Christmas records. For me, they conjure memories of Decembers in the early-70s of homes filled with the vocal stylings of the likes of Andy Williams and Jerry Vale singing half-heartedly about the joys of the season. Bland, inoffensive, depressing and not exactly the stuff from which happy memories are made.
Here, though, are two recent Christmas releases that should help clear the cobwebs off of the moldy collection of holiday records of Christmases past. Both are highly recommended.
The Connection, A Christmas Gift For: New England’s coolest Hit Makers use less than thirty minutes to deliver eight original Christmas tunes and a Ramones cover for your distinct listening pleasure. The result is a non-stop rockin’ good time, and one of the funnest collection of holiday tunes from this or any other season.
“Money, Honey, Baby” sets the tone immediately, with a bit a jingle bell-adorned garage rock stomp about spending that hard-earned, diligently saved cash on a special gift for that special someone. “I Feel Fine (It’s Christmas Time)” is a foot-tapping look at the happy happenings on a particularly memorable Christmas Eve. “West Coast” is a track about the warm and sunny Christmases on the “best coast.” Try singing the chorus to this one while slugging it out through yet another bitter winter on the East Coast:
The hits keep coming — fast and furiously. “Better Late Than Never” is a pounding R&B rocker about delayed Christmas gratification. “Rock N Roll Christmas” is exactly as advertised, a furiously rocking track about something we all want — a tree overflowing with records:
“Poor Boy” (which also appears on the Kool Kat collection, discussed below) has a slight country feel, and features this great sing-along verse:
While other kids eat turkey and yams/I’m home alone with water and spam/Ain’t got no mama, ain’t got no old man/Its only grandma/And she’s on the lam
The fun doesn’t end until the final notes ring in the band’s perfect cover of The Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight).”
The Connection will never be accused of taking themselves too seriously, and A Christmas Gift For shows them having a rockin’ good time for our benefit. Run, don’t walk, and get it right here.
A Kool Kat Kristmas Volume. 2: The folks at Kool Kat Musik have assembled another winning compilation of holiday tunes from some of the brightest lights in the indie pop world. At heart, this is really a collection of pop tunes that also would sound quite good between January and November, only that they’ve been gussied up for December with holiday themes and the occasional jingle bell.
North London popsters The Pencils kick off the collection in fine form with “Christmas Is Coming Again,” which they spike with liberal doses of lush production, sweet harmonies and slinky slide guitar work. The Tor Guides deliver a chiming guitar-filled letter to Santa requesting a “Beatles Vinyl” box for Christmas.
Some of the artists are apparently pining for a sun-filled Christmas. To that end, The Honeymoon Stallions check in with some tasty, breezy Sunshine Pop on “Snowbird,” while Shake Some Action contribute two-and-a-half minutes of perfect jangle pop on “Christmas In The Sun.”
The collection closes on a few quieter notes.
I’m a big fan of Stephen Lawrenson, and he contributes the best song in the set with the acoustic string-based “Glad It’s Christmas.” Wyatt Funderburk supplies a gorgeous, sensitive vocal on the reflective “Cold.” Martin Newell gets a tad creepy — but in a good way — on “Ghosts of Christmas,” suggesting a grainy, black and white version of “A Christmas Carol.”
A Kool Kat Kristmas Volume 2 is available right here. You can stream the album in full before buying, right here. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each copy will be donated to The Susan Giblin Foundation for Animal Wellness and Welfare. So, you get good holiday tunes while doing some good at the same time.