Here we have an interesting pair of CDs, marrying Christmas carols and hymns with classic Beatles songs. With a few exceptions, the songs you get here are done very well. From what I had read before I got the CDs, I expected the Christmas songs to be sung to Beatles melodies. For the most part, though, it's only the musical arrangement that is taken from the Beatles, while the vocal melodies remain fairly true to the Christmas tunes.
For those of us who are fans of both the Beatles and Christmas music, this is a very interesting project. Unless, of course, you're a purist who feels that the Beatles' classics should not be tampered with; if that's the case, then you will want to pass on this product. For the rest of us, here's a run-down of what to expect from the CDs.
First CD: "A Fab Four Christmas"
1. "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" -- Arranged like "I Saw Her Standing There," the first thing said is, "This is take 17," after which you hear, "One, two, three, FOUR," just like the lead-in to the Beatles' classic. You hear what sounds almost exactly like the original Beatles recording, but then you're surprised when the vocal kicks into a Christmas carol. The intro is catchy, but once the song starts it actually turns out to be one of the weakest tracks on the CD. I typically skip to the next.
2. "Joy to the World" -- Arranged like "Please Please Me," but the harmonica is immediately playing the Christmas tune. During the song, the arrangement gets shuffled around a bit. After the line, "And heaven and nature sing," you hear the "Come on" shout-back part of the Beatles' song, making an interesting blend.
3. "Feliz Navidad" -- Arranged like "And I Love Her," the classic Christmas rocker is toned down to a nice ballad.
4. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" -- Arranged like "Help," this is one of the few songs on these CDs that retains part of the Beatles' vocal melodies. The song starts immediately with the classic "Help!" chorus, but the lyrics are: "Hark! The angels sing / Hark! The newborn King / Hark! You know the angels sing / Hark!" After that, they delve into a very upbeat version of the Christmas carol.
5. "Away in a Manger" -- Arranged like "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," an interesting part of this one is the line, "The little Lord Jesus asleep on the HAY!" They shout, "HAY," just like the Beatles shouted, "HEY," in their classic. You immediately expect to hear them sing, "You've got to hide...," but they don't. Another interesting twist to this track is that they also go into "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," and add in English accented chatter, sounding much like the Beatles themselves.
6. "Good King Wenceslas" -- Arranged like "Tell Me What You See." This Christmas song is one that I'm less familiar with, but it blends well with the Beatles' music.
7. "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" -- Arranged like "Baby's in Black."
8. "Winter Wonderland" -- Arranged like "Honey Don't," this is a "Ringo" contribution. Honestly, I never cared for most of Ringo's country-influenced songs, so my opinion of this one is somewhat biased. I could do without it, but Ringo fans will probably like it. The biggest highlight of the track for me is the last few seconds, where the tag ending from "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby" is thrown on.
9. "Frosty the Snowman" -- Arranged like "Mr. Moonlight."
10. "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" -- Arranged like "Eight Days a Week," this is a fun rocker. Possibly my favorite song on this disc. Well done.
Second CD: "Have Yourself A FAB-ulous Little Christmas"
1. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" -- Arranged like "When I'm 64," the music track stays remarkably close to the Beatles' classic, and the vocal sounds somewhat similar to Paul McCartney. Well done.
2. "Silent Night" -- Arranged like "Norwegian Wood," this one sounds great. One of my favorite renditions of this song.
3. "The Christmas Song" -- Arranged like "Here, There and Everywhere."
4. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" -- Arranged like "Within You Without You," it's not exactly what one would expect for a Christmas hymn. Surprisingly, though, it works.
5. "The Little Drummer Boy" -- Arranged like "Sun King," this one is interesting. The second line of the carol was changed to, "A new Son King to see," obviously alluding to the Beatles' song title. The tune later turns into "Jingle Bells" for the fade ending. Well done.
6. "Dear Santa" -- Arranged like "Oh Darlin," these songs blend together well.
7. "What Child Is This?" -- Arranged like "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," this is one of my favorites. The music track stays remarkably close to the Beatles' classic, but surprisingly accompanies the Christmas hymn very well. Well done.
8. "Blue Christmas" -- Arranged like "Revolution 1," this one's a great slow-rocker.
9. "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" -- Arranged like "Got To Get You Into My Life," this one starts out with a horn section playing "Oh Christmas Tree." This is quite possibly the most interesting musical arrangement I've heard for this Christmas song.
10. "Jingle Bells" -- Arranged like "Tomorrow Never Knows," we have here another arrangement that one wouldn't expect for a Christmas carol. Again, though, it surprisingly works, and is one of my favorites. The sound effects used throughout the track make it sound a lot like the Beatles' song. In addition, at the end of the song we hear, "It is snowing," sung the same way that the Beatles sang, "It is knowing."
One thing that is somewhat surprising is that the Fab Four didn't mix John & Yoko's "Happy Christmas" or Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" with Beatles songs for this collection. That would have been interesting to hear. Maybe they attempted to do something with them but couldn't find a good fit, but one can only speculate.
I only have one real complaint with these CDs. Both of these discs were apparently issued at the same time (both dated 2002). Together you get a total playing time of about one hour, which is less than what can fit on one disc. I would have preferred that everything had been on one CD, thus not being so wasteful of our natural resources, as well as not taking up as much space in the consumer's CD collection. But, that's a fairly minor complaint, and the price makes it well worth the purchase.