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September 2008 Archives

"Home For Christmas," Kate Bush (Columbia)

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kbush.jpgKate let more than a decade go by after "December Will Be Magic Again" before revisiting the holidays again. This song, a more conventional come-home-for-the-holidays ballad with an almost torch-song delivery by Kate, was a B-side on several U.S. and U.K. singles from the 1993 album The Red Shoes, though the song didn't make the roster of that album -- or any other one of Kate's, or anyone else's for that matter; I've yet to see it on a compilation anywhere. But you can check it out here.

"December Will Be Magic Again," Kate Bush (EMI)

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bushdec.jpgThe highly elusive and dramatic singer-songwriter from England, a protege of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, visited the Christmas music realm for the first time in 1980 with this theatrical ballad full of nostalgia and anticipation for the holiday. Not exactly a turntable hit, it nevertheless resonates fondly among her fans and pops up frequently on compilations, not to mention as a frequently compiled B-side among her later singles. You need to prowl compilations to find it though, as it only appears on her box set now.

"Christmas Island," Leon Redbone (Private)

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redbone.jpgLong a cult artist since he turned up in the early 70s with a fair amount of hype in Rolling Stone magazine, most people only know of him today through his Budweiser commercials. Leon's thing has always been early jazz-age pop singing with period instrumentation, and this 1987 collection of pop Christmas chestnuts is solidly in that tradition. A little too sedate for a rock 'n roll Christmas, perhaps, but his duet with Dr. John on "Frosty the Snowman" is a nice change of pace on your Christmas mix tapes.

"Christmas Together," Shooting Star (Enigma)

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shooting.jpgShooting Star, despite being on alternative label Enigma, was more of a pop/hard rock act, with all the late-80s shiny production that suggests. But having said that, this isn't a bad Christmas rocker, although the production suggests something that's played over the closing credits of a movie. From their greatest-hits album, circa 1989, although it may have been recorded earlier than that.

"Christmas Wrapping," The Waitresses (Ze)

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waitres.jpgThe title's a pun on late lead singer Patty Donohue's talk-sing delivery of a great song about being single on Christmas Eve. An instant classic in the vein of the Waitresses' best-known hit, "I Know What Boys Like." Originally released on the Ze Christmas album, also released as a single, and is on the group's best-of album as well as EMI's The Edge of Christmas and Excelsior's A Rock 'n Roll Christmas. Amazon has a downloadable EP that has the single edit, the regular version and an instrumental called "Hangover 1/1/83." King Biscuit Flower Hour also released a live Waitresses album from 1982 that includes a concert version of the song.
thorogd.jpgGeorge is better known for leaving his band high and dry in the spring while he runs off and plays baseball, or for his one great video of "Bad to the Bone" with Bo Diddley. Still, he apparently has a soft enough spot for the holidays that he wrote both sides of this 1983 single, the B-side being "New Year's Eve Party." The A-side turns up on compilations from time to time, the B-side hardly ever. George put out another holiday single a couple of decades later, and we have that posted elsewhere on the site.
erasure.jpgThe synthesizer duo with the pop hooks and elaborate shows released this single in 1988, and it's aces, a danceable beat and terrific melody. This should be a holiday radio staple, but it's not. Originally available as a single and on a rare Warner Brothers compilation promo album, it was also on their Crackers International EP. The B-side of the single is "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," and that seems to be unavailable now.

"Christmas Cuts," The BoDeans (Slash)

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bodeans.jpgAvailable only as a promo CD at the time, the guys dashed off these two tunes at a 1989 soundcheck, "Christmas Time" and "Jinga Bell Rock," both originals. "Jinga" is a flat-out rocker with a touch of "Walk This Way" in it, and "Christmas Time" is more mid-tempo and reflective. Both are excellent performances but easily recognizable as BoDeans tunes. The band has since thoughtfully posted both songs at their own site for download.

"Yuletown Throw Down," Blondie (Flexipop)

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blondie.jpgActually, I only ever found this on a flexidisc from Britain's Flexipop magazine back in 1981. Taking the track from "Rapture," Debbie Harry and Fab Five Freddy do a little Christmas rapping, no Kurtis Blow reference intended. A fun item if a rare one; I think this has managed to go unissued from that day to this one. Fortunately, somebody thought to throw it up on YouTube. A reformed Blondie took on "We Three Kings" in 2009.
adams.jpgAdams has a lot of fans, and just as many people who dismiss him as a watered-down Tom Petty. Needless to say, we won't dissuade the fans or change the minds of the nay-sayers with a single 45. "Christmas Time" is the A-side, and it's your basic Bryan Adams tune with a Christmas tilt from 1985. "Reggae Christmas" is a little bit more fun; you see the video for it on VH1 and MTV every year, with the five original MTV vee-jays and a crowd of others forming a conga line behind Bryan and his band. Let's see, they were J.J. Jackson, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn and .... drat, who was that dark-haired guy with the perm .... oh yeah, Mark Goodman. Adams did "Run Rudolph Run" for the first A Very Special Christmas, and he also appeared on a 2002 album called Christmas at the Vatican, singing the A-side here and "On Christmas Day." "Christmas Time" turns up on a number of compilations, but the B-side is pretty rare nowadays.

"2000 Miles," The Pretenders (Sire)

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pretendr.jpgOriginally released for Christmas 1983 in Britain as a single, the U.S. record company figured nobody cared about an original Christmas song recorded for the season and sat on it, letting it sneak out later on Learning To Crawl. A worthy tribute to the season, it's made quite a few compilations and it's also slowly becoming a favored holiday cover, with Coldplay and KT Tunstall among the better-known artists to do so. Chrissie Hynde later covered "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" for A Very Special Christmas, and her 2010 project with JT and the Fairground Boys reputedly contains a Christmas song -- we'll find out shortly.

"Giddy-Up," The Dumbells (EG)

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dumbells.jpgThis is actually Roxy Music, or more precisely guitarist Phil Manzanera, from 1980, not long after the band reformed for the Manifesto album. The song is a masquerade, too, it's actually an instrumental of "Sleigh Ride," with a touch of "Auld Lang Syne" thrown in. Once you know it's Roxy-related, you'll catch yourself nodding your head in recognition. The flip side of this single is a Dumbells original, "A Christmas Dream," another, more New-Agey instrumental. Only available nowadays through the collector's market, if you can find it. UPDATE: Another Roxy offshoot was The Players, saxman Andy MacKay's project, which recorded the album Christmas in 1988 featuring a collection of classic and antique carols in roughly antique performances, heavy on the woodwind instruments as you might imagine.
clemons.jpgClemons and his band are a strong jazz combo, but the group unwisely -- in my opinion -- mixes a novelty music approach with their authentic jazz sound, and the result doesn't really do justice to the group's talent. When you consider the novelty component is juvenile sex humor mixed with sophisticated adult music, you end up with cognitive dissonance. That aspect is mostly limited to the title song, however, one of four vocal tunes on this 2003 album. The rest is instrumental music, mostly standards, although the original vocal "Christmas Alone" is a decent holiday ballad and a mambo "Auld Lang Syne" is always fun. As a jazz album it's more than listenable, but it falls way short as a novelty record. UPDATE: Clemons cut another Xmas CD in 2006, Christmas Is Cool. Neither album appears to be currently available.

Mingle Smells, Clumpy (Clumpymusic)

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mingle.jpgFrom deep in the wilds of down-underest Australia, Bern McInerney and Tony Hennessy decided they'd rather cut an album than go Christmas shopping, and so this was their gift to all and sundry in 2001. Boy, I wish I'd thought of that. (I wondered whether I should feature something nobody will be able to get their hands on, but I figured my mailbox isn't exactly overflowing with DIY Christmas albums, so what the heck.) They even created an original song, "Toy Making Machine," and I'll let them describe it -- "A song which seeks to investigate the psychology behind a young Santa's inability to attain social acceptance and explores his encounter with gaseous alien beings from a planet many light-years away from our solar system who, taking pity on the big fat kid, present him with the greatest gift any kid could receive." The rest are popular covers, including what has to be the world's fastest "12 Days of Christmas," a slow-tempo "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" that swings into a "Shaft" parody near the end, and a dirgey "Jingle Bells." There's also a helium-induced "Frosty the Snowman" that kicks off with a "Wizard of Oz" sample and swings into four minutes of heartbeat-electronic musique concrete, "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" done as country blues, "Little Drummer Boy" in your basic toy piano, bells and drum machine rendition, and all capped off with the NC-17 rated version of "I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus," an instrumental with lots of humping sounds.

valby.jpgA strictly novelty item from 2000, Valby gives us 23 familiar carol parodies, all of which are pretty gross sex gags. Strictly NC-17-rated stuff, there's no Parental Advisory sticker, and worse, the song titles are toned down from what actually comes out of your speakers. There are some laughs nevertheless, but this isn't something you're likely to want on your Christmas mix. Sean Delany tells us he can trace this item to a version released on Gembok back in 1984, although this is possibly re-recorded and otherwise added to.

"Poor Old Santa Claus," Jeri Kelly (MPI)

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poorsnta.jpgYou'll come for the surface noise, you'll stay for what sounds like a child's vocal but leaves a tiny bit of doubt, and the spoken word bit provided by a wanna-be hipster will close the deal on this 1960 single. And that's before the song's punchline puts the jolly elf in his skivvies. Yet another 365 Days Project archived this time by Bob Purse, available for download at the site.
squeaky.jpgAnother one from the 365 Days Project courtesy of "The TOD," it's hard to tell whether this guy is pulling our leg or not. This holiday polka from 1994 is rendered with gusto and a straight face. The TOD lets us know that Armstrong was a member of a Detroit-area band called The Dirty Clergy and that copies of this record were procured at a garage sale at Armstrong's mother's house, but I'll let you visit 365 Days and get the full story, as well as the download.
wombles.jpgBack in the early 1970s, there was The Wombles, a British kids' puppet show that also released records like "Remember You're a Womble" and "Wombling Merry Christmas." Then there was Roy Wood, creative spark plug of The Move, cofounder of Electric Light Orchestra, founder of Wizzard and eccentric solo artist; his Boulders solo album from 1972, on which he played all the instruments, is one of the great lost rock albums of all time. And of course, Roy is the man who, with Wizzard, gave us "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day." Needless to say, this 2000 single is son of the bride of Frankenstein. It's cute if you get the gag, but, well, having taken this long to read the entire back story above....
tumatoe.jpgThe Indianapolis-based Tumatoe is one of those guys with one foot in the blues and the other in comedy, and this 2006 disc is a solid effort, if rated PG-13. Most of the tunes are original, but then where else could he come up with the title song, or "Eat Me -- I'm a Turkey?" The only covers on the album are "All I Want for Christmas is to Lay Around and Love On You," the Chuck Willis tune (thanks to Art Spencer for identifying the originator), and "Santa Claus Santa Claus," originally done by James Brown. Christmas dinner goes wrong in "Christmas at Grandma's," and you might agree on "Christmas -- I Can't Take It" since flatulence plays a key role. Overall, good for some holiday giggles with a minimum of cringe-worthy lines.

