Cats for Christmas

Christmas CatThere is only one thing better than the glorious excitement of Christmas morn, and that is, of course, a mother lovin’ cat wrapped in a box!! Leroy Anderson is a man of impeccable taste; this fact is certainly not up for debate. As the back sleeve proudly proclaims, “altogether this is an unusual collection brilliantly interpreted.” I’m seldom one for shameless self-promotion (he laughs out loud), but this assessment of Leroy Anderson’s fine orchestral conducting is the perfect blend of classic Christmas sentiment and celebratory holiday cat-friendly cheer.

The Prudent Groove wishes everyone a wonderland of holiday hilarity filled with lighthearted liveliness and mistletoe smooching merriment. Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Best Worst Christmas Album Ever Produced AKA The Worst Best Christmas Album Ever Produced

Christmas in the StarsThe odds against Christmas being Christmas

Is 365 to 1

Where to begin… Christmas in the Stars is nothing short of an exhaustive, and thorough disaster. This album makes the destruction of Alderaan look as trivial as spilled blue milk. Released in 1980, this Ishtar-like running gag features Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, a series of random beeps as R2-D2, a full freakin’ orchestra, and of course, John Bongiovi, AKA Jon Bon Jovi on lead vocals, because, you know, nothing says “let’s go save the princess” like Bad Medicine.

Everyone will have a cookie

I brought extra for the Wookie

Christmas CreditsProduced by Meco (yes, THAT Meco), and co-produced by Tony Bongiovi, Jon Bon’s cousin, Christmas in the Stars takes the colorful world of Star Wars (then only two films), coerces it with a shiny piece of candy, and takes it out back to beat it senseless with a pillow case full of D batteries. What Can You Get A Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb?) is not only a genuine track from this album, IT’S ALSO THE SINGLE! Man, would I have LOVED to have been a fly on the wall during these pitch meetings. “Uh, yes Mr. Lucas. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us today. We all loved Empire. Brilliant film. Yes, yes. So, our idea for the Star Wars Christmas album is this… what if we have a series of non-denominational Christmas songs (see the oxymoron there?) narrated by R2 & 3PO? I hear there’s a talented young kid out of New Jersey with a great singing voice, we can get him to do the backing vocals. We could have a full symphony, utilize Ben Burtt’s amazing sound effects, and we can see if Ralph is available to do the cover. The single, are you ready… is titled, What Can You Get A Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?). What do you think, George?” “Green lit. Now, pass me that tube of cookie dough. I’m in pre-production on a 2nd chin.”

The ONLY redeemable feature with regards to Christmas in the Stars is the Ralph McQuarrie painted cover (note how the 1980 Kris Kringle looks an awful lot like a 2013 George Lucas).  Christmas in the Stars is like receiving a pair of socks for Christmas every year from each of your relatives and loved ones. The anticipation far exceeds the end result, but at least your feet will be warm.

Winter Wonderland AKA Don’t Double Cross a Double Crosser, or You’ll Wind Up in a Winter Wonderland of Death, by The Ray Charles Singers

Winter Wonderland FrontNot to be confused with Ray Charles, the Ray Charles Singers put out a rather cozy, albeit run-of-the-mill holiday album for the winter of 1956 called, Winter Wonderland, where the music meets expectations, but the cover far exceeds them. Sure, all the hits are here (Jingle Bells, Let It Snow, etc.), but this cover, man, perfectly depicts the comfort and security of being inside with a warm, wood-burning fireplace roaring and sub-zero temperatures giving way to large flakes of devil snow outside. It’s that perfect mix of “I’m not going outside… I don’t care if the house is on fire” and “why the hell do we live in this part of the world again?”  That is… until you start to peep the couple on the other side of the large, corner window.

