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March 2010 Archives

coolyule.jpgFinally got my hands on this often-asked-about underground classic from 1996. A squib on the back cover indicates the artists and record company took their inspiration from the 1991 compilation Yuletunes, and indeed The Spongetones cross over from that compilation to this one with their tune "Christmas Boy," a mid-tempo folk-rocker with lush vocals. Inviting comparisons is always a tricky business, but Cool Yule more than lives up to its role model. Like Yuletunes, it's a collection of power-poppers putting their chops into an array of original Christmas songs, no covers, and definitely no filler. Monsters Under the Bed give us "Christmas at the Cabin," a snappy album opener about getting away for the holidays. Squires of the Subterrain sneak up on the dBs with "Christmas Time." John T. Baker contributes two songs, "On Saturdays," which has just a tiny taste of Television to it, and "The Night Before," a nice uptempo look at Christmas Eve anticipation. The Whirligigs go semi-unplugged on "Bless the Less," highlighted by some nice slide guitar work. "Unto Us" by Cool Blue Halo is an upbeat Biblical history with lots of guitars and vocal harmonies. "Song for the Christ Child" by Bill Retoff also takes us into church, complete with a brief Latin hymn interval and lots of cheesy electronic chimes, but the song still oozes with pop sensibility. Rich Arithmetic kicks off the upbeat, jangly "Seeds in Snow" with a nod to "Andy Partridge in a pear tree," then closes the album with "A Shepherd's Reminiscence (Yeshua, I Love You)," a pop-psych song cycle with a lengthy instrumental coda reminiscent of something the later 10cc might have done. Arithmetic Monsters, which is Rich with Monsters Under the Bed, do "It's Christmastime," a poppy number with cello that evokes ELO and snatches a few sounds from "I Am the Walrus" as well. Long out of print, of course, but Optional Art is on Facebook, where it offers a link for listeners to stream the album via ReverbNation.
OC3chmuk.jpgFans of the Fox TV show are familiar with the children in the blended Christian/Jewish family creating "Chrismukka," their very own unique holiday observance. This collection of alt-rock-pop is in keeping with the show's frequent use of such material in the soundtrack, although the material ends up much more Chris than Mukka. Much of this material has been heard before, including Leona Naess' "Christmas," Ron Sexsmith's "Maybe This Christmas," Low's "Just Like Christmas," and Jimmy Eat World's cover of Wham's "Last Christmas." Other contributions include "Rock of Ages" by Ben Kweller, Rooney covers Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody," "Christmas With You Is the Best" by the Long Winters and "Christmas Is Going To the Dogs" by the Eels. UPDATE: This is available as disc or download, although the download version doesn't include the Rooney song.
centpa.jpgA gang of acts local to the central and eastern region of Pennsylvania put this album together for 2004. It's a mixed bag of styles from current rock to country and bluegrass, but it's nicely done. Emily's Toybox rocks and skas through "O Holy Night," rockabilly boys The Martini Bros. cover the Leiber-Stoller classic "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" and The Jellybricks, previously heard on the original "We'll Be Together" from Hi-Fi Christmas Party, contribute a solid version of the Kinks' "Father Christmas." Negative Space contributes a smart original, "I'll Be Home," Poptart Monkeys keep ramping up the tempo on "Mele Kalikimaka" and Plus 3 take a shot at "The Chipmunk Song," complete with band chatter. JR Mangan grumbles through "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" on acoustic guitar with a little help on kazoo. Another original comes from Bobby and John Tombasco, "Next Christmas Day," an Everly Brothers-sounding waltz. Darcie Miner combines with Sweet Pea Felty for a country version of "Blue Christmas," and while we're on that thread The Corral does a modern country original, "Working Elf's Blues," and the Lykens Valley Bluegrass Boys cap things off with "Christmas Time's A-Coming." If you're not from these guys' neighborhood, you can track this down to the fine folks at It's About Music, whose own It's About Christmas collection was favorably reviewed here.
waters.jpgYes, the very same John Waters who gave us "Hairspray" and "Pink Flamingoes" sits us down for a session of his personal favorite Christmas music. Anybody who has seen a movie or two by Waters knows he loves cheesy pop, novelties, unclassifiable oddities, doo-wop and anything that reminds him of Baltimore. The latter kicks off this 2004 collection with "Fat Daddy" by the legendary Baltimore DJ of the same name, letting everybody know that he's the real Santa Claus in this Fifties-sounding number. Spoken word gets a workout with "Happy Birthday Jesus (A Child's Prayer" by Little Cindy, a child's poem that itself gets a spoken introduction by an adult male voice, and "Little Mary Christmas," by Roger Christian (I don't think this is the surf music guy), about a crippled little orphan girl on Christmas Day, with all the schmaltz that setup implies. Familiar novelties include "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" by Tiny Tim and "Sleigh Ride" by Alvin and the Chipmunks, and less-familiar ones include "Here Comes Fatty Claus" by Rudolph and Gang, a more jaundiced view of the holiday, and "Santa Claus is a Black Man" by AKIM and the Teddy Vann Production Co., a funky update of the "I Saw Mommy Kissing..." story for the African-American audience, complete with Kwanzaa reference. (I have to admit I first thought they were going in the "Mandingo" direction with this one, but that's just my twisted mind running ahead of the story.) John also rustles up the Big Dee Irwin and Little Eva version of "I Wish You a Merry Christmas" and throws in "First Snowfall" by The Coctails, a sappy theremin-led instrumental. Now you, too, can have a copy of John Waters' Christmas mix CD.