"The Chanukah Song Part 3," Adam Sandler (Sony)

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sandler.jpgIt was funny when he was singing it behind the anchor desk on "Saturday Night Live." It was great to have a copy on CD when it came out on What the Hell Happened to Me. Then he trots it out again for "Part 2" on Stan and Judy's Kid. Starting to wear us down, Adam. Now here we go again, with "Part 3" on the soundtrack to "Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights," a deeply vulgar and idiotic animated comedy from 2002 about Hanukkah. And all he's really doing is trotting out new versions of the verses about who is and is not a Jew. Enough already. Go pick on Kwanzaa for a while now, Adam.
hampster.jpgThere's nothing sadder than a fad that's run its course. (Apologies if you're still greeting people with "Wassup!") The Hampsterdance craze, once a staple of workplaces everywhere, or at least those with Internet access, has come and gone, but the fact that they managed to sell some copies of the original tune encouraged them to push their luck with this 2001 single. It's not actually terrible -- unless you're sick of the whole Hampsterdance schtick -- just a couple of carols, "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls," done in the Hampster beat with Hampster flourishes and augmented with Chipmunks vocals. Coming soon: "A Nigerian Investment Opportunity Christmas" and "Sleighride With Sircam": "I send you this Christmas card in order to have your advice." UPDATE: Showing on Amazon with collectors prices in force, click album cover.
elks.jpgThe Elks Skiffle Group are not a skiffle group, nor are they elks. They're a "puppet pop group from outer space" who traveled 32,000 light years to touch down in Blackpool, England in 2002 and make pop records.  Imagine a sort of garage-lounge sound with lots of keyboards and drum machine, but less polished than real live lounge music, and you've got the Elks Skiffle Group. Their motto, "The Sound of Tomorrow Today," might better be explained as "The Sound of Yesterday's Version of Tomorrow Today." Some originals, like "Fluffly Wuffly Christmas," "Hey Ho For Christmas," "Christmas Elves Are We," "Christmas Bells" and "I Want a Teddy Bear For Christmas" mix in with some self-referential versions of classic carols, as in "We 4 Elks" and "I Saw 3 Spaceships." I haven't heard any of their non-Christmas albums, so there might be a bit of humor in the connections between those and this that I'm not getting. You definitely get value for money; this sells for $6 and includes a CD-ROM component with lots of silly goodies on it. High irony content assures that this isn't for everyone. UPDATE: Their MySpace page, linked above, states they've returned to their home planet; the link it gives to its music is dead.
flatlena.jpgIf this had come from somebody in the Howard Stern orbit, I would have probably dismissed it out of hand. But I have to give Flatulina credit for shameless promotion, myth-making and plagiarism beyond the call of duty. Some examples: Her dad was Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap. Her boyfriend is noted film director Alan Smithee, whom she met when she composed the musical score for the film they both were working on, "Rochelle Rochelle." Her previous boyfriend was Chris Gaines. She played the role of Maris Crane on "Frazier." And so on. John Lennon said it best: "Good artists borrow. Great artists steal." (And we know that's true, because Lennon stole that line from Picasso, who in turn may have cribbed it from a T.S. Eliot essay, or perhaps from a similar quote of Igor Stravinsky....) You can decide which one she is when I tell you what's actually on the CD -- nine cuts of classic carols in which she farts the melody lines, except for "Dance of the Reed Pipes." There also are some examples of "singing fish" on the CD, but you'll have to wade through the enhanced CD portion of this album to learn what that's all about. While this is a one-joke novelty record, Flatulina manages to make the absolute most of the gag.

Mr. Mojo's Christmas, The Wise Men (self-issued)

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mrmojo.jpgSomebody e-mailed me about this item and I managed to track it down to NPR's website, complete with a Real Audio copy of it. The Wise Men are McCrea Adams and Robert McClenaghan, and this is a complete Doors takeoff, a medley of several of the band's tunes combined with a medley of carols, complete with a re-enactment of the spoken interlude of "The End": "Rudolph," "Yes, Santa," "I want to kill you." Absolutely indispensable for Doors fans like myself. Since I originally posted this review in 2001, The Wise Men have contacted the site to let us know that CD singles are available for $6.99 (shipping included) from H.M. Adams, P.O. Box 17131, Encino, CA 91316 (Checks, money orders payable to H.M Adams). Something different in the same vein is the Bing/Doors hybrid "We Three Kings" on Blame It On Christmas. UPDATE: Haven't heard if the address above is still valid; if not, the NPR link is your only way to hear this.

"S&M X-mas," McCallGirl (self-issued)

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SMxmas.jpgThis is your basic folksinger's novelty song from 2002 with sound effects overlaid to spice up the performance. It includes just enough in the way of specific references to convince you the singer didn't spend long evenings in the library looking up things to rhyme with "ball gag." You'll enjoy lyrics like these: "Each time that I spank you, I expect a please and thank you." This will jump out of the background on your holiday mix tape or CD. Two additional tunes are non-Christmas bonuses on this CD single. UPDATE: Performer McCall Bennett appears to have no sequels to this disc, nor is it in stock at CDBaby, where I found it.
stnicks.jpgMore Beatles-related tomfoolery, this all-instrumental album recasts 12 Christmas standards as the tunes on a Bizarro World version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Essentially, Tom Marolda of the band The Toms lays the arrangements from the various songs off "Pepper" over the Christmas songs. So we get "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" done as both versions of "Sgt. Pepper," "The Christmas Song" as "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" as "Getting Better," and so on, until we get to a medley of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Good King Wenceslas" in place of "A Day in the Life." He maintains the playing order of the original album for dramatic effect as well. While this is an imaginative idea and the album is listenable, the dramatic effect of the juxtapositions is minimal to these ears. Possibly this is the site's prejudice in favor of vocal music manifesting here, but there's a certain "Eureka!" factor we get when listening to the Rubber Band doing "Mary's Boy Child" as "Nowhere Man" that none of the songs on this album can duplicate. Nevertheless, this is fun to have around, and two bonus tracks, "Fake Christmas" by The Toms and "Surviving Christmas" by Horizontal Ladies Club, are good power pop that add value to this CD. UPDATE: Amazon only has collector's prices, but Not Lame appears to still have it in stock at popular prices.
xmasmixt.jpgOK, this is where I came in. This music originated as the stuff that started me collecting rock Christmas records. Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, the Cathedral Brass, and so on -- strictly Columbia House holiday collection stuff. With the advent of Pro Tools and the rise of the DJ as visionary artist rather than some guy with two record players, we now have this trend toward disassembling old swing 'n sway records and reassembling them into new club dancing ones with the help of beatboxes and rhythm loops. I will admit to a belief that Charles Brown didn't need to be fiddled with in this way, but otherwise this 2003 album is kind of fun in a faddish sort of way. (I wonder what the reaction would have been if my generation had access to this kind of technology -- would we have chosen to deconstruct our parents' music this way, and if so would there have been heavier repercussions from offended adults?) My suspicion is that within a few years this will be looked at in the same light as the Salsoul disco Christmas album. UPDATE: There's a volume two of this from the same folks as well, released in 2005. The folks at Verve Records did something similar with songs from their own catalog around 2008, and they even did the same album over again with the original versions of the songs -- Verve Unmixed.

White Trash Christmas, Bob Rivers (Atlantic)

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rivtrash.jpgBack again in 2002 with a fresh batch of parodies, Rivers gets topical with "What If Eminem Did Jingle Bells," "Merry Christmas Allah" with a Karen Carpenter takeoff, "Have Yourself an Ozzy Little Christmas" (the earlier parody "I Am Santa Claus" is more fun, though), and "BeClaus I Got High." "Osama Got Run Over By a Reindeer" is a year late, though, since Saddam is this year's evildoer of choice. His satires of classic rock tunes are always worth waiting for, and this time we get "Aquaclaus," based on the old Jethro Tull hit, and the Billy Paul homage "Me and Mrs. Claus." The risque angle is handled happily this year with "The Little Hooters Girl," and the remaining tunes are the title song, "Shoppin' Around for a Christmas Tree" and "I'll Be Stoned For Christmas." As usual, it'll be hard to pick just one cut for our mix tapes and CDs. UPDATE: Rich Lewis points us to a Flash video for the title song; I went back to the horse's mouth to embed it for you.


gimme.jpgThis is a short number that sets the Yiddish folk song to the music for "Feliz Navidad" and then cranks up the tempo to full punk. It's the last cut on Ruin Johnny's Bar Mitzvah, and we're not sure whether it deserves a Hanukkah Alert or not, as it's not really a Hanukkah song. But it's good for laughs, as is the rest of the album, in which they portray a semi-obnoxious cover band with tunes like "Superstar," "Come Sail Away," "Delta Dawn" and "Stairway to Heaven," along with hidden cuts "Sloop John B" and "Seasons in the Sun." There's also a thrashed-out "Auld Lang Syne" on here, too. From 2004.
rudysurf.jpgThis is pretty much self-explanatory -- more surf music versions of Christmas standards. The band has other albums out, so they're apparently deep into the genre. From 2002, they give us "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Deck the Halls," "Silent Night," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "What Child Is This," and "O Little Town of Bethlehem." Nicely played stuff. Appears to be unavailable via normal channels, but check the website linked above.
guysmile.jpgI was a little wary about this 2004 tune because the PR materials billed it as one of those pre-feminism numbers about the wife maxing out the credit card. Turns out the lyrics spread the blame around as a general lament about overdoing the gift-giving, so we're all cool with it now. (But the folks promoting this might want to adjust their pitch a tad.) It's a mid-tempo number with that late Seventies/early Eighties album rock sound, so fans of Journey and Night Ranger will be real comfortable with this one.