Touch of DeathAt first, I thought it was a touch of romance with the husband laying down and motioning his wife to join him. Upon further analysis, I’ve concluded that the woman is in fact the man’s concubine who has been double crossing on her double cross, and has poisoned the poor sod and disguised it to look like an accident. It’s the 50’s, kids. No Forensic Files. Look at the man’s body language. He’s laying flat on his back, staring straight up with a deadpan look plastered across his face. Now, look at the woman. With a slight, “I told you so” grin, she pushes the man’s hand away in his last attempt at wringing her quadruple crossing neck. Be careful out there, kids. The holidays can be deadly.

Ambition Has its Flaws Volume 6

Audio

It’s ANGRY CHRISTMAS here at the Prudent Groove, and to help us with our holiday jeering will be the following:

Rocket from the Crypt – Boychucker

The Dismemberment Plan – I Love a Magician

Oxford Collapse – Molasses

The Murder City Devils – Ready for More

Hot Snakes – Salton City

Defacto Oppression – It’s Not That Simple

Andrew Jackson Jihad – People II: The Reckoning

Stiff Little Fingers – Here We Are Nowhere

Chronic Sick – Mucho Macho

Slayer – Angel of Death

AVLINNN!!!

ChipmunksUrgency is the name of the game. Be it sped up dialogue from unknown voice actors, or last minute post writing by yours truly. As a kid growing up in the 80s (oh, how I miss the 80s), I’d solely known the Chipmunks from the animated classic, Alvin and the Chipmunks. You remember Alvin and the Chipmunks, don’t you? Do-do, dodododo! No, well… isn’t my face as red as a raging radish?!

This 1961 release from Mistletoe Records features these playful little rascals harmoniously banging out such classics as Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Up on the House Top, and many others. It’s difficult not to like the Chipmunks, but like most everything around the holiday season, they’re best kept at bay, or at the very least, in a rusted cage where they belong.

Christmas with VIBRAPHONE and GUITAR

Christmas in KillarneyIf Christmas were a time for heart-sucked mourning, or generally, if your dog, Holly, was just struck and killed by the mail truck (oh the sad, but delicious irony), Music for Christmas by Paul Carson would be JUST the dismal, grief-stricken, collection of anguished holiday hits that you’d give just about anything to forget.

Performed beautifully, this pipe organ-driven assortment of “holiday cheer” is a tear-stealing demon bent on sucking the hope clean dry from any and every last joy-expecting gentleman or woman within reasonable earshot, and succeeds in forcing those not too distant feelings of habitual skepticism right up to the surface in a boiling frenzy of left field emotion.

Bloody ChristmasWhat I’m saying here, is that this album is a Debra McDownerson, with her husband Daniel McDownerson and their 2 children, Doreen and Dennis McDownerson. If you’re looking for a little seasonal pick-me-up, LOOK ELSEWHERE, you poor, misguided sap! Music for Christmas by Paul Carson may seem as enticing as a 7-Eleven 1/3 lb hot dog, but as per usual, what is disguised as joyful elation is in fact forlorn regret in disguise. Merry Christmas… pass the tissues.

A Cabbage Patch Christmas

Cabbage Spatch“Man… how do you go from Johnny Cash to the Cabbage Patch Kids?!”

What can I say… I’m nothing if I’m not eclectic. Does that excuse me from owning A Cabbage Patch Christmas… probably (absolutely, most definitely) not. Is my head held high with the smug satisfaction that I can own any damn record I damn well please? Not really, but look at this cover! I mean, somebody, A TEAM, rather, drew up this idea, had meetings, scheduled a photo shoot where somebody, probably a poor PA was late due to a flat tire and was fired around the holidays. I’m sure there was a costume designer, a set builder, an Executive who complained that the snow didn’t look enough like “East Coast snow” (whatever the hell that means), there were probably lengthy discussions about what song the soulless field babies would sing, if the almost invisible lights in the bush and / or trees should be colored or Plain Jane boring white… and for what?! To sell dolls (read plastic and yarn).