electorn.jpgThis 2000 collection somehow slipped by me -- great alterna-pop-rock collection featuring a fair number of original tunes among the seasonal repertoire. Mag Seven opens the proceedings with a kickin' "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," Vibrolux does a waif-y "I'll Be Home For Christmas," followed by Chomsky's upbeat take on "Christmas Time Is Here." The Falcon Project gets all modern on "Little Drum'n Bass Boy," Viva Maxitone thrashes "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and Crash Vinyl continues the TV theme with a rocked-out "Snow Miser." In the rock cover field, [Daryl] updates the synths on Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" while Pinkston does a faithful version of the Kinks' "Father Christmas." Among the originals, Deathray Davies' "I Got Coal" starts out sounding like Iggy's "The Passenger" a bit before explaining why he got the bad present. Slowride does a fast shuffle on its original "The Christmas Song," Adventures of Jet does a 70s synth/guitar take on their "Waiting For Christmas," Jasper Stone twangs along on "Saddlin' Up Christmas Morning," Darlington does a punk "X-Mas," Valve recalls a New York Christmas with "Lincoln Square," and Centro-Matic's "Fuselage (It's Starting To Look Like Christmas Once Again)" ... well, I haven't quite sussed that one out just yet. UPDATE: Idol Records put out a subsequent collection in 2011, Idol Christmas, and both are available through Amazon or iTunes.
calling.jpgAn excellent, though little-promoted, 2003 collection of the Sony-associated label's talent performing Christmas tunes. Macy Gray's third holiday tune, "What I Want For Christmas," is also her first original, and it's solid neo-soul. Brit-poppers Travis take a fairly straight shot at Joni Mitchell's "River," Fuel puts some acoustic crunch into "We Three Kings," Fiona Apple channels Burl Ives with her "Frosty the Snowman," and the Thorns do an impromptu "Silent Night." Tenacious D joins with Sum 41 to tear it up with their own "What I Want," which includes such lyrics as "I want all the Beatles' copyrights/I want to chop Florida right off the map." Phantom Planet does an instrumental "Carol of the Bells," Keb'Mo contributes the original "We Call it Christmas," Kaki King emotes on "O Holy Night" and teenage blues-rocker Shannon Curfman rips through "Please Come Home For Christmas." Rock fans will be happy to play this one all the way through, and there's something for just about everyone here. Out of print, but Amazon has cheap copies through 3rd parties.

hairyxms.jpgWe've got genre collections out the wazoo on this site, so I guess we have to admit the hair band Christmas anthology was way overdue. Koch remedies this oversight for 2003. LA Guns take on "Run Run Rudolph," Warrant does a smackdown on the Kinks' "Father Christmas," Tuff crunches "Jingle Bell Rock," once and future Gun and/or Rose Gilby Clarke hammer-strums "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," though he quits the story in the middle -- short attention span, perhaps? Faster Pussycat does "Silent Night," Roxx Gang takes on Elvis' "Santa Claus Is Back In Town," laying a little Chuck Berry guitar over it, and there are originals like "Naughty Naughty Xmas" by Danger Danger, "Happy Holiday" by Enuff Z Nuff, "Everyday Should Be Like Christmas" by Bullet Boys, Pretty Boy Floyd's "Happy Family" and "Won't Be Home For Xmas" by Every Mother's Nightmare. Not being an aficionado of the genre, I still have to admit it's a pretty solid collection, especially if this is your favorite flavor.

drivethru.jpgI had to jump through the hoops thrown down by the now-defunct Sony Connect to get my hands on this since regular CD copies were sold out by the time I found out about it. Anyway, this 2004 compilation was worth the trouble -- it offers a fairly wide range of pop-rock styles across its eight selections. Self Against City kicks things off nicely with "All Alone On Christmas Day," followed by Home Grown's driving take on Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad." Hidden In Plain View's "Christmas Song" has lots of fun with vocal effects and a fast shuffle beat, An Angle does a fairly serviceable cover of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," Day at the Fair's "Here Lives Our Holiday" is an example of the stately rock ballad genre, and Jenoah's "Rites of Winter" is a hard rocker with lots of Keith Moon drumming throughout. The Track Record does "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in a similar vein, though it throws in a bit of token reggae on the refrain. Hellogoodbye takes us out of this album with a cheap-keyboard-and-percussion version of "Winter Wonderland." The label is defunct, but this disc remains available from iTunes as Happy Holidays From Drive-Thru Records, click the cover. Drive-Thru had a previous Christmas compilation called A Punk & Ska Christmas Gone Wrong in 1997, featuring Less Than Jake, The Impossibles, Cousin Oliver, Mullets Across America and several others, but that seems to only be available at collector's prices.
