band The Cocktail Slippers deliver “Santa’s Coming Home,” a catchy number that laments the amount of time Santa’s work keeps him away from his girlfriend.

The Seattle-based Boss Martians give Charles Dickens a psychedelic spin with their high speed rock song, “3 Ghosts (A Modern X-mas Carol).” Aussie garage rockers The Chevelles unleash a spirited take on a treasured hymn with the mostly instrumental “Come All Ye Faithful Surfer Girls,” and The Electric Prunes’ psychedelic and slightly unsettling version of “Jingle Bells” has a spoken word intro that includes a special holiday greeting for Underground Garage listeners. Ray Davies of The Kinks has always been a master of satire, and on “Father Christmas,” he leads the band through a funny tale of a retail store Santa being pummeled by destitute children.

Christmas With The Smithereens

In 2007, The Smithereens, 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” 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.” 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.

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