on 15 November 2011
The first consideration with compilations of Christmas rock 'n' roll and/or R&B is "Just how many of the songs explicitly refer to 'Jingle Bells'?" 14 of the 25 tracks here do just that, mostly in the opening bars, and in fact two of them ARE "Jingle Bells", another one takes its melody and adds new lyrics, and another is an instrumental version of unparalleled trashiness (just to confuse matters, the track "Jingle Jangle" doesn't refer to "Jingle Bells" at all apart from the title; diligent listeners may also pick up further jingular allusions scattered throughout). This is probably an even higher Jingle Bell Quotient than Mr Lamarr's previous and excellent "Rhythm and Blues Christmas" (also highly recommended) and is a strong indicator that what's on offer here is a collection of utterly shameless exploitation of the festive season, characterised by great good humour and musical vitality.
The second consideration is "Just how many of the songs refer to the real meaning of Christmas?". With great relief I can report that none of them do, unless of course you think the real meaning of Christmas is drunkenness, lechery, dancing, or any combination thereof, in which case, this is beyond all doubt the Christmas album for you.
The tracks cover most rock 'n' roll variations, from raucous sax instrumentals through doo-wop and rockabilly to mambo stylings and all points inbetween; Toni Harper's "Jingle Bells" even has a bit of a Stan Kenton thing going on. The quality throughout is too high to justify track-by-track analysis, apart fom Little Joey Farr's "Rock 'n' Roll Santa", which is so useless it's actually quite compelling. Hard not to note Jimmy Butler's "Trim Your Tree", though, because it's filthy, and you can compare and contrast the incredibly flat vocal on Sandy Baron's "Swingin' Santa" with "North Pole Rock" by Cathy Sharpe, who exemplifies nominative determinism with a vocal so sharp fans of modern mainstream pop would consider totally in tune. And The Youngsters' "Chistmas In Jail" is a sobering reminder of what happens if you have a drop too much eggnog at the office party.
Overall, if you love Christmas but get fed up with the usual soundtrack, and want something more in tune with the drunken idiocy you're rightly hoping for, get this on your list to Santy. As Ron Holden and the Thunderbirds, along with all my homies in the North East, call him.