For more than a year, some of my friends and I have been sharing music. We’re supposed to review/rate what gets shared with us, and share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.
The December People – A Classic Rock Christmas (2015)
Going with the Frankincense tune from last week, Spencer shared a whole album of prog/Christmas tune mash-ups.
I loved the energy on Silver Bells. I find the original rather boring, and this was not.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Hotel California, but I don’t think the country reggae feel was right for Oh Come Emmanuel. I think it’s one of the most hauntingly beautiful Christmas songs, and this mash-up (while alright) didn’t quite do it justice. Same with the Kansas inspired Oh Holy Night. Plus, their string sound was obviously synthesized. But maybe I don’t particularly care for both of those because they have more reverent subject matter and the mashup distracts from the lyrics.
Good King Wenceslas used to be one of my favorite Christmas tunes. I think it just has a kind of catchy melody. And their version was a spot on Dire Straits version, even though I don’t particularly care for the vocals and I would have liked more Police in there.
Is That Time of Year an original, or just a holiday tune I don’t recognize?
The keyboard voices in Jingle Bells weren’t quite Van Halen, but the vocals weren’t bad. Maybe I just don’t listen to enough Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen.
And after all that classic/hard/prog rock, I was not expecting them to bust out Auld Lang Syne influenced by Train and Jason Mraz. I mean, I loved the Barenaked Ladies somber version of the tune (and I still like their vocal execution better than this version), but I really like the arrangement of the first two minutes on this. It was probably the best thing I heard this week.
And as much as people knock Wonderful Christmas Time, I really believe that without those synths, it’s would be a lot better and almost equal with Happy Xmas (War is Over). Most of the other tunes, I can point to specific songs they’re referencing. But not Happy Xmas. It was good, but not as good as the original.
Mostly, they have some cool ideas, but I don’t know that I totally love the execution. At times it was just a bit much. Still, it was my favorite record of the week. 3/5
John Denver & The Muppets – A Christmas Together (1979)
And Tim shared another album from last year. Again, if you want the whole review, check out that post.
Here’s the short version: It’s a classic from my childhood, mostly because of the humor The Muppets bring. 3/5
The Carpenters – Christmas Portrait (1978), although Spotify only has the 1984 rerelease with a slightly altered track listing.
That this is one of Chris’ notable Christmas albums, but it’s never been a favorite of mine. Maybe because neither of my parents are much of Carpenter fans. I also think part of it is that I don’t really like Karen Carpenter’s voice.
I think my favorite tunes were their lightly jazzier arrangements of Sleigh Ride (although I think I still prefer the original instrumental)(actually, what I really prefer is the thematically similar Troika, from Sergei Prokofiev’s soundtrack to Lt. Kijé) and Carol of the Bells. I heard Richard and Karen singing on Sleigh Ride, but was there a third vocalist on that?
Some of the medlies were hard to rate. I didn’t care for much of the Overture, but I loved the March of the Toys, Gesù Bambino and Angels We Have Heard on High sections. I also really liked the Good King Wenceslas portion of one of the medlies. And how can you go wrong with The Nutcracker medley?
It’s better than I remember, but I still don’t love the Carpenters. Mostly it’s just kind of meh to me. I guess I like Richard’s arrangements. They’re musically similar to The Osmonds, but I don’t like Karen’s voice as much. 3/5
Rudolph (You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Light)
This week, I shared a single song, although you’re welcome to listen the whole album (available to download for free here) if you feel so inclined.
This mash-up (by someone I only know as mojochronic) of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Police’s Roxanne really puts the “Ho” back in “the Holidays.” This year for the company Christmas party, me and a few coworkers performed some tunes, including this. And I couldn’t not share it. This is an interesting fit harmonically. Not perfect, but it works. Of all the Christmas mash-ups I’ve heard, this might be the best. It’ll be a standard I incorporate into all Christmas (and maybe other) performances.
Here’s what my friends thought:
“I listened to this whole album. Or at least tried. Many of the songs were heavy hip-hop remix stuff that I really can’t abide. I could if I had to, but Paul only shared the song, and I’d rather not listen to those. Paul really filtered out the best tune, but some of the others were appreciable. Seven Nation Santa had a similar fun mashup, but wasn’t as well executed. Christmas Fire was interesting, pulling in Johnny Cash samples, but it wasn’t memorable. Wow Christmas, I didn’t finish. Swing the Boot actually I liked a lot. It took a dixie jass recording and slowly morphed it into Elvis’s Santa Bring My Baby Back. Insane in the Winter Wonderland mashed with Insane Clown Posse’s Jump Around in a way that was pretty good. At the end it started to get too long. Motown Christmas was ok. It was clever and enjoyable but had several autotune artifacts, and like several of these songs, you can tell the songs they are mashing don’t follow the same progression so the notes are out there a bit.
So I downloaded this and deleted most of the tracks, but I’ll keep the others. Even still, I think its maybe high 3’s, including the ones I deleted drags it way down into the 2s. But the song Paul shared is in the 4s range. So, I’m going to average my rating here to a middle ground 3.0” 3/5 – Spencer
“This was [a] fun one, but I think it just barely makes the 3 star cut for me. Sometimes it just felt flat, I think it was because the Rudolph vocals just couldn’t align with Sting. Maybe if they had slow-jammed Rudolph it would have fit better. But otherwise it was fun.” 3/5 – Tim
Please share your thoughts on anything here and have a happy Christmas season.