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April 2010 Archives

ohsanta.jpgThis rootsy independent label rolled up a bunch of Christmas-oriented tunes from its artist roster for 2007. The subtitle is "New and used holiday classics from Yep Roc Records," and indeed some of these items have slipped out elsewhere, like The Apples in Stereo's "Holiday Mood," Marah's "New York is a Christmas Kind of Town," "Holiday Twist" by Los Straitjackets and Rev. Horton Heat's "Santa on the Roof." Indeed, when you pull this disc up in iTunes it gives the album title as Redeye Christmas, suggesting either a pilot title or a previous release. UPDATE: Yep Roc is distributed by Redeye Distribution, and apparently this was the working title until a contest resulted in the collection's current name. END UPDATE. Anyway, if that number of doubles doesn't dissuade you, there are rewards here. Th' Legendary Shack-Shakers cross Tom Waits with Dick Dale in their unique "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," The Moaners rail against a commercial Christmas in "Something Funny in Santa's Lap," and though the American Princes' "This Business of Christmas" threatens to cover the same territory, it's more about Christmas spirit. Jason Ringenberg with Kristi Rose take things into the country with "Lovely Christmas," Chatham County Line brings us the title song, Cities bemoans that it's "So Cold This Christmas," and Minus 5 pours us a helping of "Your Christmas Whiskey." If we're dealing with Yep Roc, I'd sure like to hear takes on the holiday from John Doe, Robyn Hitchcock and Nick Lowe, but all told this is worth having.
standard.jpgIndie label Standard sicced its roster on Christmas for 2006, plus a few folks who aren't on the label, and this compilation is the result. Liner notes say they were still mixing this in November 2006, which makes me think this might be the first full holiday season this has been available. BIGBIGcar gets things rolling with a falsetto reading of "All I Want For Christmas," the Mariah Carey one, followed by Everything, Now!'s medley of "Jesus Christ" with Sun Ra's "Nuclear War," for you space jazz freaks out there. Those of you who attended college during the recessions of the 1970s might get a nostalgic glow from Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band as it renders "Plasma For Christmas," as in "I'll be giving plasma for Christmas this year." Red Queen Hypothesis recalls a "Crockpot Barbecue" and Elephant Micah reprises "Jesus Christ," a more ethereal synth 'n strumming rendition here. Arrah and the Ferns go all pedantic with "Merry Christmas, Not Xmas," and Harley Poe brings the horror aspect to "It's Christmas Time Again," with this deathless couplet: "The big red man called Santa Claus/Will chop you up with knives and saws." And Dean Plays Hardball's "Little Retail Boy" starts out as "Drummer Boy" but pushes the point a little farther. This is a nice collection for those of you who like their alt-rock on the down-low, budget-wise.
crepscul.jpgThis compilation originally hit the streets in the vinyl era, 1981 to be precise, and has been reissued a couple of times with different lineups of songs. It was originally put together by Les Disques du Crepuscule, a Belgian independent label whose name, near as I can tell, means "records in the dark." The label's roster featured post-punk and "new wave" artists like Paul Haig, Wim Mertens and Tuxedomoon, who are represented here along with artists from such labels as Factory and Postcard. This 2007 reissue gathers up all the different songs that have been part of the album over the years, along with the various bits of cover art in which they were housed. Some more unkind folks might consider this a representative sample of early to mid-80s mope rock, but I say this stuff is well thought out even at its most obscure. The Swinging Buildings do their best Depeche Mode on "Praying For a Cheaper Christmas," Paul Haig's "Christiana" is a relationship song involving an appropriately named woman, while his "Scottish Christmas" is a more upbeat instrumental, and Aztec Camera goes all Django Reinhart on "Hot Club of Christmas," a swingy acoustic guitar medley of carols. Durutti Column contributes a pair of ethereal instrumentals, "One Christmas For Your Thoughts" and "Snowflakes." The French Impressionists try their hand at an American funk arrangement of "Santa Baby," and Hillcrest Club take an XTC approach to the instrumental "Breakfast at Christmas." Hawaiian Christmases are considered twice here, with Magazzini Criminali's "Honolulu 25 Dicembre 1990," though I'm at a loss to make the connection through the quasi-free jazz and Italian whispering, and Antena's "Noelle a Hawaii," which gets a bit of spaghetti Western guitar going against ocean sounds before shifting into synth-pop. This is a fairly eclectic grouping with not a lot of obvious holiday connections, possibly off-putting to some and right up others' alleys. Gotta say this stuff holds up pretty well for being a quarter-century old, too. Do I need to add this reissue is out of print yet again? Check Amazon for 3rd parties with copies of this import.