larry.jpgYou "Blue Collar Comedy" fans know all about Larry, whose routine is less suburban everyguy, as his name might suggest, than the redneck humorist he actually is. This is mainly spoken word comedy with just a few short musical interludes that Larry sings a cappella and off-key. So the verdict on this album comes down to whether you find Larry funny in the first place. There are 28 cuts, none of which are more than two and a half minutes long and many that are less than half a minute, so you might want to sprinkle one or two cuts among the songs on your mix tapes and discs. There are some laughs here, mostly of the red-state variety, but there are plenty of universal observations as well. A few of the bits, like the opening "Christmas Commentary," with its overdone pokes at "politically correct" straw men, didn't make me laugh because I've heard people in my community say the exact same things in all seriousness. But Larry gets plenty of screen time nowadays, so you can feel free to make up your own mind about him. UPDATE: For 2007, Larry takes another dip into the Christmas snuff with Christmastime in Larryland. And he's got a couple of holiday DVDs too.
yipexmas.jpgThanks to the fine folks at the 365 Days Project (scroll down) for this, and a couple of others from beyond the pale. Don't know what year this originated, but curator "The TOD" fills in the cracks: "Hanley is from Pontiac, Mich., just down the road from me. I figure Hanley must be about 75 or he has passed into eternal sleep." You can download this from 365, and you probably should; this bit of amateur country boogie definitely stands up to anything on the American Song Poem Project. It's originally from the album Merry-Go-Round of Life, and the download actually includes two songs, the first one being "Cotton-Tail Boogie." UPDATE: Near as I can figure out, this album is roughly from the 1960s and it has a rapt cult following.
hanharry.jpgWe're always looking for good stuff for the Hanukkah page, and the Harry vs. Santa thing looked promising. Harry carries his eight days' worth of goodies in a flying Cadillac and one night Santa pulls a hit 'n run on it with his sleigh, causing Harry to chase him down to a kosher deli in Los Angeles and take a poke at the jolly elf. Funny the first time, but it carries through with the usual boatload of cliches, including the obligatory Jewish accent. The other nine songs include seven Christmas originals, nothing likely to bowl you over. As rock as it gets is (wait for it) "Rockin' Christmas Stocking," not too bad but put over with an Elvis impersonator so that we'll know it's a "rocker." Then we get the fat Elvis a little later with "My Warm Christmas Heart." If you're a Hanukkah Harry fan, you'll probably want this, but otherwise it's no great shakes.
mrcork.jpgUnlike the folks who sold us the Iraq war, Mr. Cork will never be accused of misleading anyone with the title of this 2003 CD. It's novelty all the way, and probably isn't for everyone, though it's not quite as far beyond the pale as, say, John Valby's holiday disc. It's basically homemade pop rock with fairly obvious drum machines and attitude substituting for talent on the vocals, but there are some fair giggles here. Mr. Cork definitely isn't speaking to the medical marijuana crowd with "Roll Me a Big Ass Joint for Christmas," "The Christmas Tattoo" brings us an ode to "Merry Christmas to you" plastered on his butt, and he's kind of glad "My Wife Left Me for Santy Claus." "Diarrhea on Christmas Day" could probably have done without the extended spoken word parts, as it was funny enough on its own. But Chipmunks fans will get a kick out of "The Squirrels Go Beserk at Christmas," and you'll quickly understand why "I Got Messed Up at Christmas," though you won't want everyone to hear. And "A Recycled Christmas Story" discusses the re-gifting phenomenon in somewhat different terms. Not bad, but some of this probably could have stood to bake a little longer. 

comedy1.jpgThe ACN does pre-packaged sketches and songs for radio, and this 2002 collection is apparently a collection of their greatest hits. There's 41 cuts on this CD, all under two minutes, many under one, and though you might not want to be bothered listening to the whole thing, there's plenty of change-of-pace items for your holiday mix discs and tapes. The song parodies fall a little short of the Bob Rivers standard, but there's plenty to laugh at, including "Wrap That Gift," a parody of "Whip It"; the consumer warning disclaimer of "Beware All Ye Faithful"; the lament "No Rest For Married Gentlemen," about gift-giving to wives; "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer Again" and "Tired of the Hanukkah Song," skewering two excessively popular novelty tunes; and the Sinatra parody "That Present Is Just Crap," set to "The Lady Is a Tramp." The sketches run the gamut as well, although the ones with celebrity impersonators may require you to check the liner notes to see who they're supposed to be. Given the age of some of these bits, it's remarkable that they all seem to hold up pretty well.
dleary.jpgThe popular actor and standup makes his second foray into music (since his popular tune "I'm an Asshole") with this, an appropriately sing-songy holiday tune written by the album's producer Chris Phillips. The music is intentionally mall and elevator quality and the lyrics are, well, no surprise given the title, but plenty of fun. There's a live version on the same-named CD along with a bunch of Leary standup riffs. Great fun, but only some of you will be able to put this on a mix disc or tape.

"Carol of the Meows," Guster (Palm/Reprise)

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guster.jpgNow this 2004 single is a novelty. The Boston rockers essentially sang "Carol of the Bells" a cappella, substituting "meow" for "ring." A one-joke song, true, but well done and begging for a slot on your mix CDs. Guster also did a version of "Donde Esta Santa Claus" that has turned up on a few compilations.

annoying.jpgJim Nayder has carved out a nice career for himself with this concept, which should make me jealous since I was doing something similar to this on public radio a quarter century ago. But let me get the caveats out of the way first. By "Holiday CD," he means songs for all the holidays of the year, not just Christmas. Which may make this more or less valuable to you. I have to admit I have a quibble with Nayder's approach, which is sort of Dr. Demento with a much more pathetic record collection. Back in the day when I used to do this -- along with several friends who taught me radio -- we used to drop unspeakable tunes of the kind Nayder peddles right in among the regular music, with only the mildest acknowledgment that the listeners actually heard what we had just foisted off on them. We didn't get a franchise out of it, but the reactions from listeners were priceless. Anyway, of the Christmas stuff, he gets Tiny Tim out of the way early with "O Holy Night," "Hanukkah Rocks" by Gefilte Joe and the Fish crosses over from Dr. Demento, Larry Nestor's "Santa Claus Doesn't Smoke Anymore" is a hoot, but Dan Blocker's Ponderosa take on "Deck the Halls" somewhat less of one. "Jingle Bells" by Jeff St. Pierre is performed entirely with rubber bands, and Nayder seems hooked on this John "Bowtie" Barstow guy -- he gets to mangle "Do You See What I See," "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night." The non-Christmas tunes are better, particularly the bluegrass "Material Girl" sung by Japanese act Petty Booka (see their Xmas CD, elsewhere) and the 30s pop arrangement of "MacArthur Park." Oh, and Nayder likes vinyl record-style surface noise way too much.

Fifty Grand For Christmas, Paul Holt (Sanctuary UK)

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fitygrnd.jpgNow this 2004 single is an "American Idol" Christmas record I can get behind. Don't know if this is a true story, but Simon Cowell himself allegedly told Holt he'd write a check for 50,000 quid if Holt ever made it to the top of the charts. From there originates this song and its associated video, in which Cowell himself puts in an appearance. It's your basic 70's hard rock performance of a hooky little tune. I think this is only a British release.

 

Jobe Bells, Afroman (Hungry Hustler)

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afroman.jpgThe "Because I Got High" guy gets all Blowfly on us with this Christmas collection, giving us the holiday 411 from the point of view of all the gangstas, hos and chronic aficionados out there. A lot of this sounds like Afroman just let the recording equipment roll while he dreamed it up, but what the heck, right? Among the better cuts are "I Wish You Would Roll Me a New Blunt" -- "and pass me a beer," it continues; "12 J's of Christmas" describes the many ways you can get hassled by The Man; "Death to the World" is Afroman's way of rocking the vote, a bit late unfortunately; and who could miss "O Chronic Tree," right? Don't forget to visit the music and video section of Afroman's site, where four bonus cuts are waiting for listeners -- "Frosty the Snowman," "Afroman Is Coming to Town," "Let Her Blow" and "Police Blow My Wad." UPDATE: Those songs formed the basis of 2006's A Colt 45 Christmas, with the rest of the songs on that collection being repeats from Jobe Bells. No worries, download them all a song at a time.

Christmas Everywhere, Petty Booka (Weed)

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pettyboo.jpgA little research following on from the Annoying Music Show Holiday CD led me to this 2003 CD. This ukelele-plunking Japanese duo did a bluegrass "Material Girl" for that album, and that led me to their website and to their very own Christmas album. What seemed like inspiration of the slightly deranged variety on the above-mentioned song ends up being just mildly quirky when spread across a whole CD. Two Japanese women singing folk-country fusion in their second language ends up being a one-joke concept. Still, you will definitely enjoy their Latin-flavored (yes) "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and it's up to you whether to choose the version they sing in English or the one they do in Japanese. The pair likes to play around with Hawaiian music, so no surprise, they cover "Christmas Island" and "Mele Kalikimaka." The traditional "Christmas Coming" is done as a round, and they do Steve Goodman's "Colorado Christmas." I suppose this album's "Material Girl" would be their version of John Prine's "Christmas in Prison," in that its presence is incongruous compared to the rest of the material. Overall, it sounds mostly like a pop-country-folk thing in the Kingston Trio vein, except of course for the girls' distinctive singing and accents.
prozac.jpgThis all-soccer-mom band lays a fun novelty single on us for 2003, just in time for the lady who got mowed down on Black Friday at Wal-Mart while trying to buy a $20 DVD player. (Subsequent coverage of that story suggests the victim has a Selma Bouvier-like hobby of filing lucrative nuisance lawsuits.) Anyway, the H-on-P's tell us about the "small stampede/on aisle number three" that resulted in the title. The vocal is kind of talky, which makes it more of a novelty than a rocker, but so many people, especially the female variety, will sympathize. They've also released this tune on a 2004 album that's mostly live and includes another holiday tune, "Naughty Santa," and a bunch of non-holiday songs.

Hung for the Holidays, William Hung (Koch)

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hung.jpgI mostly punted on "American Idol" related stuff this year (the same goes for the Jessica Simpson holiday collection) under the theory that George Huff and Clay Aiken need little help from me to promote their network-friendly fare. Also, it wasn't as if anybody wrote in to thank me for backhanding 2003's American Idol holiday collection into the cheap seats anyway. Now as for William Hung, well, this was the guy everybody loved to hate on "American Idol" a while back, and now he not only has a regular album, he has this nine-cut holiday CD to his name in 2004, although three cuts are just him emoting holiday platitudes over a musical bed. I'm at a loss as to why anybody would give this guy good money to record -- in terms of singing ability, he's about equal to the runner-up on karaoke night in any small town in America. Nor is this album as absolutely terrible as some of the outraged denizens of the Amazon message boards would have you believe. You could put this on during a Christmas party and no one would pay any attention to it. So it's neither good in the conventional sense, nor does it have that so-bad-it's good thing going on that might win it a slot on a future John Waters holiday collection.