itsaboutx.jpgThis Philadelphia-area label puts up what appears to be a selection of regional artists for 2003. I'm guessing regional based on the triple appearance of Philly alt-popsters Grey Eye Glances, covering "Little Drummer Boy" in a multi-percussionist world music mode and providing two originals, "On Christmas Night" and "Our Own Place and Time," a nice pair of mid-tempo holiday tunes. Two tunes by the Swarthmore College Alumni Gospel Choir, a jazzed-up gospel "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and the original "Road to Calvary," also highlight the Brotherly Love connection. Huffamoose generates a conditional Hanukkah Alert from its rewritten "Winter Wonderland" called "Hanukkah and Christmas Hand in Hand." Motorbaby lulls us with "Silent Night" before rocking it out about halfway through. It's Only Roy appears twice with "Santa's Bag," in which the Beach Boys meet Phil Spector, and the DX7 piano ballad "Glad to Be Home for Christmas." Kyf Brewer's "Christmas in New York" rocks out some light social commentary, "Sing For Christmas" by Andy Pratt lightly evokes a bit of Roy Wood and Cliff Hillis gives us the mid-tempo "On a Day Like Christmas." Other original ballad takes on the holiday include "Pax" by Jake Holmes and "Bells" by Ben Arnold. And The Contes give us a faithful cover of the Kinks' "Father Christmas." I'm still trying to figure out what Jim Boggia's deal is in playing what sounds like the original "Chipmunk Song" on a phonograph, however, and there are a few other tunes that make this collection a little more eclectic than necessary. Still, a great compilation for folks who are interested in original Christmas tunes. UPDATE: Dean Sciarra of It's About Music tips me that Boggia actually painstakingly recorded all the parts on "Chipmunk Song" himself. Remains available from Amazon as disc or download, but if you go to the label website you can get the disc for a penny, plus postage & handling. Seriously.
tcbxmas.jpgOne has to wonder if the producers of the film "Love Actually" had a copy of the title song from this collection in hand when they devised the plot point about the rock singer and his Christmas comeback attempt. Because that title song is by Randy Bachman, and it's a straight lift of his Bachman-Turner Overdrive 1974 megahit "Takin' Care of Business." This is even better than "Christmas is All Around" from the movie since the songwriter himself is involved. Even though this album would be worth it for this single cut, the Canadians who compiled this disc pulled together a great collection of seldom-heard power-pop holiday performances, making it worth the trek across the world's longest unprotected border to pick it up. Most of the tunes date from 2000 or 2001, but there's a smattering of stuff from the 90s, 80s and even one originally done in 1979 ("It's Christmas" by Bob Segarini, a solid rocker with the "All My Loving" strum). Once you get your jollies from Bachman's remake, the Carpet Frogs kick up the volume with their "Christmas Would Not Be Christmas (Without You)," then they return backing Greg Godovitz on a slightly mellower "Christmas All Over the World." Tom Hooper's "Christmas Kiss" is a bouncy acoustic romp with a little George Harrison slide guitar. The Kings do "This Christmas," a performance loosely derived from Crosby, Stills and Nash with a verse that hearkens back to "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." "Hear Us Now" by Moving Targetz is a bass-heavy rocker full of ensemble singing. Maureen Leeson gets the only female influence onto this collection with the ballad "A Song for Christmas" and Joel-Steven does the gospel-rock ballad thing on "All I Want for Christmas (Is Peace on Earth)." Lots of good stuff here. Near as I can tell, this is out of print, so the cover links you to 3rd parties on Amazon. I got my copy from the label's website, but the label seems to be inactive except for a two-volume encyclopedia of Canadian rock it's selling.
planting.jpgThis 2002 acoustic pop holiday EP comes after the label's Christmas Underground compilation of a few seasons back, four original tunes plus Xavier Pelleuf's singalong version of "White Christmas." "Holiday Tune in F#" by The National Splits humorously touches on "smoking in the bathroom" and "doing shots with Uncle Jim." Tracy Shedd's "I Will Keep You Warm" isn't really a holiday tune, but the ballad does kind of fit among the other songs. Linda Draper channels Joni Mitchell on "Merry Xmas," a nostalgic mourning of lost love. Language of Flowers wraps things up with "Christmas," a dirge-y electro-pop instrumental number. Out of print and unavailable anywhere I can see, although I missed that the label offered a free Christmas download of seven songs cutting across this EP and the previous album for 2012.
kohls.jpgA discount CD sold by the Kohl's department store chain to benefit children's hospitals nationwide, there's only a handful of tunes on here, but there are two songs of note on here. One is Rob Thomas' "A New York Christmas," the other is Lisa Loeb's semi-funky "Jingle Bells." Other tunes on here are previously released items from such folks as America, Shawn Colvin, Aretha Franklin, Brian Setzer, Vonda Shepherd, Ray Charles and Linda Ronstadt. Out of print obviously, but 3rd parties on Amazon have this really cheap if you're interested.
bingbang.jpgThis collection is a benefit for The Boston Institute for Arts Therapy, credited to Boston singer-songwriter Bleu but he's assisted by an array of Boston artists like Dicky Barrett of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Kay Hanley of Letters To Cleo, Mary Lou Lord and many others. It kicks off, improbably, with a pair of modern-day remixes of "Mele Kalikimaka" and "Jingle Bells" featuring Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, all done with modern techniques to put together different performances. The former might not sound unusual to untrained ears, but "Jingle Bells" includes heavy electronic percussion and the Bing vocal tweaked to make him squeeze out notes he may have never considered in real life. The "Boston All Star 12 Days" is pretty much as it sounds, a rocked-out version of the carol with the various participants swapping vocals. "Snow Day," an original, is an instant classic about every child's second-favorite winter phenomenon after Christmas. An electronica take on "Carol of the Bells" is clever, and Ramona Silver singing "Silent Night" is a fairly original take on that evergreen classic. More originals: "Everybody Knows It's Christmas" is a swing number, "I Want My Christmas Back" is a blues, "Snowfall in the City" a jazzy ballad, and album closer "Bing Bang Holidang" is your basic movie soundtrack climax tune, complete with gang-sung choruses. It's short, but it makes its point well. UPDATE: Edited to note that Bleu is an individual act, not a band. Click through to Amazon for copies from 3rd parties; if that doesn't work, Bleu had copies in his online store last time I checked.