altrock.jpgThis 2007 disc is mainly a trip through the vaults, but it's not bad for all that, even though fans probably have large numbers of the cuts on here. I personally have several copies of the Smithereens' "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," Dandy Warhols' "Little Drummer Boy," Sinead O'Connor's "Silent Night, Jimmy Eat World's "Christmas Card" and "12/23/95," and The Alarm's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." But I definitely didn't have the two Decemberists' cuts here, "Angel Won't You Call Me" and "Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)," Luscious Jackson's Gap commercial "Let It Snow," or The Specials' instrumental "Holiday Fortnight," which sounds more calypso than ska to these ears. Also on here are Marcy Playground's "Keegan's Christmas," Relient K's "In Like a Lion (Always Winter)," Starflyer 69's "Christmas Time Is Here," The Thrills' downtempo version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," Dada's "My Baby Fell for Old St. Nick" and Everclear's male-voice take on "Santa Baby." Those without the resources to do mix discs could do worse than to grab this.

magister.jpgThis 2005 collection came whipping out of left field just after Christmas via iTunes; I couldn't even find a mention of this at the Le Grand Magistery website, the label from which this emanates. Needless to say, this is a grouping of the label's artists performing contemporary rock/pop Christmas music. There's a fairly wide selection of original tunes here too. Baxendale's "Flash Gordon" is a fairly offbeat take on the holiday through the eyes of the sci-fi radio hero. Mascott and Dave Derby give us a coming-home waltz in "This Christmastime," Stars offers its very own original "Christmas Song," not Mel Torme's, let alone the Raveonettes', and they return at the end of the album with a philosophical "A New Year." Alexander's Festival Hall takes a shot at its own "Silent Nites," a mellow bit of electronica. Pas/Cal throws us a couple of covers, a completely deconstructed lounge-y "Jingle Bell Rock" and a more conventional version of Wham's "Last Christmas." The Moth Wranglers go garage-lounge on us with a rhythm box-organ rendition of their own "Dear Santa," Cidermill Drive give us a pop-rock "Suzy Snowflake," and Cigarbox Planetarium go all faux-cornball on a guitar/organ instrumental of "Jingle Bells." This is pretty listenable all the way through and comes highly recommended.
babyjesu.jpgThis is a 1995 recompilation of a pair of '90s punk-rock collections that were originally issued on 10-inch vinyl in 1993 and 1994. The CD edition fills two discs and adds six tunes not on either of the originals. Not everything on here is an amped-up, speeded-up take on the holiday, although that would describe a fair number of cuts, but there are plenty of other approaches. Rocket From the Crypt do "Cancel Christmas," a downtempo rocker, the Shitbirds do poppier punk on "Christmas Is a-Comin' (And God Bless You)," International Language angle for a bit of Big Star pop on "Christmas Will Be Magic Again," and attention is paid to roots with Spectrum's "Santa Claus" by the Sonics, the Devil Dogs' version of "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday," the Beatles' "Christmastime Is Here Again" by Satan's Cheerleaders, and Junkyard Dogs' "Brand New Bike," which is just a rewrite of Elvis Presley's "Santa Claus is Back in Town." The Phenobarbidols punk us with a sincere "O Holy Night," waiting until near the end to rock it up. Man Or Astro-Man do a "Tequila" on "Frosty the Snowman" and El Vez's "Feliz Navi-Nada" makes another appearance here. The Muffs go giftless with "Nothing For Me" and the Go-Nuts' "Snackin' Santa" is a 50s-style talk-rocker about the jolly elf's bottomless appetite. Too many acts to list here, but if you like a little punk in your diet, this collection is likely to yield at least a few favorites. Remains in print, including for download.