songpoem.jpgYou taste-tippers may know all about the American Song-Poem Project, but other readers may not, so here goes. Remember those tiny ads buried in the back of tabloid newspapers, movie magazines and comic books that offered to take your poetry and set it to music? Many of these ads were actually on the level, and thousands of songs were set to music and recorded "professionally." Now you can buy collections of the "best" of these recordings, including this album dedicated only to Christmas songs. Because access to the master tapes is limited, these CDs are mastered from the best copies of vinyl records the curators of this project could find. Surface noise is common, and future 5.1 mixes of this material are unlikely. The liner notes explain that true aficionados of this genre of music even have favorite artists among those who cut these records, and the band Yo La Tengo has actually covered "Santa Claus Goes Modern," two versions of which appear on this album. The 21 cuts represent a fair spread of themes, many deeply sappy, others as off the wall as Superball, and feature some of the best-loved song-poem performers, like Rodd Keith, Teri Summers and Gene Marshall. Lyric writing credits are scrupulously included as well, although the melody writers are presumably lost to the sands of time. My favorites from this album include "Santa Came on a Nuclear Missile" by Heather Noel, the Rod Rogers and the Librettos' version of "Santa Claus Goes Modern," the title song by Kay Brown, "The Rocking Disco Santa Claus," the slightly deranged soul ballad "Baby, It's a Cold Night in December" and the spoken-word "Ole Year Christmas," all by The Sisterhood. Take your irony supplements if you decide to check this one out.
crimbo.jpgThis was out in 2003 but I had no idea it was a Christmas record at that time. "Bo Selecta" is a British TV show starring Avid Merrion on independent Channel 4. Haven't seen it, being on the wrong side of the Atlantic to do so, but I'm told it's sketch comedy with lots of celebrity impersonations and send-ups. This bit of whacked-out rap-rock makes a right cheeky noise, guv'nor, and if you can stand the singer's references to being so happy he wet himself, you might just get a kick out of this. Can't quite explain how Christmas becomes "Crimbo," but I assume it's the same impulse that causes the old country's tabloid headline writers to dub Sir Paul "Macca," Michael Jackson "Jacko" and anybody named Gary "Gazza." British import only and out of print, although oddly Amazon has a karaoke version. UPDATE: A second Bo Selecta Christmas disc features Patsy Kensit and Davina McCall in a slightly holiday-slanted version of "I Got You Babe." Naturally, having two women and one man singing the song leads to some menage a trois allusions.
tntocovr.jpgThis 2004 one-off direct from Italy is a cover of the hit tune from the soundtrack of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," the legendary bad movie that is reputed to be legendary bad actress Pia Zadora's first film. It's easy to describe: imagine if Petty Booka got rid of the ukeleles and went synth-pop. Or don't imagine -- simply go and download this sucker.
wherxmas.jpgThis 2004 collection of antique recordings takes us back before even Charles Brown, presenting Christmas songs that, with the exception of "Jingle Bells," are neither traditional favorites or popularized holiday hymns. There is a vocal quintet rendition of "Children Go Where I Send Thee" called "Holy Babe" here, and that one has been popularized in recent years. As for people you may have heard of, there's Bessie Smith, Lightnin' Hopkins, Lead Belly, and McKinney's Cotton Pickers with Coleman Hawkins and Fats Waller. Everything else here progressed as far as making a record, but not much farther. Christmas is the only unifying concept here -- we have a lot of gospel, a little jazz, country, some blues, folk and ethnic music, including Spanish, Italian and Jamaican sounds, and even a little vaudeville. Not being an ethnomusicologist, I call your attention to this disc because something on it just might jump out and grab you, or may inspire a modern-day cover version. Oh, and it's OK when antique recordings have surface noise on them.
troutfsh.jpgJust as I usually take the last exit before we hit Nashville and skip the A train lest it take us into jazz territory, I'm fairly firm about avoiding stuff that's aimed mainly at the pre-teen audience. But these guys, who are the Beatles to the ankle-biter set, done wore me down; they're musically eclectic and lyrically sophisticated enough to keep an adult's attention, in small doses anyway, especially if you're a fan of pop-folk music. I'll probably file this 2005 CD under novelty, myself. Some of these tunes are a little cloying for anyone but kids -- I'm especially thinking "Eleven Cats of Christmas" and "Bob and Bob" -- but chocoholics will like "Chocolate Christmas," "Just Because Mrs. Claus" has a kind of "Your Mother Should Know" groove to it, and has anybody ever gotten over the disappointment that "Santa Brought Me Clothes"?

Pull My Finger, Jingle Smells (Oglio)

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jnglsmel.jpgNow THIS is a one-joke album, the Spike Jones of Christmas farting. This has Flatulena beat all hollow in terms of overkill, if nothing else. Orchestral versions of Christmas carols with people farting along in rhythm, if not quite in pitch. Except for the "unplugged" versions of "We Wish You a Smelly Xmas," "Jingle Smells," and "Soil the Halls," in which, yes, the orchestra remains silent. Strangely enough, there's one original song, "Farts Under the Mistletoe," and I suppose we should issue a Hanukkah Alert for "Stinky Dreidel." I was originally going to write this like it was a New Yorker review of something quite substantial, then I wised the hell up. UPDATE: There are actually belches and burps on this album as well as farts, so I guess technically this is a TWO-joke album.

"Santa's Monster Bash," Rick Ryan (self-issued)

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santamon.jpgI'm throwing this 2006 tune out there as a novelty since we don't do country here, and the backing track is definitely mainstream country, not the country of today's bastardized Southern rock retreads but more like the 60s and 70s. Lyrically, it revisits Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster's Holiday" without being a sequel to a previous tune. The lyrics could be a couple of verses shorter, but then Rick does name-check more monsters than Pickett did. If you can abide the heavy steel guitar backing, you might just enjoy this. Getting a copy will be tough though, as this is the only place I can find on the Web that even mentions it.
yulenog3.jpgNathan Kuruna is a Philadelphia artist and filmmaker who also makes his own Christmas albums. This one for 2007 is actually his third, made with the help of a pretty wide circle of musical friends, and he makes donations to Toys For Tots from the proceeds. There's a wildly amateurish vibe to this that seems deliberate; for example, his version of Mel Torme's "Christmas Song" features a variety of cheap flutes and perhaps even kazoos that seems designed to distract from the sincere vocal and piano in the foreground. Other highlights include "I'm Going to Spend My Christmas With a Dalek," for you Dr. Who fans, and covers of James Brown's "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto," They Might Be Giants' "Santa's Beard," and a version of "The Chipmunk Song" in which the vocals start out two octaves below normal, rather than above, as with the 'Munks. And of course, there's the original "Let's All S**k D**k On Christmas," for those looking to clear the room of excess relatives on the holiday. You'll have to decide how much of this variety of ironic detachment works in your world, but there are enough fun moments to make a visit to his website worth your while.

"Nine Inch Noels," Lore Sjoberg (self-issued)

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loretoon.jpgSjoberg is an author and humorist who has blogged and written for Wired magazine and founded the online magazine Brunching Shuttlecocks. Here he puts together a fairly cheap-sounding medley of standard Christmas carols, only he sets lyrics from Nine Inch Nails' songs to them. Requires minimal familiarity with the band to achieve maximum laughs, but I'm sure that won't be a problem for most readers of this site. Download it here.
mcclain.jpgWith a title like that, how can anybody resist? This Tennessee-based ensemble has several albums of red-state novelties to its credit, and for 2007 they moved on to Christmas. Nashville journeymen have a history of collaborating with this bunch, possibly attracted by Antsy's songwriting skills. The leadoff batter for this batch, "Christmas at the Trailer Park," is good fun, a more in-your-face version of Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From the Family." "The King of Christmas" invokes Elvis without resorting to a bad EP impersonation, "She's Underneath the Mistletoe Again" invokes suspicions of a faithless girlfriend and "Mary Lou's Christmas List" is the saga of the singer's mom, who does her holiday shopping year-round with the help of the lay-away plan. (Mom's probably passed on by now, 'cause if natural causes didn't get her then Wal-Mart's ending its lay-away plan probably did.) Good novelties, but since this involves country music folks we get a big blast of bathos and excess sincerity on the traditional carol covers like "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," "Auld Lang Syne Revisited" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem," not to mention the things-were-better-in-the-old-days message of "The Elves' Strike." 
dadbone.jpgThis indie singer-songwriter secreted this wacky little number away at the end of his self-titled album on CDBaby.com. It's a ukelele-driven Christmas number about how he just wants zombies eating his brains for Christmas. A nice little holiday non sequitur for your mix discs, Daddy helps us out by letting us download it for free off his website.
jackbeat.jpgJackie Beat is a drag queen who does pop parodies, which makes him/her a good candidate for a holiday disc. This one gets the Parental Advisory sticker, however, as there's a fair amount of gratuitous seven-words-you-can't-say action on here, as the second cut, "Merry F-ing Christmas," tips you. Getting a lot of these lately, but this at least is witty -- it's a takeoff on BTO's "Taking Care of Business." "Do You Believe in This Guy Santa Claus" is a parody of Cher's "Believe," "Here Comes the Reindeer Again" spoofs the Eurythmics' hit, and then we get classic carols like "Silver Bells" reimagined as "Go To Hell," "Sleigh Ride in Leather" is the carol minus the leather, and so on. This is essentially a burlesque act with some cringe-worthy moments, but some of these parodies are spot-on and worth hearing. UPDATE: Jackie's got a second collection, The Holiday Ho, more of the same, with a couple of cuts repeated from the other album. I've only been able to find these on the artist's website.

A Dreaded Xmas, Those Dreaded Gnats (self-issued)

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dredgnat.jpgThe Gnats are the nom-de-novelty of Harry Kopy and George Simonovich, who wrote all the tunes on this except the reggae version of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." This 2005 collection is a decent novelty collection, though to my ears many of the gags are fairly obvious. "Santa Takes Da Rap" is a fairly obvious rap parody full of the jolly elf in the drive-by crossfire with white-guy hip-hop accompaniment, "Merry FXmas" simply adds to a growing list of four-letter holiday greeting songs we've chronicled here (with sanitized version closing the disc), and "Down With Xmas" is the usual anti-shopping lament. "Xmas Everyday For My Kids," however, is a fairly witty observation about overindulged children who treat gifts as an entitlement, "I'm Not Your Santa Claus" might just be the answer record to "Santa Baby," "Who Took the Jingle (Out of My Bells)" is a holiday hangover song, and "Just Say No to Christmas" takes a poke at overly PC reactions to the holiday. This disc definitely has its moments, though it falls a bit short of the best novelty outings. UPDATE: Apparently there was a previous disc in 2004 that had some of these same songs, and the older disc appears on Amazon as unavailable.
brete.jpgThis is pretty much as advertised, a synth-beatbox rendition of Tchaikovsky's holiday classic. The liner notes offer genre tips as well, from electronica to house to progressive rock to ambient. It's good fun and a change of pace for folks who appreciate classical music and want their friends to know they're "with it." For the rest of us, there are surely some mix disc opportunities here, though the whole thing in one sitting may be a bit much. Oh, mustn't forget the bonus tracks, most of which are titled with variations of "Mozart Gone Mad" and are, in fact, familiar melodies by the composer. And the last bonus track is a drum-heavy version of "Sabre Dance," titled here "Dagger Dance." Found hardcopies at CDBaby, but click the album cover to download it from iTunes.

Christmas at the Arcade, LF (I Records)

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arcade.jpgKeeping strictly to the requirements of the Truth in Packaging Act, this 2006 EP is composed of Christmas carols mashed together from original coin-op arcade sound effects. You haven't lived until you've heard "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" backed by the sound effects from "Donkey Kong." Many's the Christmas party that will come to a stop as revelers try to identify which games all the different bleeps and bloops come from. There's a bit of real percussion and synth used to tie the sounds together into something recognizable, of course. "Carol of the Bells" appears to be based on the old room-escape game "Berzerk," a blast of "Galaga" kicks off "Let It Snow," and, well, let me not spoil it any further, except to note there are versions of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Jingle Bells vs. Here Comes Santa Claus" on here too. Only on iTunes, as far as I know.