mtvtrl.jpgThat's Total Request Live, at one time the place to see Carson Daly and the 11 or so artists who were allowed to crack the top 20 in a pay-to-play radio environment, but that's another rant. Having said that, it's surprising to see this 2001 album actually features a lot more rock 'n roll than the show does. Not many of your TRL regulars are on here, which may contribute to the eclectic feeling. Among the participants are Smash Mouth, who do a typically snarky "Better Do It Right;" N'Sync, with the previously released "I Don't Wanna Spend One More Christmas Without You;" and Sugar Ray, whose cover of "Little St. Nick" benefits from a guest appearance by Carnie and Wendy Wilson. Simple Plan, blink-182, Weezer and LFO all contribute good originals, as does former "SNL" cast member Jimmy Fallon with the thrash-rock "Snowball." Bif Naked rocks out "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" pretty nicely. Christina Aguilera and Angela Via contribute the expected diva turns with "Angels We Have Heard On High" and "Christmas Wish," respectively. And don't be fooled by Willa Ford's "Santa Baby (Gimme Gimme Gimme)," as it's not the familiar song, or much of anything worth talking about for that matter. Out of print, but 3rd parties have cheap copies via Amazon.
elxmas.jpgThis is a 2001 compilation of London's El record label roster, a quirky group of young musicians who apparently worship every aspect of 60s pop music. Not so much rock, it's a kind of post-lounge sensibility, as near as I can work out, although there are some rock moments, as there must be for the era. Two songs are non-originals and non-Christmas for that matter: Loveletter does The Cowsills' "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" and Wallpaper does an instrumental of The Beatles' "Good Night." Marden Hill's "Slalom" is a wordless vocal that evokes its title, Valerie Masters' "Christmas Calling" is a kind of Cilla Black-styled number, "Christmas Jam" by Bridge is one of the few pop-rockers here, and you'll want to put "Schoolgirl Psychedelia" on your mix collection just so you can tell people it's by Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper. Tomorrow's World melds pop, folk and rock in "I Don't Want to Spend Christmas Without You" and they get more into the garage-rock mold with "The Winter Is Cold." Would Be Goods throw in a little bluebeat with "Christmas in Haiti," starting out with this immortal line: "It's the season of good cheer/There's a cockroach in my beer." Other fun cuts include "Psychedelic Christmas" by Her, which is as advertised, and "The 13th Day of Christmas" by Louis Philippe. Remains available through Amazon on disc, but I've linked to the download version, which was reissued by Cherry Red in 2008 under the title Christmas Cocktails With Santa's Swinging Stocking Fillers.
50megelf.jpgSubtitled "Transatlantic Pop Christmas Vol. 1," this 2001 compilation combines East Coast and British artists on a post-modern holiday voyage. Alternative pop is the deal here, with a healthy dose of retro, rather like the El Records album. Top cuts include "Double-0 Santa" by Seks Bomba, a bit of 60s secret agent fake jazz; "(We Like) Eggnog" by The Rory McBrides, with a long organ-led intro; "Silent Night" by The Weisstronauts, mentioned elsewhere on this site; and Nixon gives us a cross between the 60s and electronica with "Anorak Christmas." The Pines do a yearning folkie turn on "Chalet," and Velodrome 2000 punk rock out with "Christmas Sucks." A fine faux-Nuggets turn comes from The Waistcoats with "(I Wish You Could Be More Like) Santa Claus." Weevil's clattery, noisy "Coventry Carol" isn't much fun, though. Lots of mix tape/CD fodder here, and not so hard to listen to all the way through. The Amazon link is to 3rd parties who have this at collector's prices, but Stereorrific is still in business and sells CD copies via Bandcamp at ordinary prices.

under.jpgIndie-rock-pop compilation from 2001, reputed by its website to be a limited edition. There are 22 cuts, not counting about 10 brief "Christmas messages" from some of the musicians. Quality ranges from professional to "Hey, my dad has a garage, let's start a band," so I'll just tip you to the better tunes. Paula Kelley, whose Nothing/Everything CD has been well reviewed, does a sweet "Blue Christmas" and Miss July has a cute original in "First Noel (Revised)." Orchid Pool puts a nice guitar figure and flutes behind "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear." Capsela has a quirky take on "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)," and The Otter Pops' "Brothers" is the textbook definition of quirky with its ukelele and kazoo backing. Jumprope's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is well played but mostly lounge-like with the electric piano dominating. The Wee Turtles are amateurish but endearing with "By Golly, They've Dehydrated Christmas!" And Pinkie brings "sha-la-la" backing vocals back with "Pretend Like It's Christmas Day." The rest you can rate for yourself, assuming you can find a copy of this. There were 300 copies and they sold out the year they were released; no 3rd party links through Amazon exist at this time.
