Monday, December 30, 2013

Please rise for our belated seasonal anthem ...

The Ventures' CHRISTMAS ALBUM [1965] is the greatest Xmas album ever recorded. Don't even pretend that Phil Spector wall-of-sound yuletide wailing or the Beatles' happy-Christmas-to-just-our-fanclub quickies or even the mighty Vince Guaraldi can compete.

This LP is a Swiss Army knife of an Xmas LP -- put it on in the background for your holiday party and enjoy mostly ignoring it while you pretend to enjoy chatting with your guests; put it on while wrapping presents for your ungrateful loved ones and occasionally stop to guess where the next song is headed after the first twelve bars; or, I shit you not, put on your headphones and treat it like a Pink Floyd album, but without the 1AM-conversations-in-your-dorm's-stairway levels of pretension.

The combo playfully twist convention by taking a pop tune of the day and warping it into a Christmas classic: "What'd I Say" sets the groove for "Jingle Bells," the Lonnie Mack stomp of "Memphis" paves over the tinsel swing of "Jingle Bell Rock," and "Blue Christmas" finally gives you something to think about on the off chance that you ever hear the Searchers' "When You Walk Into the Room" on the radio or while browsing in a used-vinyl store, etc.

For me, the track to go back to over and over, especially through a pair of ear buds, is "Snow Flakes," their take on "Greensleeves" mixed with a little of the Zombies' "She's Not There."

If the soundtrack of all our Christmas seasons must forever be the soundtrack of the boomers' childhood Christmases*, then let this album get the most play.

* It's not a coincidence that the only new song of the last 30 years to make it into heavy rotation in the malls and on lazyass-December commerical radio is Mariah Carey's "All I want For Christmas Is You," a song so boomer-retro that Spector probably embellishes a false memory that he supervised the track's final mixdown with his pistol in Carey's mouth every time he hears it. Speaking of which:

OK, fine -- here's one Christmas song that we can probably claim for our own; even as a filthy, agnostic Jew, I can get into this medieval French carol about the animals in the manger doing what they could to care for the newborn baby Jesus.

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