Silent Nightclub, Richard Cheese (Surfdog)

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cheese.jpgRichard is the Weird Al of lounge lizards, making his bones doing cocktail jazz arrangements of your favorite 80s New Wave tunes. For 2006 he turns his talents to making a Christmas album, and the results are just as tasteful as you might imagine. Speaking of "Imagine," his swanky rendition of the John Lennon tune may frighten or appall Beatles fans. Note that some of these tunes aren't actually Christmas songs, but I suspect the choices were made satirically -- "Holiday in Cambodia," "Like a Virgin," "Ice Ice Baby," "I Melt With You," "Personal Jesus" and "The Trees" come to mind, though I can't explain why he picked Beyonce's "Naughty Girl." But he does squeeze in some more appropriate titles like a merengue version of "Christmas Time Is Here," plus "Silent Night," "Jingle Bells," "Do They Know It's Christmastime," and his own original "Christmas In Las Vegas." Beware of the version of Wham's "Last Xmas" though, as it's only 20 seconds long and ends in an insult.
sarahsil.jpgNot exactly a Hanukkah Alert, the popular comedienne threw together this poppy little foul-mouthed tune about present envy on the part of her people for 2005. There are "clean" versions, though they simply mute the bad words. But there are plenty of laughs here, and if your mix disc audiences can handle a Parental Advisory sticker, I'd say go with it.
patpend.jpgAnd she'll be spreading her Christmas cheer again this year. Yes, it's a single entendre, and it's a pun that's getting pretty old, but you gotta giggle about her stalking the mall Santa all liquored up, especially at the double time tempo these guys put it to. Good fun, downloaded this one from Amazon in 2007, haven't seen any hardcopy version. Don't know if you want to count this, but the band also recorded the song "Decemberween" on their 2006 album Save Each Other, the Whales Are Doing Fine, a theme song for a made-up holiday created by the Internet cartoon "Homestar Runner." The idea is basically Halloween with the trappings of Christmas, a plot we've seen elsewhere.

"Christmas is Awesome," Reuben (Hideous)

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reuben.jpgWell, yeah! Reuben is/was a British punk/hard rock outfit and this single was fresh for 2007, plus the YouTube video seemed to be making pretty good dent in the zeitgeist that year. Unfortunately, some sort of paperwork hangup got this song pitched from consideration for the U.K. charts, no doubt a heartbreaker for a British band if you've seen "Love Actually." Lots of thrash, featuring the message "we're off work today, hang the mistletoe, a child is born, sorry about all that nailed to the cross business, let's party and oh yeah, Christmas is awesome." Can't argue with that, now can we? Doesn't seem to turn up on Amazon or iTunes, so here's the video:

 

Elves Gone Wild!, Robert Lund (self-issued)

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elvesgon.jpgLund's a jingle writer with a sideline doing hit parodies (nine full CDs of them in fact), and this is the only one dedicated to Christmas. It's from 2003 and I probably wouldn't have it to this day if the author hadn't gifted me with a copy. Lund covers some of the same ground as Bob Rivers, and this CD is right up there with some of Rivers' comedy classics. There's a lot of chart material on this -- "Every Toy You Break" is the classic Police tune, "Santa" plays off R.E.M.'s "Stand," "Milk For My Reindeer" takes off from Toby Keith and Willie Nelson's "Beer For My Horses," and "Who Let the Elves Out" is self-explanatory. "Nuttin' But Spam" brings in a guest performance from the AOL mail guy, "I Want Some Plastic Surgery For Christmas" is a rare takeoff on Gayla Peevey's ode to a hippopotamus, and Lund brings aboard his pal Billy, whose "Ding Fries Are Done" is all over the Web. A minor misfire is having two songs about going broke buying presents -- "Maxed Out Credit Cards" and "I'll Be Broke For Christmas" -- and the four bonus tunes aren't holiday numbers, though they're good examples of his non-Christmas work, including a takeoff on Coldplay's "Yellow" and Kermit the Frog's version of Five For Fighting's "Superman" called "SuperFrog." OK, here's "Ding":

 

I Got Yule Babe, Joel Kopischke (Joelkster)

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yulebabe.jpgIf that's Joel on the back cover, he gives off the vibe of being a lounge singer. But don't worry, this 2005 disc isn't a Richard Cheese thing, just a straight-out old-school novelty album full of parodies, like the title song, which you probably already figured out is the Sonny & Cher hit. Rock fans will especially be interested in the holiday parodies of Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," reimagined as "Shopping Mall of Broken Dreams," Violent Femmes' "Blister In the Sun" with the blister swapped for "Christmas," and Barenaked Ladies' "If I Had $1,000,000," retitled "If I Had a Secret Santa." Hanukkah Alert for "That's A Menorah," formerly "That's Amore." Some originals keep the hijinks going, like the polka "Criminy Cripes, It's Christmas," "A Harry Potter Christmas," "I'm Your Snowman Baby," "Ring-a-Ding-Ding, It's Santa" and "Merry Tourette's Christmas," which gets censored when the bad parts come in. Seinfeld and hockey fans will especially like "O Festivus," set to the Canadian national anthem.
weirdal.jpgAl's second Christmas song, from the 1996 single of "Amish Paradise" and his album Bad Hair Day, is a power-pop ode to a militia-ready Santa who levels his North Pole workshop and gets taken out by a SWAT team. It's kind of heavy-handed; "The Only Law Santa Claus Understood" from the Chris Stamey album is a better stab at an outlaw Father Christmas. But it's not bad for all that. Like Al's previous holiday tune "Christmas at Ground Zero," this is not a parody but a fully original song. As there were 10 years between Al's two Christmas songs, he's overdue for a third.
groundzero.jpgWeird Al's got a really lengthy repertoire of parodies and funny songs, but his output for Christmas is limited to just two songs. "Christmas at Ground Zero," included on the CD of the first Dr. Demento Christmas album as well as the Weird Al's Polka Party album, was his first pass at the holiday, round about 1986, a fully original song written by Al in which he satirically envisions a nuclear holocaust with tinsel, evergreens and presents. The song has lost a lot of its bite in recent years, as the former World Trade Center site is now the only thing people think of when the words "ground zero" are mentioned. Nevertheless, it remains a nice piece of work.
pent.jpgThis 1996 disc is easily the stupidest thing I've ever heard, and I've heard Marcel Marceau's live album, "Muhammad Ali and His Friends vs. Mr. Tooth Decay," The Wonder Band's disco version of "Stairway to Heaven" and Garth Brooks pretending to be rock musician Chris Gaines. Most of the album is taken up with some half-baked North Pole sex scandal sketch that manages to be remarkably sex-free in content, not to mention humor-free. At the end of the album are three cuts in which women read typical Penthouse Forum letters over a musical bed; a typical issue of Forum is $5 and has a couple dozen letters, plus erotic pictures. So much for your justification for buying this piece of crap.

Gay Apparel: X-mas Songs, The Go-Go Boys (Ring)

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gogoboys.jpgThis 1996 album is the male counterpart to the Venus Envy lesbian Christmas album, and while it has a few laughs along the way it also has more explicit sex language. But hey, this isn't anything new to anyone who's read the Starr report, right? Love goddess Judy Tenuta makes a cameo appearance. The band revisited Christmas with Homo For the Holidays in 2001, more of the same, with such song titles as "Out in the Bleak Midwinter," "Frozen Assets" done to "Baby It's Cold Outside,"  "GWM ISO..." and so on. This one's still available, the first one not so much.
venus.jpgI'm always wary of all-"womyn" bands, but with a title like this one, it's hard for anyone to go wrong. And the title song is funny, as are some of the other parodies, especially "The Chipmunk Commitment Song"; you don't often hear covers of Alvin and his pals. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" is redone with more topical lyrics, and "Rhonda the Lesbo Reindeer" is a hoot; extra points for the Beach Boys quotes. Their original tunes, however, are wordy and excessively earnest. Bob Rivers beat them to the "What's It To Ya Chorus" by several years. And there's got to be more to being a lesbian than taking your lover home to meet your parents, which seems to be part of almost every song on the album. Overall, this 1995 album is a mixed bag. P.S.: Bass player and vocalist Laura Love has since gone out on her own with such well-regarded solo albums as Octaroon and Shum Ticky.

Blowfly Does XXX-Mas, Blowfly (Pandisc)

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blowfly.jpgFrom the era of "party albums," those sex-obsessed comedy recordings of the 60s made mainly by black "chitlin' circuit" comics, we get this 1999 collection from Blowfly, one of the best-known performers from that era. I don't have to draw you too much of a picture: we get 14 familiar Christmas tunes that Blowfly sings with X-rated parody lyrics. This is the kind of thing he's been doing for years, so if you're familiar with him you'll probably get a charge out of this. If you're not familiar with this sort of thing, proceed cautiously -- a lot of people won't find this nearly as funny as you might. UPDATE: There's a previous single, "Blowfly's Christmas Party" backed with "Blowfly's New Year's Party," made in 1980 for TK Disco, according to Goldmine's "Christmas Record Price Guide." There are 7- and 12-inch versions listed by vinyl dealers on various Internet sites.
funkxmas.jpgSometimes these budget compilations strike gold, as I've mentioned elsewhere on this site. This batch of tunes was custom-recorded on the cheap for the LaserLight label in 1997, so there is no actual roster of artists you might recognize. However, I've included this here because you might need a hard-rock version of "Dance of the Toy Soldiers," a Latin "Let It Snow," a rap "You Better Watch Out," a surf version of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," or a reggae "Frosty the Sno Mon." A little on the sterile side performance-wise, but there are some good ideas here, and LaserLight is a bargain label.
harry.jpgThis album is from 1994, but there's no indication when this stuff was recorded, apart from sometime during the age of stereo (checked it with headphones), although I detect drum machine on some of these tunes. UPDATE: It was originally put out in 1974, according to the Wikipedia entry, so 1994 is the CD release. Harry's been in the biz since the 1930s, according to the liner notes, and is best known for "Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine," a Dr. Demento staple. The good doc also plays his "I Wish My Mother-in-law Don't Visit Us This Christmas," which is here. The rest is jazz and boogie-woogie versions of standards, of which the best items are "Twas the Night Before Christmas Boogie," in which he does a Lord Buckley on the famous holiday poem, and the follow-up, "Twas the Day After Christmas Boogie." Inexplicably, he also throws in a bicentennial tribute, "That's the Spirit," which makes sense now that we know the correct date this was released. Harry passed on in 1991.