parasol1.jpgWe have the sequel to this 2000 collection elsewhere on the site, so thanks to the tipsters who reminded us this was around. It opens with Erik Voeks' "Christmas Singles," mentioned elsewhere on the site since I already had it on a 45, and it remains an interesting tune as well as the title song of the set. Indy-rockers with mostly original holiday tunes are the order of the day here, although Elizabeth Elmore contributes a hootenanny-strummed "White Christmas," Angie Heaton does a plaintive "Hard Candy Christmas," Philo gets all doomy on "Every Day Will Seem Like a Holiday," Shalini gives us a different rhythmic approach on "Nutrocker," and Doleful Lions cap things off with a semi-traditional sounding "Auld Lang Syne." Highlights among the originals, besides the title tune, are the pop-rocker "Merry Christmas I Love You" by Mark Bacino, the Giorgio Moroder-cum-Ultravox stylings of Vitesse on "The Last Days of December," The Signalmen's turn-of-the-Seventies acoustic rock sound on "Holiday Wine," Mark Bruno singing "Merry Christmas" over and over again until we get the message, Elk City telling the interior story of a deer crossing at the "Deer Crossing," and Toothpaste 2000 shuffling along singing "I Wish Every Day Was Christmas." Note that White Town's "Merry Christmas" puts a Dick Cheney-ism between the two words of the title. Remains available as download or disc.
stuck.jpgMore independent rock bands on a small label, although Parasol has a good-sized artist roster and the bands are closer in quality to the big-timers while not shaving off all their small-time quirks. This 2001 album is the label's second collection, see the first one elsewhere on the site. The Soundtrack of Our Lives kicks off the collection with a Nuggets-style "Jingle Hell (Stuck in the Chimney)" while Fonda does "Last Christmas" by Wham, an almost Paul-and-Paula type performance. Toothpaste 2000 celebrates a hard rock "7-Eleven Christmas" and Absinthe Blind does "Silent Night" as an electronic square wave. Another rocker is "Christmas in the Lion's Den" by the George Usher Group, while Doleful Lions slow down Alex Chilton's "Jesus Christ" almost unrecognizably. "December" is a kind of electro-pop ballad from White Town, while Friends of Sound take the same approach uptempo with "Ice and Ribbons." Erik Voeks' "The Cruel Tide" doesn't seem to be a holiday tune, Neilson Hubbard ladles on the angst with "Merry Christmas (Wherever You May Be)" and Joe Algeri concludes weakly with "Computer Xmas," most of which is taken up with the line "How do we turn off the drum machine?"

hol99x.jpgThe Atlanta radio station released this compilation in 2001 and it's chock full of good stuff. Familiar names on it include Speech of Arrested Development, who raps "Joy to the World," but there's more of "Carol of the Bells" in it, along with a tiny homage to "Smiling Faces Sometimes." Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls solos live on Joni Mitchell's "River," Shawn Mullins does the countried-up original "Lonely Ole Christmas," Kevn Kinney turns "The Christmas Song" into a folky strum and Collective Soul's "Blue Christmas," heard elsewhere, is also here. Worthy of note is Treephart, whose "Christmas Time is Here" has a ska intro that segues into thrash; Left Front Tire does a faithful cover of Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight)"; Lithp has an acoustic rock take on "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" medleyed with an original song written from Santa's point of view. There are electronica bids from Angie Aparo with "Silent Night," Aerial on "Oh Holy Night," ph Balance's "Do You Hear What I Hear" and Drums and Effects, predictably, on "The Little Drummer Boy." Another Man Down's "Dreidel Song" makes an appearance here, Tentilfour covers Run-DMC's "Christmas in Hollis," and Injected takes "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" down to ballad tempo while keeping the Bono impression intact. There were three volumes by this radio station, and all are out of print; no copies of this collection show up on Amazon.
party.jpgThis is a roster of 60s pop-rockers who made a fresh album of Christmas tunes in 2004. It's produced by Ron Dante, the lead voice of The Archies and The Cuff Links, with the instrumental help of Ted Perlman on all instruments. Ron gets the lion's share of mic time here with four tunes, including what appears to be three originals (no songwriter credits listed here) along with a modernized take on the Spector arrangement of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." Gary Lewis does faithful covers of "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Holly Jolly Christmas," Chris Montez syncopates "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," Bobby Vee does "Home For the Holidays" and "Peace on Earth," and Tommy Roe manages a modern-sounding "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." These folks were more on the pop side even at the height of their popularity, but I'm guessing they still have fans who will enjoy this a lot. For the rest of you, I will note that these performances have a bit more of a Broadway or Vegas sheen to them than some folks might like. But it's still a good cut above a lot of other similar efforts from yesteryear rockers.