dubldown.jpgThe saloon is a real place, or should I say places, with locations in Las Vegas and Manhattan, and this is a collection of bands that play either or both saloons. The bands featured here are a mix of hard rockers and bar bands (in the best sense of the term), and the disc obviously is meant as a branding exercise for the saloon. Murphy's Law kicks things off with a horn-laden cover of Bob Seger's "Sock It To Me Santa," the Lonesome Spurs get a bit country on "Jingle Bells, the Dirty Panties thrash out "Santa Baby," the Las Vegas All-Stars do an "X-Mess Medley" of familiar carols, The Peccadilloes hammer out "Nuttin' For Christmas" and The Real Shames cover The Sonics' "Santa Claus." Some items released elsewhere appear here too, like Richard Cheese's "Christmas In Las Vegas" and Evil Beaver's "Blue Christmas." And for those looking for something a bit more transgressive, the Double Down obliges with The Vermin and the Ramones-ish thrash of "Santa Was a Cross Dressing Nazi," The Clydesdale redneck things up with "Imo Shoot Me a Reindeer," Suite 666 says "Santa Blow Me," and 1/2 Ast sings of a "Gay Christmas."
merry80s.jpgThere's a whole series of these at Best Buy for $6.99, one each for the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, but I've only seen the 70s and 80s version so far. The latter two lean heavily on middle-of-the-road artists, but I bring this one up mainly because I'd never seen Tommy Tutone's "Santa I Got Your Number," which is a holiday remake of their one hit "867-5309." nor had I encountered the Motels' version of "Santa Baby," which is at least as good as Madonna's if not better. Most of the other notable cuts have been mentioned elsewhere on the site, like Billy Squier's "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You," the Peter Cetera/Alison Krauss "Deck the Halls," Jethro Tull's "Holly Herald" and Heart's "O Holy Night," originally released by Wilson sisters' side project Lovemongers. The rest, as mentioned earlier, is just MOR stuff. From 2006. Long out of print, but 3rd parties at Amazon have cheap copies.
monster.jpgAnother lunge up out of the primordial ooze from the hard rock segment, though marketing trumps music this go-round, as a fair number of these songs were recycled from 2003's hair-metal semi-classic, We Wish You a Hairy Christmas. Billy Idol's "Christmas Love" from his recent CD is here, and the Twisted Sister Christmas CD also contributes a cut, the version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" done with Lita Ford. Songs by Danger Danger, Enuff Z'Nuff, L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat are the repeats from Hairy. There remain nine unique cuts, enough to recommend this to fans of the genre. Jani Lane of Warrant and Tom Keifer of Cinderella offer takes on classics, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Blue Christmas." Winger's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" starts out a faithful cover but gradually metals things up along the way, Queensryche's "White Christmas" is kind of hammy in the way a Bob Rivers parody might be, and Nelson's "Jingle Bell Rock" takes things uptempo in a fairly refreshing way. Stryper throws down live with their version of "Winter Wonderland," heavy on the bass drums, and Firehouse's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" takes a similar approach. For those who didn't get enough from Hairy, this will take pride of place in their collections. From 2007.
starbuck.jpgI realize a lot of folks are offended by the coffee grinder's attempts to appropriate the listening experience to move more beans, but I say anything that distracts folks from buying yet another Rod Stewart "classic songbook" album has to be a good thing. In this case, we have a Starbucks-only Christmas collection for 2005 curated by Elton John that puts some hard-to-find goodies alongside some all-time favorites on a single disc and throws in an exclusive duet with Joss Stone, "Calling It Christmas." We get Elton's "Step Into Christmas," a couple of cuts from the Phil Spector album, Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," the Eagles' "Please Come Home For Christmas," Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" and the Beach Boys' "Man With All the Toys." Along with that, Elton gives us "It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas" by Pet Shop Boys, "A Change at Christmas" by Flaming Lips, "December Will Be Magic Again" by Kate Bush and "Spotlight on Christmas" by Rufus Wainwright. And don't forget "New Year's Day" by U2 and "St. Patrick's Day" by John Mayer (huh? Oh, OK, never mind). UPDATE: I've seen this on the shelves at regular stores for 2006. FURTHER UPDATE: Catherine Livingston lets us know the updated edition of this compilation is shy six tunes: Bruce and the Eagles, the two Spector album cuts, John Mayer and Outkast. The latter two might be the harder ones to track down, but most folks probably have the other four. Thankfully, the otherwise-rare Pet Shop Boys cut remains. Not available as a download and currently out of print, but 3rd parties at Amazon appear to have copies of the original 2005 version and the abridged 2006 version.