Bah! Humbug!, various artists (Laserlight)

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bahhumb.jpgThis is a chintzy compilation even for a budget label like Laserlight; some of the songs are widely available elsewhere and at least two of them have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. But that said, there are three cuts worth knowing about. For example, until I laid hands on this 1996 CD I had no idea Eartha Kitt cut a sequel to "Santa Baby," but it's here; "This Year's Santa Baby" uses the same backing track and the new lyrics refer back to the older song. Josephine Premice cuts loose with a Carribean-flavored "Mama, Give Me What You Gave Santa Claus." "The Nut Rocker," a rock arrangement of "The Nutcracker" that originated with B. Bumble and the Stingers, gets bounced back to Portsmouth Sinfonia, an orchestra consisting of people with varying degrees of talent.
capstep.jpgThe Steps are a political parody group and, as this 1993 album makes achingly clear, their material doesn't have much shelf life since it depends so much on topicality. Still, tunes like "Doctor Bills," "Gun Nuts Boasting They Can Open Fire," "Why's Madonna Kissing Santa Claus," "Can't Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Mommy's Spoiled Child" still manage to have some staying power as change-of-pace items on your Christmas mix discs. They previously released Danny's First Noel, according to Bob Bailey, referring to former vice president Quayle, in 1989. Which means they're way overdue for another holiday album. Check out their home page for some more up-to-date items, like "How the Gates Stole Christmas."
therapy.jpgThis Austin, Texas four-piece writes and performs novelty songs in the folk/country/swing traditions, as one might expect from musicians in their hometown. This particular album, from 1999, has its moments in the novelty realm, but also illustrates the dangers that occur when musicians minor in psychology. I'm always open to songs like "Christmas in July," as I once hosted a Christmas radio show in that month, and this one, a walking blues, is right in the tradition. Hanukkah alert goes to "Abraham's Lament," in which the prophet is transported to the modern day to watch people celebrate the Christian holiday traditions. "The War of the Lights" is a great idea, but the waltz tempo makes it cornball, a tone that pops up way too often on this album, as illustrated by such songs as "The Littlest Snowflake" and "Pachelbel's Tantrum," not to mention the entirely too obvious "Twelve Days of Analysis." "Happy Whatever You're Having" takes off on the many ways people try to make Christmas "inclusive" and still has some currency, but a lot of the issues they built songs around were kind of shopworn by the time this album came out. But I guess it's all part of their schtick. Covers include serviceable versions of "The Christmas Polka" and "The Christmas Boogie," otherwise, these songs were all written by Therapy Sisters past and present, as stated in the liner notes. You'll note the band lineup has evolved at the website, and the act has branched out into the realms of Spanish and kiddie music as well. The album is out of print, but you can click through to Amazon for third-party copies via the album art.
mumy.jpgThis two-and-a-half minute single-entendre from 1994 manages to be hugely entertaining; Sarah Taylor delivers what Eartha Kitt only promises in exchange for lots of gifts. "I gave Santa my cookies, he put them into his mouth" is about as subtle as it gets here, however. Still, this is one of the few songs of this type in which Santa actually scores. If you're still unsure of the thrust of this song, the second tune is "Holiday Affair." Yes, this is the same Bill Mumy who was the child star of "Lost in Space" and also is a member of novelty-meisters Barnes and Barnes of "Fish Heads" fame. The disc is selling for collector prices nowadays, but you can download both songs at Amazon.

Ho Ho Ho, RuPaul (Rhino)

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ruhoho.jpgAmerica's favorite drag queen plays Christmas for all it's worth on this 1997 album, with tunes like "RuPaul the Red-Nosed Drag Queen" and "All I Want for Christmas" ...is plastic surgery. He slips in an original, "Funky Christmas (Christmas at My House)" that thoughtfully includes "A Visit From St. Nicholas," and a dance medley of several traditional Christmas standards. Ru shows a bit of creativity in choosing songs, like Dolly Parton's "With Bells On," Little Steven Van Zandt's "All Alone on Christmas," a funky "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" and an interesting arrangement in which "Disco Lady" meets "Here Comes Santa Claus." On the other hand, his "Santa Baby" is overbaked and he ruins the joke of "I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus," done in a much funnier version by comedian Kip Addotta on the first Dr. Demento Christmas album. This album was released in conjunction with his VH1 show from that period; he previously did an excellent dance-pop single of "Little Drummer Boy" on Tommy Boy in 1995 that isn't part of this collection. Strangely, the music section of RuPaul's website ignores his holiday releases.

A Christmas Filled With Love, Orion (Kardina)

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orion.jpgOrion was an Elvis Presley impersonator who tried to take the impersonation to a higher level by performing in a Halloween mask so that viewers would think Elvis didn't actually die but was standing right in front of them. Actually, he looks a lot more like a fiftysomething Andy Kaufman on the album cover. The liner notes claim that "Good Morning America" took a voice print of Orion singing with Jerry Lee Lewis and said the evidence showed it was actually Elvis. Right. The 1997 album is eight sappy Christmas originals with boilerplate 1970s Nashville country arrangements, good only for playing "Live vs. Memorex" with your Elvis-loving friends. Orion recorded a subsequent holiday disc in 1998, Holiday Tribute to the King, which featured the singer, assisted by the Jordanaires, doing the Elvis thing on Christmas songs Elvis himself had previously recorded. Sadly, Orion, real name Jimmy Ellis, was killed in a robbery of the package store he owned in Orrville, Ala., in 1998. His records remain available at his memorial website.

The First No-Elvis, Dread Zeppelin (Birdcage)

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dread.jpgQuick recap for those who aren't familiar: this band's claim to voltage is that it's a reggae band that plays Led Zeppelin covers with an Elvis impersonator ("Tortelvis") as vocalist. How does this jive with the idea of doing Christmas music? Decide for yourself with this 1994 EP, originally a fan club-only release (the fan club being Physical Jah-Fitti). As such, this is fairly self-indulgent, the title song and "Chritmas Question 'n Answer" being little more than between-song patter. That leaves two non-Christmas tunes, "The Last Resort" from a National Lampoon movie and their version of Zep's "Kashmir," and two Christmas songs, "It's Christmastime 'n I Like It," which takes off from KC and the Sunshine Band's similarly-named disco hit, and their cover of "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth," which is also found on the IRS Just In Time for Christmas album. Definitely for fans only. They revisited Christmas with the 2005 album Dread Zeppelin Presents: Merry Christmas!

It's a Cow Christmas (Spinnaker)

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cow.jpgI know people who are obsessed with cows, and for them this 1994 disc would be a great Christmas present if it were still available. For the rest of us, it's a one-joke album. Dig these song titles: "Hallemoojah Chorus," "Angus We Have Heard On High," "God Rest Ye Merry, Cattlemen," "Deck the Stalls With Oats and Barley," "We Wish You a Dairy Christmas," and so on. Alert: They don't moo the songs in the style of the Singing Dogs or the Jingle Cats; these are all human voices. Third-party merchants on Amazon occasionally have this, so I linked the page. I need to add to this post that questions about this record have generated the most e-mail to this site since I first posted this review at the site's opening in 1997.
elvez.jpgYou know how there are so many Elvis impersonators (Presley, you wise asses out there) that they've mutated into sub-specialties, like female Elvises (Elvi?), pre-teens, babies, firemen, paratroopers, etc.? Well, here's a Hispanic Elvis for you. Judging by this CD EP from 1994, El Vez knows he's kidding, even if his fans don't. This CD kicks off with a real attention grabber: the intro from Public Image Limited's "Public Image" leads into a rendition of "Feliz Navidad," and some of the other songs are adapted from familiar tunes, as in "Santa Claus is Sometimes Brown," "Brown Christmas," and "Christmas Wish." Points for a cover of "Donde Esta Santa Claus," too. Actually, he doesn't really hang on to the Elvis voice much on this record; probably too much else going on. UPDATE: This is out of print, but the artist has a new one available through his website, Sno-Way Jose, featuring a Stooges takeoff, "Now I Wanna Be Santa Claus." Watch for that one once I've had a chance to listen to it.

Reindeer Games, Pat Godwin (Rage-n-Records)

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godwin.jpgThis is an independent production out of Philadelphia circa 1992. I don't know anything about Pat (UPDATE: I do now), but I like the way he thinks. I bought this without hearing it as soon as I saw the eighth cut on the album, "Grandpa Got Worked Over By a Mobster," which is an excellent parody of the now-overplayed Elmo and Patsy tune and alone worth buying the album for. The title song is Christmas through the eyes of Santa's reindeer, possibly a first, and other highlights include "I Got Dumped For Christmas," "Santa, Welcome To the Modern World" and "Christmas Tree." The overall performances and sound quality are a little amateurish, but "Grandpa" makes it all worthwhile. There are some copies knocking around cheaply, but Pat's currently got all his recordings up on his website.
crypt.jpgThe Crypt Keeper from the HBO program "Tales From the Crypt" belts out a dozen or so popular Christmas tunes with new lyrics on this 1994 album, as in "Deck the Halls With Parts of Charlie," "We Wish You'd Bury the Missus" and "Should Old Cadavers Be Forgot." A one-joke concept, sure, but there's a fair number of giggles among the gross-outs. Given the show's cult following, you probably won't be surprised to discover this out-of-print album is selling for collector prices nowadays.
blame.jpgDon't let the record label's name fool you, this isn't just for kids. Some of the most ludicrous novelty Christmas songs ever made are right here on this single album, compiled in 1995. "Silent Night" as done by John Phillip Sousa? A surfer version of "Little Drummer Boy"? A Celtic reel "White Christmas"? A Jewish folk rendition of "Deck the Halls"? These are just the most obvious gags. Only a pop music obsessive, for example, would get the point of "Silent Night Walkin'," in which the traditional carol is superimposed over 50s instrumental "Sleepwalkin'" by Santo and Johnny. The Sinatra-esque stylings of Mr. Bob Francis over a perfect Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra-clone backing track combine in a rendition of "Away in a Manger" that absolutely skewers the Chairman of the Board -- and judging by the liner notes, inadvertently so. Not to mention the Bing Crosby meets Jim Morrison version of "We Three Kings" -- but hey, I'm spoiling it for you. This one is best experienced completely by surprise. Literally something for everybody. Now out of print, but the Amazon page shows third-party resellers peddling it cheaply -- in some places it pulls collector prices.
hankey.jpgThere's no way to get around it -- you're either going to love this 1999 album or hate it with every fiber of your being. Those of you who have been getting all your entertainment from Chinese satellite providers over the past few years probably aren't aware of the "South Park" phenomenon, but everybody else is, and this Christmas album grew out of the series' Christmas episode, one of the few in which Kenny doesn't get killed. Once you know that Mr. Hankey is "the Christmas poo," you'll probably be able to make up your mind as to whether you want this or not. The Parental Advisory label is well deserved; not only is there a generous helping of gratuitous dirty language, but the entire premise of several songs is guaranteed to offend a majority of people. "Christmas Time in Hell," for example, has Michael Landon, Gene Siskel, Princess Di and JFKs Sr. and Jr. all sharing the same eternal fate as Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolph Hitler and Genghis Khan. In "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo," physical descriptions of the star of the show are gag-inducing exercises. And "What the Hell Child Is This?" features Chef denying he's the father of a baby, until he discovers it's actually Jesus. Then there's "The Most Offensive Song Ever," which almost fails to live up to its billing since Kenny's singing part of it through his too-tight hood. On the brighter side are Mr. Garrison's twisted ode to religious tolerance, "Merry F- Christmas," and Mr. Mackey's hysterical "Carol of the Bells." Two Hannukah Alerts come with "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel," a hilarious ensemble singing piece, and Kyle's classic ballad "The Lonely Jew On Christmas." Other items are bits of incidental music from the special and from the episode promoting this album. Too bad it doesn't have the entertaining Christmas medley duet by Santa Claus and Jesus Christ from a different episode.
rivers4.jpgIt just wouldn't be a new millennium without a new Bob Rivers Christmas album to ring it in, and so here we go for the year 2000. It's the usual laugh a minute, with the title song in its entirety plus another go at Alvin and his buds with "The Twisted Chipmunk Song." Highlights include those two plus "Decorations," based on "Good Vibrations," "Carol of the Bartenders," "Goin' Up to Bethlehem," based on Creedence's "Up Around the Bend," and a direct parody of a Bruce Springsteen holiday song called "Santa Claus is Foolin' Around." The Beatles meet William F. Buckley Jr. in a Christmas-themed "Money (That's What I Want)" and "Hello Dolly" becomes "He's So Jolly." Downsides are few; a bit based on the idea that the Christmas angel gets the Christmas tree jammed up his rear is flogged to death to the tune of "Who Put the Bomp," and "Homeless on the Holiday" is actually a pretty heartless bit of business. By the way, Bob makes many more parodies than appear on his Atlantic releases that are at his website; check out "Smells Like the Night Before Christmas," set to the Nirvana hit; "New Year's Resolution" set to the Beatles' "Revolution"; and a couple of now-dated items, "Jingle Bells '98" and "Little Hummer Girl," about somebody named Monica who doesn't appear on "Friends."