kindrcor.jpgKindercore is an Athens, Ga. label featuring low-fi pop-rock, electro-pop and emo music, and this collection is from 1999, featuring a number of acts from its past and current roster. There's absolutely no information on this album except band names, song titles and running order. And the label's website offers no information about it or its predecessor, 1997's Christmas in Stereo. (Thanks to Sean Delany for letting us know about that one.) On Two, there are 24 bands offering mostly originals, although some covers pop up along the way as well. Among the more interesting numbers are BusyToby's "Hyun's Snowy Night," a little girl-groupy and Beach-Boysish. "The Rockefeller Tree" by I Am the World Trade Center mixes some central Asian influences with beatbox and scratching. Dressy Bessy offers some vintage New Wave moves on "All the Right Reasons." The Sixth Great Lake has fun with "Always After Christmas, Boring," and they return as The Essex Green with a folkish cover of "Deck the Halls." Vermont's "Santa Claws" is the time-tested plea to the jolly elf for romance. The Wee Turtles sound a little amateurish, but their song "Benjamin, Santa's On To You" is enjoyable. The Gwens lope through a waltzy "Christmas Love." Among the covers, Ciao Bella does a solid, if slavish version of Chris Stamey's "Christmas Time," Junior Varsity's version of "Don't Believe In Christmas" features gum-snapping girl vocals, The Boyish Charms take a crack at "The Chipmunk Song" with helium vocals but without the right chords, Lunchbox does a doomy "Christmas Time Is Here," and Vic20 goes all electro with a talky "A Marshmallow World." Quality on this collection varies widely, but the good stuff makes this worth picking up.
nuwavxms.jpgAt one time, Rhino was almost the official rock 'n roll Christmas record label, but it's been quite a while since they've compiled any holiday music. From their Just Can't Get Enough series of 80s new wave music, this 1997 collection isn't complete but does bring a fairly disparate group of artists together on one convenient CD from the 70s to the 90s. Three of the cuts are from IRS Records' Just in Time for Christmas album, but the rest are from all over the map. XTC's "Thanks For Christmas" makes another appearance here, credited to the pseudonymous Three Wise Men. Other artists span the decade from Los Lobos to Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band, from They Might Be Giants and their offshoot Mono Puff to The Pretenders, from Matthew Sweet to Sun 60. Two interesting duets are on here, The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl doing "Fairytale of New York" and Bing Crosby with David Bowie doing "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy," from Bing's last Christmas special in 1977. Not quite a definitive collection, but worthwhile for its mix of better-known stuff with rarities and for its liner notes. This CD is out of print and commanding collector's prices on Amazon via 3rd parties.
big80s.jpgThis field has been plowed before -- in fact, it's been plowed by Rhino as part of the "Just Can't Get Enough" series. VH1 being what it is though, what we have is a far more mainstream 80s Christmas compilation. Nearly every song on this 2001 collection is mentioned elsewhere on the site, and many have been on numerous compilations. That said, it does have the not-easily-found-otherwise Los Lobos song "Rudolph the Manic Reindeer." And they exhibit a little taste by giving us the Bob and Doug MacKenzie "12 Days of Christmas." Otherwise, no surprises, but if you don't have the majority of these tunes already you're going to want this. The Ramones, Pretenders, George Thorogood, The Alarm, Queen, Pat Benatar, Hall and Oates and Billy Squier are on the set list, and here's one more chance to get the Bing and Bowie tune. Out of print, but 3rd parties have copies at Amazon.
NowThats.jpgThe ubiquitous series of chart-hit compilations turns its attention to Christmas with a budget-priced double disc set for 2001. But it's no rock Christmas landmark; this sucker goes all the way back to Bing Crosby and hits all the traditional touchstones along the way before it arrives in the rock era. Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Burl Ives and Tony Bennett predominate until we get to Bobby Helms, ending up with Elmo and Patsy and Bing and Bowie. The second disc is more in keeping, and it's got John and Yoko, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Band Aid, but it's also got Britney, N'Sync, Celine Dion and, ick, Mannheim Steamroller. About what you'd expect from an album in the "Now" series in terms of song selection. Subsequent entries in the series concentrated more on contemporary hit artists, which you can check out for yourself by clicking through to Amazon via the album art.
target.jpgThis is a Target holiday compilation, stickered at $5.99, although mine scanned through a buck cheaper for some reason. There's a lot of stuff on here that's all over the map, from Dave Matthews' original "Christmas Song" to a Kenny G medley, Michael McDonald gone country and Diana Krall's jazz "Jingle Bells." But a couple of things on here haven't turned up anywhere else I know of, chief among them Vertical Horizon's cover of "I Believe in Father Christmas," which lets a little of the ELP bombast leak out of what is otherwise a nice holiday song. Then there's Cher's "Angels Running," a subtle, not necessarily holiday song that is a high point of this collection. The rest is previously released stuff like Sir Paul's "Wonderful Christmastime" and Christina Aguilera's "The Christmas Song," a diva moment that actually isn't bad if you like that sort of thing, although she's yelping and shrieking by the last bridge. Needless to say, it's way out of print, although 3rd parties at Amazon have copies for as cheap as 1 cent. Really.