hearhear.jpgThe label that brought us the MaybeThis Christmas series of Christmas compilations featuring mostly Canadian bands appears to have decided to skip physical copies for 2006 in favor of this download-only album. They kick off with Barenaked Ladies' "Jingle Bells" from their holiday CD and swing into Adrienne Pierce's "Joy Is Within Reach," a bit of a cross between Enya and Nellie McKay. "Welcome Christmas" from the "Grinch" special gets a bluegrass arrangement from the Clumsy Lovers, and Sarah McLachlan was holding out on us with "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," not on her new Wintersong CD. Martha Wainwright's "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" from the McGarrigles' holiday CD is here too. There's a lot of more conventional sounding stuff on here too, like a typical jazz take on "Baby It's Cold Outside" from Gabe Dixon and Leigh Nash and a few others, ending with the Mediaeval Babes' antique approach to "The Holly and the Ivy." A mixed bag as a full album, but you can always download what you like best.
teamint2.jpgDon't bother looking for the review of Vol. 1, as I haven't found a copy of it, and anyway all of the songs from 1 are on 2. This Vancouver, B.C. label is home to an interesting batch of alt-rock-country Canadian musicians, who came together to make this record for the benefit of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which is dedicated to helping people living with AIDS in Africa. The latest tune on here is copyright 2004, so we'll assume that's when the CD first came out; other songs date back to 2000. John Guliak kicks off with the country classic "Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas," and we hear "The Blizzard" from the Buttless Chaps, which is not particularly holiday oriented but the band and song names do draw an interesting word picture. David Carswell and Megan Barnes give us a nice poppy "I Wanna Kiss You This Christmas," Young and Sexy throw out a bit of sour grapes with "Santa Claus Likes Rich Kids Better," and Carolyn Mark makes her mark twice with "Song For the Girl with Two of Everything" and "The Christmas Song," a nice pair of gin-soaked originals. "Old Man Davie's Christmas Kingdom" by Duotang is a great riff on the holiday obsessive who builds elaborate Christmas villages every holiday season. The Tennessee Twin gives us "X-mas Is Past," a country lament with lots of twangy guitar and mandolin. And the entire cast and crew of this CD came together to record their own version of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmastime." UPDATE: Randy Paske punches in to bring us the scoop on Vol. 1 -- it was a 7-inch vinyl single, which likely means the Vol. 1 songs are making their first CD apperarance anywhere.
strtdrum.jpgSome time back I glommed onto a version of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by Street Drum Corps on iTunes, only to discover later that it was the lead cut on this 2005 compilation CD. Starting with that song, it is a perfectly good cover of John Lennon's holiday classic, a song that needs to be heard every Christmas season. Skindred dabbles in dancehall on "Jungle Bells," not the kids' holiday song but one of their own. "Miracle of Christmas" by Funeral For a Friend has a touch of U2 about it, though as done by a cover band, perhaps. Most of the songs are originals, though Roses are Red hammers Wham's "Last Christmas, The Smashup lulls you with a straight acoustic "Coventry Carol," slamming into overdrive halfway through, Amped gets exactly that way on "We Three Kings," and My American Heart throws some electric guitar drone on "The First Noel." Emery's original "The Last Christmas" is a nice change of pace, "No Smiles on Christmas" by Bleed the Dream is your basic hard rock band's ballad, and Plain White T takes us out with the acoustic rocker "Season of a Lifetime." Other bands taking part include The Used, Opiate For the Masses, Like Yesterday, Black Halos and Gatsby's American Dream.