More Twisted Christmas, Bob Rivers (Atlantic)

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twist3.jpgChristmas is always a little merrier when a new Bob Rivers Christmas album hits the racks. This one, his third, from 1997, has more of the rock band parodies that have made his reputation. Richard Simmons turns in a guest cameo on "It's the Most Fattening Time of the Year" and Alan White of Yes mans the drums on "Holidaze," a takeoff on "Purple Haze." Rivers raids the Beatles catalog twice for "It's Jesus' Birthday" and "All You Need is Elves," and the Stones meet Sinatra on a jazzy "Get Off My House." "Sled Zeppelin" is a takeoff on Page and Plant's "D'yer Maker." Celebrities take a beating on "Rummy Rocker Boy," a parody of the Bing and Bowie record, and the self-explanatory "There's a Santa Who Looks a Lot Like Elvis." A B-52s parody, "Toy Sack," may be the best thing here. And "The Buttcracker Suite" speaks for itself. This one's currently out of print, but between Bob's site and Amazon, you may still be able to get a copy.
beatmas.jpg The Christmas record of 1996, and possibly the decade. In a year when numerous music sales records set by The Beatles were smashed by The Beatles, the Rubber Band, a noted Danish Beatles copy band, put together 11 solid remakes of Christmas tunes set to arrangements of Beatles songs. "Please Please Me" becomes "Jingle Bell Rock," "I Saw Her Standing There" becomes "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," and their "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" is not based on Phil Spector's arrangement, but on "Eight Days a Week." Buy this and play "Spot the Arrangement" with your Beatle-fan friends. The performances are top-notch, although the voices don't sound that much like the individual Beatles, so they settle for getting the Liverpool accents and the attitude right. UPDATE: Apparently the boys were good enough to fool the Internet; there are folks around who swear their version of "Last Christmas" actually is the Beatles. END UPDATE. It's hard to find but absolutely worth the effort. The link to Amazon takes you to third-party resellers; CD Universe claims to have new copies. Larry Mancini of Isba Music Entertainment in Quebec informs us the album remains available direct from his firm for $15 US including shipping and handling. Write to Isba Music Entertainment Inc., 2860 Blvd de La Concorde east, Laval, Quebec, Canada H7E 2B4. That info is several years old, however; there's a website for Isba, but it currently features only Francophone singers.

Christmas Caravan, Squirrel Nut Zippers (Mammoth)

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squrnut.jpgThese guys have a vision that can't be contained by mere rock 'n roll, but ironically enough, it took a rock audience to make this old-style swing band famous. Given their rollicking approach to music, I approached this 1998 release full of hope and came away a little disappointed. It's a good enough album, but it's just a little too eclectic to suit me; I was hoping for something like the Bonzo Dog Band and I came away with a bit more Leon Redbone. But give 'em credit, they cover a lot of ground in only 10 songs, seven of which are originals while two of the covers aren't all that familiar. Some of the tunes are period pop-jazz balladry, but "Carolina Christmas" is Western swing, "I'm Coming Home for Christmas" and "Gift of the Magi" are straight off the Grand Old Opry, "Sleigh Ride" is tamer Dixieland, "Indian Giver" is rock, the instrumental "Hot Christmas" is jumpin' jive and "A Johnny Ace Christmas" is flat-out blues. If this kind of a mix is what you're looking for, you've found it. Joe Clifford Faust notes that Sold Out by the Squirrel Nut Zippers, a limited edition, had a hidden track that went like this: "Santa Claus is smokin' reefer /Santa Claus is smokin' T / He's so high in the sky..." "It also features the melody from Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" on a rinky tink electric piano in the instrumental bridge. Quite a hoot," Joe says. Judge for yourself, as that disc is available again.
rivers.jpgBob Rivers began calling his parodies Twisted Tunes around the time of this 1993 album. The title song "I Am Santa Claus" is done to the tune of Black Sabbath's "Ironman" and is alone worth the price of the album. With this album, Rivers began cultivating a harder rock sound that also does an excellent job of sounding like the bands being parodied, as in the case of the above-mentioned title song, "Jingle Hells Bells" evoking AC/DC doing "My Favorite Things" and "O Little Town of Bethehem," which sounds like the Animals doing "House of the Rising Sun." Other note-perfect parodies from this disc include "Walkin' Round in Women's Underwear" ("Winter Wonderland"),  "Didn't I Get This Last Year" ("Do You Hear What I Hear"), "Manger 6," a takeff on the Tom Bodett Motel 6 ads, "Grahbe Yabalz" pokes fun at Michael Jackson's dance moves, and "The What's It To Ya Chorus" makes the familiar chorus a bit more in-your-face. Another great collection from Rivers.

Twisted Christmas, Bob Rivers Comedy Group (Atco)

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rivers1.jpgRivers has been a wacky morning show DJ for years, and he has his own website where you can hear fresh-baked parodies all the time. Back in 1987 he started issuing full albums of Christmas parody songs, and this is the first one. Topical parodies don't always wear well over the long run, so "O Come All Ye Grateful Dead-heads" ("O Come All Ye Faithful") might seem a bit quaint, and that goes for the parts of "The 12 Pains of Christmas" that sound like Archie Bunker, too. But other songs on this two-decade-old collection, like "Didn't I Get This Last Year" ("Do You Hear What I Hear"), "The Restroom Door Said Gentlemen" ("God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"), "Wreck the Malls," "We Wish You Weren't Living With Us," and "I'm Dressing Up Like Santa (When I Get Out On Parole)" are timeless. The performances are impeccable, contributing to their ability to raise a smile even after all this time. Subsequent Rivers collections are also reviewed on this site.

Tree-side Hoot, The Christmas Jug Band (Globe)

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chrsjug.jpgThe second release by this ad hoc holiday group featuring Dan Hicks and other Northern California musicians shows progress from the first album, Mistletoe Jam. "Under the Mistletoe" is a Hicks original, and "Rockin' the Nativity Scene" and "He's on Holiday in His Mind" are originals by band members. Some of the popular songs have had their lyrics rewritten by the performers here, for example, "Santa as Seen on TV" done to "The Sheik of Araby" and "S-A-N-T-A" to the tune of "Gloria." Classic holiday fare like "Let It Snow," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Run Rudolph Run" round out the collection, and "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" makes a return appearance from the first album. From 1991.

Mistletoe Jam, The Christmas Jug Band (Relix)

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mistljam.jpgIt's Dan Hicks of Hot Licks fame, now gigging as Dan Hicks and the Acoustic Warriors, and this is old-style country-folk-swing adaptations of popular Christmas songs for the most part. Other names you might recognize on some of these recordings include Austin DeLone, Paul Rogers and Norton Buffalo. The Christmas Jug Band tradition began in 1976 as a live gig in Mill Valley, Calif., and Mistletoe Jam is the first time the group committed the music to disc, on vinyl in 1987. Trad carols like "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," "O Holy Night" and "Twas the Night Before Christmas" lay alongside musical parodies like "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Christmas Card," "Gee Rudolf, Ain't I Been Good To You," and "Rudolph the Bald-Headed Reindeer." The Mack Rice number "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" joins "Somebody Stole My Santa Claus Suit" as pre-chosen novelties, and everything wraps up conventionally with "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve." Further albums in the series are mentioned elsewhere on the site.
dementia.jpgDr. Demento's first Christmas compilation helped make near-standards out of a fair number of obscure holiday novelties, so the arrival of a second collection in 1995 was almost inevitable. The newer one has more of the same but of more recent vintage, on average, including two Hanukkah tunes, "Hanukkah Rocks" by Gefilte Joe and the Fish, and "Hanukkah Homeboy" by Doc Mo She, a rap tune. Other top-notch novelties on this album include a Bob Rivers cut, "The Twelve Pains of Christmas," The Bob and Tom Band's "It's Christmas and I Wonder Where I Am," the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping," and a truly demented piece by Mona Abboud called "The Pretty Little Dolly" that was actually recorded live on the Johnny Carson show (you can hear him laughing at the end). Also represented are Da Yoopers, Father Guido Sarducci and the unfunniest man alive, Ray Stevens. Overall, this collection isn't quite as iconic as the original, but it's certainly full of holiday giggles.
dement1.jpgThe good doctor knows how to throw a rockin' Christmas bash. This collection was originally released on vinyl in 1985 and was updated with four additional cuts in the CD age. It features classic hit novelties like Allan Sherman's "The 12 Days of Christmas" and Spike Jones' "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth," along with obscure gems like Gayla Peevey's "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas." There's also two classics by Stan Freiberg, "Green Christmas" and "Nuttin' For Christmas," and Cheech and Chong's "Santa Claus and His Old Lady." The vinyl version had the original "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," but the CD has the re-recorded atrocity heard more often nowadays. Although the Demento show is on track to fade away from radio, his collections will keep his vision alive for years to come -- especially since most of them, including this one, remain in print. A second Dr. Demento holiday compilation followed this one.