nettwerk.jpgNettwerk is a Canadian-based management and recording firm, and they collected this batch of performances from a fairly homogeneous group of artists for 2000, mostly of the pop-folk persuasion. As such, it's a little lightweight for the proprietors of this site. Nevertheless, it leads with its best cut, "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" by Sarah McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies, an impromptu but sprightly backstage performance in which a trunk substituted for a drum kit. Sarah's version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Song For a Winter's Night" is also here, and other performers include Tara MacLean, Dido, Kendall Payne and Lily Frost, with mainly folky performances. Meryn Cadell's "The Cat Carol," although a little light in the songcraft department, will make cat-lovers cry, and Delerium gives us some electronic soundscaping with "Terra Firma." Capping off the album is a great monologue by Stuart McLean, "Polly Anderson's Christmas Party." This was the label's first Christmas collection, which was succeeded by the Maybe This Christmas series, and it remains available as disc or download.
seasonal.jpgSubtitled "A Compilation of 13 Christmas and Winter Songs," this almost counts as an ambient Christmas album, in that it evokes the lonlieness of winter with a cast of characters that actually originates in places where winter is severe: Minnesota's Low, Iceland's Müm, Norway's Erlend Øye, Britain's Badly Drawn Boy, and so on. Low's "Long Way Around the Sea" is from their seminal Christmas CD, of course, while Erlend Øye takes a disappointed approach to Wham's "Last Christmas." St. Etienne's previously released "My Christmas Prayer" makes an appearance here, and Badly Drawn Boy's "Donna and Blitzen" may be the most uptempo item here, from the film "About a Boy," and it's about reindeer to boot. "Winter Will Set You Back," sings Hood, and this folky drone sounds like it's not doing him any favors either. "Catch a Snowflake" from Herrmann and Kleine is an electronic rendition of a very wintry melody; it and Future 3's "It's That Time Again" are probably the most successful of the electronic tracks on this. There won't be much rockin' out with these guys, but if you're up for this particular vibe at Christmastime, it's a great way to celebrate (quietly). Out of print, but copies come up via 3rd parties at Amazon.
nightbe4.jpgThis 2002 collection of lesser-known hard rockers from New York City apply their version of rock crunch to a bunch of Christmas classics. The Spicy Rizzaks have a lot of fun with "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," including a Sex Pistols coda; a more Johnny Rotten-esque vocal eminates from The Kick's "Turn Back the Years." Hotsocky rock out on the country classic "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas," The Compulsions do a Black Crowes-flavored "Santa Claus Is Back In Town," while "Blue Christmas" gets a mournful thump from the Hissyfits. "Run Rudolph Run" by The Witnesses sounds an awful lot like Keith Richards' cover. These guys like holiday TV specials too, as The Inflatablemen take on "We're a Couple of Misfits," The Great Shakes do "Heat Miser" and On!Air!Library! perform "Snow Miser." A solid Christmas choice for hard rock fans, and even if you're not, you're likely to enjoy at least some of it. The label's defunct and hard copies of the disc tend to command premium prices, but Amazon has a reasonably priced download.
brutal.jpgWhen you open the CD card on this one, you discover the songs are performed by bands who felt it necessary to reproduce their garish gothic logos next to their names. Never a good sign, say I. But as it happens, it's a worthwhile iconic reference to 80s speed/death metal, which is where these guys originate. This isn't a favorite genre of mine, mainly because of its lack of variation in style from one song to the next, but folks who came of age in that decade who didn't dig new wave should get a kick out of this 2002, as it's a well-performed labor of love from the record company (the apparently defunct Sounds of the Dead Records, just so you know). Two versions of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" probably weren't necessary, one by Kekal being fast and the other by Faithbomb being faster. Pure Defiance make "Joy to the World" almost a hockey-rink anthem before taking the lyrics at a slower shuffle. A break from the guitar cruch comes with the organ-led "Coventry Carol" by Frank's Enemy, which carries over into Frost Like Ashes kicking off with harpsichord on "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence/O Come Emanuel." Soon enough, however, they kick into overdrive. Royal Anguish take on "Mary Did You Know?" and Tortured Conscience do a deep-voiced crunch on "Little Drummer Boy." Probably best for fans of this type of music. Copies occasionally show up via 3rd parties on Amazon.

sounseas.jpgThis compilation wasn't released so much as it escaped; I found it in a used record store in Charlottesville, Va. A little promotion money and they could have scored big; maybe that's why the American EMI label has been deactivated. It's since been reissued with the '98 excised. Meredith Brooks of "Bitch" fame does a kicking "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" while Spice Girls flounce unconvincingly through the Phil Spector arrangement of "Sleigh Ride." One surprise is Everclear's "Santa Baby," which they do despite it being a girl's song. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy offer "Christmastime in Tinseltown (Again)" Coming over from non-EMI labels are Hansen's "What Christmas Means to Me," Sarah McLaughlin's version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Song For a Winter's Night," Loreena McKennitt's semi-Celtic "Good King Wenceslaus," Backstreet Boys' "Christmas Time" and Brian McKnight's "The First Noel." And Deana Carter manages to not country up "Carol of the Bells" too much, at least until the fiddle sneaks in at the end. Both versions appear to still be available through Amazon, although the only significant difference is the cover art.

cdnowep.jpgThe long-gone and Coca-Cola sponsored this 6-song EP as a freebie during 1998's Christmas rush, and it was worth the money. Everclear's "Santa Baby" makes an appearance here, along with "Let It Snow" from Boyz II Men's Christmas album and "Silver Bells" by Michel'le from the Death Row collection. EMI stablemates Marcy Playground give us "Keegan's Christmas" and The Dandy Warhols do a version of "The Little Drummer Boy" that also appeared on Tim Kerr's It's Finally Christmas. That leaves Keb'Mo' with "Jingle Bell Jamboree." You might expect a promo item of this kind to be long unavailable, but 3rd parties at Amazon appear to have copies of this at reasonable prices.
