Surrounded with the Sound of Laughter

Some of my co-workers and I have been sharing some of our favorite music, rating them, reviewing them and sharing those reviews with one another. I thought I’d share my thoughts on their suggestions (and their thoughts on mine) with you here.

I thought about sharing something Christmas-y, but there’s only one whole Christmas album I really love, so I’ll share that soon. I’m not a total Christmas Curmudgeon, but in the meantime I’m just going share whatever I want.

Anyway, here’s how I rate things. If I give something one star, it means I don’t think it qualifies as music. Five stars mean I wish I wrote the thing. Most music for me is a three.

Barenaked Ladies – Barenaked for the Holidays (2004)

This is one of the few winter holiday albums I have in my iTunes. It’s probably my second favorite. Another one of those albums I probably don’t have to listen to in order to review, but I will. Mostly because I really need stuff to listen to while I work.

I got into these guys through my Uncle Jonathan more than 20 years ago. I remember going camping and being a little scared when he stuck a cassette by a band called Barenaked Ladies in the car. And I was glad my dad wasn’t there, because based on the name alone, I was sure he wouldn’t let me listen to it. Long story short, I’ve been a fan ever since.

For most of the album, there aren’t any extended moments of outstanding. But there are constantly little licks, like the accordion near the end of Jingle Bells or the little piano riff about 2/3 of the way through Green Christmas that are just great. Oh, and then the bit about the carolers right after that is great, too. It helps showcase their personalities. As does the sweet organ (with the stock drum tracks) used on O Holy Night, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Wonderful Christmastime.

I feel like this is also one of the few holiday albums which really celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah (Chanukah?), even going so far as to sing in Hebrew.

The best of the all of these tracks is Auld Lang Syne. No other version of this song has better conveyed the sense of fondness for things past (which is what the song is supposed to do) as this version. It’s a good thing this is just a “holiday” album, because this is definitely not a Christmas song. For this song alone, I’d give this album 4/5. And gratefully the rest of this album is good enough to not bring the score down. Carol of the Bells is another highlight of the album, receiving a different treatment than normal.

The best original track is probably Footprints. I don’t really know why I like it. It’s simple, both lyrically and musically, and that never hurts.

The full album spreadThe Darkness – One Way Ticket to Hell … and Back! (2005)

First of all, let’s take a moment to consider that title…. Ok, moving on.

The Darkness’ second album is full of the ‘70s Thin Lizzy, Queen, and Led Zeppelin inspired hard rock we loved from the first one with the added zany that comes from the drugs they were taking when they wrote and recorded this album.

Not that I condone that sort of thing, I’m just being real about how this album came about.

While I like most of their first album, I like everything on this one. It rocks. It’s fun. They might be some of the ugliest, hard rock Brits to ever not take themselves seriously, but as long as they make music like this I don’t care.

Anyway, here’s what my coworker Tim had to say: “Wow. I loved this album. It was full of the essence of rock and roll. In fact, I loved it so much, that on the same day I listened to all their albums. I am very impressed, and it helps that all their influences and sound come from my favorites. That being said, this band could easily teeter on the brink of cliché and bad music, but they don’t. These guys can really play, and although their music is an homage to the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s rock, they have managed to make it oddly modern. I will anxiously await more music from them in the future. Now my glowing review could be seen as a five-star review, but sadly as awesome as the music is, as an album it is just great and not perfection.” 4/5


7 thoughts on “Surrounded with the Sound of Laughter

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