Meowy Christmas, Jingle Cats (Jingle Cats Music)

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jinglcat.jpgThe 50s novelty hit "Jingle Bells" by The Singing Dogs has an honored place in the hearts of many baby boomers and continues to turn up on the radio every Christmas. As a result, it's only natural that someone would attempt to update the legend, first with cats and later with dogs, starting with this 1993 release. It's a lot easier nowadays; The Singing Dogs were created via tape editing and variable-speed oscillators, while these new ones simply mewed or barked into a sampler. These albums have their moments, but it's tough to listen to them all the way through; it's a one-joke concept. If you like to make mix tapes/discs, like I do, one cut from any of these is more than enough. The feline sequel was Here Comes Santa Claws, and the canine takes from the same creator included Puppy Holidays and Xmas Unleashed. Then came Rockabye Christmas in 1997 by the Jingle Babies. Same concept, only with goo-goos and ga-gas.
annette.jpgYou might expect this to be some sort of late 50s-early 60s beach movie artifact, but this was recorded in 1981 to capitalize on nostalgia for the Mousketeer era. It's about what you would expect, complete with orchestral backing, a children's choir and a dedication to Rodney "On the ROQ" Bingenheimer. Overall, it sounds like a 60s performance caught in amber 20 years later. Paired with "The Night Before Christmas." This turns up on compilations occasionally.
jwhard.jpgHarding, a guy who named himself after a Bob Dylan album and toured for several years with Elvis Costello's band, put this acoustic talking blues Christmas tune on a 12-inch single from 1989 called God Made Me Do It: The Christmas EP that also includes a half-serious cover of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and a conversation with the late great Viv Stanshall, all obvious plays for collector's item status. We're mainly concerned with the Christmas tune, however, and it's a great holiday romp. Now downloadable.
maxhr.jpgThe computer-generated sci-fi star was best known musically for appearing on an Art of Noise record ("Paranoimia"), but he also got around to doing this single, which is fairly smarmy even for Max. It's actually pretty weak; you'd have to be an awfully big Max fan to tout this one. He's much better on television than on record. I've yet to find a download or CD of this, so you'd have to find the original single.

hosers.jpgThis pair of beer-swilling Canadian brothers, created by SCTV alumni Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis, had such a cult following for their "Kanadian Korner" sketches on that show that they turned their success into a 1983 movie ("Strange Brew," rated by my old buddy Jim Damp as one of the great hangover movies, a genre that deserves its own website) and the album Great White North, from which comes this version of the holiday classic, in which they sing, "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a beer........." Subsequent verses concern their attempts to make this change to the lyrics scan correctly. Good fun if you're familiar with the sketches.

"Christmas With the Devil," Spinal Tap (Enigma)

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spitap.jpgIt's unlikely that anybody surfing this page is unfamiliar with Spinal Tap, the parody heavy metal band that was the subject of Rob Reiner's mock-documentary "This Is Spinal Tap" and has since recorded three albums, several TV specials, video short subjects and this 1984 single. It's everything you would expect from a dunderheaded heavy metal band: "The elves are dressed in leather and the angels are in chains...." The comic actors who portrayed Spinal Tap, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, also wrote and produced this backhanded Christmas tribute and went on to perform it on "Saturday Night Live." A great conversation-stopper when put on a mix tape, as long as there are no fundamentalists in the audience. It's actually been on some holiday compilations, but I've linked you to the original soundtrack, with two versions of this song as bonus tracks.

Christmas in the Stars, Meco (PSM/Polygram)

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meco.jpgThe world of "Star Wars" has been merchandised so relentlessly over the years that it's no longer surprising that there's a 1978 Christmas album featuring cast members from the "Star Wars" movies. It's the soundtrack to a horrifying TV special that has managed to stay mostly unavailable on home video for all the reasons you might expect. As you might guess from something so reviled even by Star Wars fanbois, the songs they've given us here are ridiculous, worthy only of being used in a sketch on "Viva Variety" or "Mad TV." Try this song title on for size: "What Can You Get a Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)?" And if that's not bad enough, they revisit the gag later in the album. Its sporadic availability appears to have something to do with the fact that one of the backing musicians was the man currently known as Jon Bon Jovi. Further rock connection: Jefferson Starship guested on the show, but nothing of theirs is on this disc. The album is out of print once more, currently fetching collector prices on Amazon. 

"The Christmas Song," Billy Crystal (A&M)

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crystal.jpgThe actor and formerly perennial Oscar host did a stint on "Saturday Night Live" in the early 1980s, and this is the Mel Torme chestnut, done as a tour through his stock SNL characters, from Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali to Sammy Davis Jr., Fernando and what's his name, the character he turned into a movie in "Mr. Saturday Night." It's OK, but it's more of a vanity production. Long out of print, I've yet to spot it on a comedy or novelty holiday collection.
guido.jpgThe Blues Brothers are far from the only "Saturday Night Live" acts to make their own records. Don Novello, aka the good Father, did this tune, a bit of Brill Building boilerplate with the patented SNL Band sound, in 1980. Novello actually did two whole albums as Father Guido, now out of print, and he revisited the Christmas genre with "Santa's Lament," still available on Dr. Demento's Holidays in Dementia album. About 2008 or so he returned with "100 Bulbs on the Christmas Tree," about which more here.
adotta.jpgStandup comic Addotta does this 1984 turnaround on the pop hit about Mommy and Santa and he does a wonderful job of selling a very simple punchline. Needless to say, if I tell you what it is, I'll have to kill you -- or at least you won't enjoy the record as much. It's still available on the first Dr. Demento novelty Christmas CD.

granma.jpgThis quasi-country novelty record originated on the Pat label in Tennessee in 1979 and was picked up by British punk-new wave label Stiff in 1980; it was several more years before American radio got hold of it and played it into the ground. The familiar version was re-recorded, however, and is a lot more cornball-sounding than the original. If I have to endure this record, I prefer it be the original version. Somewhere along the line, Elmo got his Ph.D. and is now referred to as "Dr. Elmo," and he has recorded such follow-ups as "Grandpa's Gonna Sue the Pants off Santa," "Don't Make Me Play that Grandma Song Again" and "Kenneth Starr is Coming To Town." UPDATE: Pam Wendell, Dr. Elmo's publicist, writes to tell us that the artist is a retired veterinarian, hence the Dr. designation. His latest work is 2010's Dr. Elmo: Bluegrass Christmas, and yes, there's a remake of his greatest hit in that style.
salsoul.jpgThe 1970s was a real love-hate decade for a lot of us musically, in that there was a lot of great music around, but almost none of it hit the charts because of the double-barreled assault of corporate rock and disco. The Salsoul Orchestra was the brainchild of Vincent Montana Jr., who worked behind the scenes on the many disco releases of the Salsoul label. Since everybody from Barbra Streisand to Wayne Newton to Blondie was making disco records in the second half of the decade, a disco Christmas album was inevitable, and this is it. There are a few original tunes, but the second half of this program is taken up by a lengthy "Christmas Medley" of familiar carols in disco, followed by a "New Year's Medley" that starts with Montana's "Auld Lang Disco" and segues, inexplicably, into "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover," "Alabama Jubilee," "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" and "God Bless America." You twentysomethings may find this quaint, a lot of rock fans are already blaring "DISCO SUCKS!" at the top of their lungs, and I say it's so bad it's almost worthwhile. It's been reissued several times since 1976 under different titles with different covers, on vinyl and CD, but the ones I've seen always seem to have a back view of a woman wearing a T-shirt that says "Dance Your As (sic) to Salsoul" on it, with badly airbrushed fur around the bottom to cover up what once was her bare butt.

nicexmas.jpgShudder. You might guess the 70s weren't my favorite decade, and you'd be right. That said, this compilation of holiday tunes, while highly toxic to 70s veterans like myself, still manages to have a number of cuts of interest. Both of Martin Mull's Christmas songs are here, the hilarious blaxploitation parody "Santafly" and the cautionary "Santa Doesn't Cop Out On Dope." Cheech and Chong's "Santa Claus and His Old Lady" is here too. Gary Glitter weighs in with "Another Rock 'N Roll Christmas" and Jim Croce, the Chuck Berry of folk music, offers his own "It Doesn't Have To Be That Way." A sappy instrumental of "The Christmas Song" by The Jimmy Castor Bunch was a major disappointment to those of us who recall Jimmy's hilarious work on "Troglodyte," and slightly cracked folkie Melanie's "Merry Christmas" is about what you'd expect. As for the rest, I'll just rattle off the artists: Bobby Sherman (twice!), The Osmonds and Donnie and Marie, Liberace, Glen Campbell, Ricky Segall and The Segalls, Grandpa Walton, and, so bad it's almost good, Wayne Newton's "Jingle Bell Hustle." It's out of print now, but copies are still floating around.
wethgrls.jpgWriters are listed as disco writer/producer Paul Jabara and a P. Shaffer, who may or may not be David Letterman's bandleader. UPDATE: It's him. The Weather Girls were that most ephemeral of entities, a disco novelty act whose big hit was "It's Raining Men," and former member Martha Wash later was known for claiming to have done lead vocal chores on Paula Abdul records without credit. Nevertheless, the Weather Girls could sing and jive, and this record just oozes attitude, even if the backing is straight assembly line late 70s disco. My copy is a promo 45, but I'm pretty sure it has turned up on one CBS/Sony compilation CD or another in recent years, though you'll need to get their hits compilation to find it now.

martmull.jpgMost people only know Martin Mull from his comic acting turns in various sitcoms and movies and his recurring role on "Roseanne" as Leon, the homosexual boss from hell. Back in the 70s, though, he had a recording career as a satiric pop-folk singer and did six or seven albums of humorous songs and pop parodies. "Santa Doesn't Cop Out" is a little too cute (and Sonic Youth's version isn't much of an improvement), but "Santafly" is a hilarious takeoff on 70s R'nB, blaxploitation soundtrack division, as you might guess from the title. None of Martin's original albums except Martin Mull and his Fabulous Furniture in Your Living Room are currently in print, to my knowledge, but these two songs are part of Rhino's Have a Nice Christmas compilation, which is out of print as well but may be lurking on Amazon or eBay somewhere.

Bummed Out Christmas, various artists (Rhino)

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bummed.jpgAnother of the great Rhino Christmas compilations, this one tracks the dark side of the holiday. Look at the titles: "Christmas in Jail," "Christmas Spirit??" and "Don't Believe in Christmas" (those two comprising the single from the Wailers and Sonics album mentioned elsewhere), "Santa Got a DWI," and this obscure Everly Brothers classic, "Christmas Eve Can Kill You." There's also "Christmas in Viet Nam" and the Staples Singers demanding to know "Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?" Possibly the apex of this collection is "Who Say There Ain't No Santa Claus" by Ron Holden and the Thunderbirds, in which the singer starts out by celebrating the big insurance settlement he got from his wife's death and ends up in the chair after being convicted of her murder. Bummed out Christmas, indeed.
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