dblcrown.jpgThis Bellingham, WA record label specializes in garage/surf bands, and this CD had been previously compiled in 2000. We missed it then, but we have it now, reissued for 2006 with three additional cuts over the original. As we've compiled a number of surf-oriented Christmas tunes over the life of this site, we're not particularly surprised that several items, like Jon & the Nightriders' "Sleigh Ride," Urban Surf Kings' "We Three Kings," Death Valley's "Carol of the Bells" and "Little Drummer Boy" by The Bonesharks, have been done in similar ways by other artists elsewhere. But with 19 tracks to choose from, that's not necessarily a disqualifying point. Some of the more fun tracks on this CD are the Tacoma 4's "Christmas is a Drag" and The Boss Martians' "It's Christmas Time," the latter previously on the Santa's Got a GTO compilation, both in the non-Beach Boys car/surf vein; "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto" by Frigg A Go Go, a straight rock version of the James Brown arrangement; "Hang On Rudolph," a witty appropriation of the "Rudolph" and "Sloopy" songs by The Ebeneezer Scrooge Appreciation Society; The Firebirds' "Living Doll," a plea for Santa to bring a girlfriend; and "Rocknuts," The Lunatics' version of "Nutrocker" done entirely with surf guitars. Also notable is "Sigue Sigue X-mas," an upbeat surf "Jingle Bells" with spoken word samples ladled over it from old TV shows, and yes, of course from "It's a Wonderful Life." "Jingle Bells" returns in a spaghetti Western version from The Bitch Boys, and the whole thing wraps up with The Surfites' "Santa Claus Goes Surfin'," a straight-up surf instrumental worthy of Dick Dale or The Surfaris. Doesn't appear to be in print, although Amazon has it via 3rd parties and the label had cut-price copies as of this update.
seasonl2.jpgThe surf and garage rock authorities at DC are back for a second go-round in the Christmas realm in 2007. The 20 cuts on here are heavy on the surf guitar and the instrumentals, but they manage to mix things up pretty nicely for those inclined to listen all the way through. Pollo Del Mar kicks things off with their "Carol of the Bells," a fairly stately rendition two-thirds of the way through before the drums start double-timing things. "Drums For Christmas" by the Pete Curry Orchestra is as advertised, heavy on the jungle drums, and The Pyronauts bring a bit of "Pipeline" to "O Come All Ye Faithful." Give musicologist The Incredible Mr. Smith props for surfing up the German carol "Leise Rieselt Der Schnee," Surfin' Santa with the Meshugga Beach Party covers the Ventures' version of "Sleigh Ride," and The Dusty Warren Complex's "Little Drummer Boy" goes all Sandy Nelson drum-wise, with a hint of "Wipe Out." Mustn't give short shrift to the vocals on this disc, though, with the winner being The Barbary Coasters' "I Want a Monkey For Christmas," its fanciful lyrics set to Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven." The Icicles are right in there with their 60s girl-group take on "Snowman," Speedball Jr. knows "Rudolph's Secret," and The Daytonas want to keep "Christmas Time For Fun." Amazon only has this via 3rd parties, but the label still has copies, albeit at premium prices.

cdtales.jpgHere's another Elton John-connected holiday collection, this one distributing half the funds from its sale to Elton's AIDS Foundation. The company CD Tales apparently was in the business of putting together music compilations (they're defunct), and this appears to be their first holiday effort. Elton's "Step Into Christmas" appears here, along with Better Than Ezra's "Merry Christmas Eve," Remy Zero's "Someday at Christmas," "I Want an Alien For Christmas" by Fountains of Wayne, XTC's "Thanks For Christmas," The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping," Sun 60's "Mary X-mess," "25th December" by Everything But the Girl, and other cuts by Chris Stamey, Cocteau Twins, Pretenders and Matthew Sweet, d.b.a. Buzz of Delight. Not a particularly rare bunch of tunes, but if you don't have them, they're all here. This 2003 collection is long gone; the only reference to it online links right back here.

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