Friday, December 07, 2007

Not Always Great, But Always Entertaining: "Christmas Cocktails"

I wasn’t going to include this album in the advent calendar, but then I made the mistake of popping the tape in the car while driving to work yesterday, and now I can’t resist. I’ve never actually bought the album; my brother taped it for me a long time ago and I usually listen to it at least a couple of times before the season is over.

Without question, this is the most eclectic, over-the-top Christmas album ever produced. The tracks range from the sublime to the ridiculous and then on to another dimension where what was previously thought ridiculous now is revealed to have been sublime after all. Notable tracks include Billy May’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo,” Lou Rawls’ “Christmas Is,” Julie London’s “I’d Like You For Christmas” (OK, if you insist), and Dean Martin’s “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” (why do I also think there’s a hot adult beverage somewhere nearby?).

Two tracks stand out for their transcendent awfulness, the first being Jimmy McGriff’s “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town/White Christmas.” McGriff is an organist, and subtle is not a word that is a part of his vocabulary. We’re not talking Danny Federici here, by any stretch of the imagination. At one point, he breaks into a little ditty that isn’t remotely related to either song in the medley, and the only thing missing is the deep voice in the background solemnly intoning, “and playing shortstop…12-time all-star and future Hall of Famer…Derek…JETER!”

But even better/worse than that is “Ring Those Christmas Bells” by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. The people on this song sing with such overwhelming joy that you can imagine it’s what Christmas must have been like on the planet in “Star Trek” where Spock is shot full of spores and suddenly has emotions, immediately falling in love with Jill Ireland. No one can be this jolly – no one can be this happy. It’s just not possible, is it? But beware – you listen to this song at your peril, because it then slowly takes over your mind, like the pods in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Suddenly, you can think of nothing else – and the only known cure is Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols at high volume.

So raise that martini – but don’t get too close to the stereo!

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