norcoast.jpgThe subtitle of this 2001 compilation, a benefit for the Salvation Army World Trade Center Disaster Relief Fund, is "An Eclectic Mix of Holiday Music From Various Cleveland Area Artists." Nobody I recognize, though. Although an all-local-artists compilation, it could easily be marketed as your basic alt-folk-rock Christmas CD. Many would probably want this compilation just for "Enter Snowman," a takeoff on the similarly named Metallica song about the Sandman, by Selloutica. Alexis Antes and Robin Stone duet on your basic African percussion-influenced "Little Drummer Boy," Myrtle does one of the Very Special Christmas arrangements of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," Dick Tucker Band's "Winter Wonderland" is an offbeat pop-rock ballad version of the carol, and Rare Blend's "What Child Is This" has a "House of the Rising Sun" flavor to it. Cosmic Stepping Stones do a swingy duet harmony on "Jingle Bells." Eroc and Walkin' Cane do "Blue Christmas" filtered through Nilsson's "Coconut," an original take on the perennial. Smash Eerie get a little Sting-like on "Carol of the Bells." This set trends more toward the mellow side though, with a straight ballad reading of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Marla Zahorsky and Mark Brennan, solo guitar version of "We Three Kings" by CD producer Kurt Tischer, the original ballad "Your Gift Is Your Presence" by Jim Tigue and a synth instrumental of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Bobbi Holt. I've linked the cover art to Amazon, but it appears to still be available from the label site at a lower price. Also, the Amazon link has so little information I can't guarantee they're offering the same album I'm describing here.
supervox.jpgHard to scare up much more background info than what we get on the cover of this 2001 EP. This is your basic bunch of Boston studio bums led by studio owner Chris Madsen and Brook Batteau doing a holiday CD, probably a limited release since my copy is on CD-R. Good playing and singing, but not a lot of planning went into this; the overall sound is your basic "tasteful rock" approach to six traditional carols. The reggae "O Little Town of Bethlehem" by Phillips Brooks and Louis H. Redner is the breakout cut from this set, although some might like the Soggy Mountain Boys-style treatment they give "Silent Night," and the thrashed-out "O Come All Ye Faithful" that concludes the set is pretty good too. UPDATE: Originally listed this as a various artists collection, but subsequent research attributes the album to Batteau as lead artist, so that's what we'll go with. Click the cover, it remains available through Amazon.

omrecrds.jpgTechno music, or future music, as the record company's website defines it, this 2003 album is a compilation of the label's artists performing holiday tunes in that genre. Dance beats laid over drones, but the individual artists all have their own distinctive approaches, which makes this listenable as well as danceable. Sutro Heights build a whole new song around "Winter Wonderland," Rithma's "Psycho Jingle Funk" deconstructs "Jingle Bells," Kaskade's "Peace on Earth" and "Still Still Still" are interesting originals with a Beth Orton touch, the latter almost having a "Silent Night" feel. Late Night Alumni's "Songs of the Morning" would be a folk song if backed only by guitar, but the heavy beats and orchestral backing take it onto the dancefloor almost against its will. Colossus does "Charlie Brown Cut-Up," a drums-and-bass pastiche cut and pasted over the "Peanuts" gang's version of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." King Koopa lays beats over a jazz piano reading of "O Christmas Tree," Pleasant Grove Minstrels give the treatment to "What Child is This," Members Only's "Christmas Eve" chops up "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies," and Casey Nefey wraps things up with "Psyonics Night." Depending on your affinity for this musical style, you may not make it all the way through this, but you'll certainly find individual cuts you like.
remixed.jpgThis time around they call it New Style Lounge, but it's more of what we hear on the Reindeer Room and Om Records collections -- complex but danceable beats, electronic effects, droning accompaniment pads overlaid with vocals and deconstructed melody lines. The liner notes tell us to listen for elements of "nu jazz, deephouse, discohouse and drum & bass." A mixture of cut 'n pasted classics like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "Little Drummer Boy," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Greensleeves" and "Auld Lang Syne" and originals like Bryan Ogden's "Home for the Holidays," "Ask Yourself" by Sunday People, "Awaken" by the Source and "Winter Wait" by Electric Brother, along with Mudfish's version of a Spanish classic, "Los Peces en el Rio." This is actually pretty listenable, although more in a background music sort of way -- but its danceability is the real calling card. From 2003. The same people also produced The Mistletoe Lounge in 2006, a similar collection.
chillout.jpgDowntempo" and "chillout" are varieties of modern-day electronica that are the "slow jams" versions of such music. The artist names listed with each tune are probably not relevant, as the liner notes state these are all pseudonyms for folks who have reputations in this particular musical world. Most of the tunes on this 2002 release are evergreens -- "Little Drummer Boy," "Sleigh Ride," "Silent Night," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," although Rauder and Hobbs put some thump to "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" and for some reason two different artists take a crack at "Feliz Navidad," Tetsumi Nagaka and Sub Santa, the latter of which is retitled "Feliz Navidub." "A Child is Born" by Jon Kennedy is the one original here. The arrangements, while mostly similar in tempo and instrumentation, take an eclectic approach to rhythms, picking and choosing among bump-and-grind, Latin and Caribbean grooves. Contemporary sounding, but a little too easily pushed into the background -- although that might be the point of this kind of music; it has some of the trappings of Brian Eno's ambient experiments, along with a veneer of lounge. UPDATE: There was a Reindeer Room 2 for 2003 and a third edition in 2009.
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