Friday, December 09, 2005


Technically there is no Terrell's Tune-up column in today's Pasatiempo. Instead I wrote a bunch of Christmas CD reviews for the special Christmas Pasatempos section. Here they are:

A version of these were published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
December 9, 2005

What I Really Want For Christmas


One of the most oddly enduring Christmas albums of the rock ’n’ roll era is The Beach Boys Christmas, a 1964 outing that featured mostly original Yuletide songs, plus “Blue Christmas,” “White Christmas,” a stunning version of “We Three Kings” and a few other Christmas chestnuts. Even considering the frequently cornball production, the Boys of summer created a wintertime classic.

Forty-one years later, Brian Wilson not only pays homage to The Beach Boys Christmas with this album, he has created a holiday treat that stands on its own. This is due mostly to Wilson’s own sensibilities. But much credit should go to the band he’s been using for the past several years, The Wondermints. (The documentary on the making of Smile gives a viewer great appreciate for the contribution of this band -- especially to keyboardist/singer Darian Sahanaja -- to Wilson’s art. )

The new album has a couple of novelty tunes from The Beach Boys Christmas, “The Man With All the Toys” and that album‘s best-known ditty, “Little Saint Nick.” (Of the old stuff, I’d have preferred “Santa’s Beard,” the story of a brat who exposes a department-store Santa.)

More importantly there are some new songs, including the title tune, which Wilson co-wrote with Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin and “Christmasey,” which he co-wrote with Jimmy Webb. If I have one complaint, ’d have liked some more originals here.

The other songs are the usual suspects -- “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” a rocking “Deck the Halls,” etc. -- all done up in Beach Boys-style harmonies. He doesn’t revive “We Three Kings,” but there’s one incredible jaw-dropper in Wilson’s version of “Oh Holy Night.” As Wilson and his group sing “Fall on your knees/Hear the angel voices,” all I can say is “Bet yo’ sweet pork chops!”

We Three Kings

(Yep Roc)

The king of the psychobillies has entered the Christmas sweepstakes with a good rocking collection.

There are the classic holiday tunes -- the title song is an instrumental, part ominous surf music, part hoedown. Likewise, “What Child is This,” is a Link Wray inspired instrumental. “Frosty the Snowman” practically melts because of the speed, while the reverend plays a slow, earnest take of “Silver Bells,” complete with gospelish organ and piano.

This album also is a survey of classic rock ‘n’ roll and country Christmas songs. Heat does a worthy cover of Elvis Presley’s “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me,” a crooning version of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper,” a properly rocking romp on Chuck Berry’s “Run, Rudolf Run” and a hearty salute to Buck Owens on the obscure Owens holiday hit “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” (I’m sure the Rev. would agree that it’s worth it for Buckaroo fans to seek out the original.)

But the weirdest cut on We Three Kings is Heat’s inspired melding of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with the theme from the Batman television show. It’s good he remembers the true meaning of Christmas.

A Christmas Kind of Town
Yep Roc

Anyone who’s ever sat through a Christmas pageant at virtually any elementary school or church -- and serious enjoyed it despite of, or even because of the corniness and amateurishness -- would get a kick out of this album.

This roots-rock band from Philadelphia (where the concept of “roots” also includes Phil Spector) apparently called up a bunch of friends (including a sexy singer who calls herself “Felicia Navidad“), took a serious dip into the wassail and made this album, a collection of songs, silly skits and general Yuletide goofiness.

There are a couple of songs associated with 1960s animated Christmas specials. There’s “Christmas Time is Here” where Marah and crew sound disturbingly like the Peanuts gang, and “Holy Jolly Christmas,” (sung by Burl Ives on the 1964 clay-puppet classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.)

There’s some typical over covered songs like “Silver Bells,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “Winter Wonderland.” But there’s a very obscure Buck Owens song “Christmas Times A Comin’” And better yet are some fine original tunes here including a polka-like “Counting the Days (Til Christmas),” the Brian Wilson-worthy “Christmas with the Snow” and “New York is a Christmas Kind of Town.”

Hanukkah Rocks


Back in the late ‘80s — when 2 Live Crew was the rap group that was the biggest threat to civilization — there was a parody of As Nasty as They Wanna Be called As Kosher as They Wanna Be by a group calling itself Two Live Jews. The anchor cut was a takeoff of Crew’s “Me So Horny,” called “Oy! It’s So Humid.”

The LeeVees (Adam Gardner and Dave Schneider) channel the spirit of Two Live Jews, and probably even Allen Sherman on this collection of funny songs about Hanukkah and the chosen people in general.

“Latke Clan” is about Hanukkah spirit (“Santa’s cool/But Hanukkah Harry’s the man …”), while “Goyim Friends” examines the jealousy that Jewish kids feel when they get six packs of socks on Hanukkah when their Christian pals get snowboards and iPods for Christmas.
My favorite is “How Do You Spell Channukkahh”: “In elementary school/A Spanish kid told me/That it starts with a silent J/But Julio was wrong.”

The humor is non-stop and the music is catchy, infectious pop rock, including Farfisa organ on many tracks. Maybe next year The LeeVees will team up with Kinky Friedman for more Jewish holiday fun.


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