Cabbage BackI’ve probably owned this record for several (10 or so) years, and I doubt I’ve ever listened to it. So, as I’m typing this and sucking down my morning brew, my virgin ears are (bleeding) being christened by somebody named Colonel Casey and a bunch of soil born kids, with decent singing ability (embrace it now, kid), as they meander through top 40 Christmas favs. Maybe my aging brain needs another round of hot genus coffea, but I don’t recall the Cabbage Patch Kids having such an outwardly southern feel. Banjos? Really? I mean, I’m all for banjos. I love Primus, but there’s just something about this album and the time it was put out (1984) that leaves me scratching my head (mainly because of an itch).

Alright. That’s it. Is Christmas over yet? No? Well, I hope it gets here soon. I’m running out of Christmas albums…

The Man in Black Sings About Christmases of White

JRJ. R. Cash was seldom shy about his faith. He was brought up on Baptist beliefs, was quoted 17 ways from Sunday commenting on his personal relationship with God, and wife June was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame back in 2009. This 1963 album on Columbia Records stands as a shameless appreciation of this rugged man’s enormous heart, and shows that everyone, from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo, has a little classic country in them. Titled The Christmas Spirit, Mr. Cash masters that warmhearted holiday sentiment perfect for sitting fireside while heavy winds fight trees outside closed windows, and looming clouds sift a heavy helping of blanketed snow.

For me, anytime of year is a great time for Johnny Cash, but for some reason, maybe it’s his deep, fearless tone, the holidays are the best days for enjoying a little Man in Black. Don’t expect Brenda Lee or Chuck Berry on this album, they are more part of the sparkling, bubbling lights on the holiday music tree. Johnny Cash on the other hand, is the one shining star that rests atop this tree, creating that perfect, musical glow of holiday comfort and joy .

A Christmas Filled With Partridges, Dysfunctional Families and Christmas Cards

Partridge Family FrontIt’s getting close to Christmas, so I’ll admit that I know next to nothing about the Family Partridge. Then why, you ask, do I have their Christmas Card album? I can’t logically answer that. Oh, sure, I could offer you a string of hypothetical and misleading lies as to how and / or why I acquired this frolicking little collection of easy listening holiday nuggets of someone else’s nostalgia, but like I said, Christmas is coming, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to fib this close to the big day.

CardSo instead, I’ll (quickly) offer up what I THINK the Partridge Family is based on their (pear) tree decorating Christmas photo. So, you’ve got mom, who looks awful close in age to her son, David Cassidy, who ripped out, broke, and set fire to the hearts of adolescent girls the world over, then you’ve got big sister who has a giant goiter on her neck, and is constantly covering it up while pretending to play with her hair, then you got the little ones. The red headed kid I know was heavy into drugs, and is excited for, what I assume, was a neatly wrapped imported bong, while the others, probably neighbor kids, look at this glass flute in youthful amazement. A few questions… where’s dad? How old was mom when she had little David? Did dad die? Oh! Did mom shoot him for leaving her with five bratty kids?! Maybe the goiter on big sister’s neck is instead a defensive gunshot wound when drunken dad attempted to off the entire family! That might be a little racy for the 70s, especially on primetime television. I could just as easily head on over to the interwebs to verify this hypothetical assessment of this (dys) functional family, but instead, I’ll enjoy this sunshine popsicle album and imagine, all day, what the hell happened to dad.

Santa Alpert & The Tijuana Elves

Santa AlpertHerb Alpert and his talented band of merry elves deliver a stellar collection of wistful Christmas classics neatly wrapped in a “south of the border” sized box, with just the right amount of contemporary wrapping and an unforgettable horn-shaped bow. The standards, you ask? They’re here… Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Jingle Bell Rock, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells etc., as well the desperately playful Burt Bacharach number, The Bell that Couldn’t Jingle.

Tijuana ElvesReleased in 1968 on A&M Records, a label Mr. Alpert helped form (the A in A&M stands for Alpert… true story), this set of holiday hymns suffers from only one discriminating flaw… it is entirely too short. This album could easily be three times the length and still not cross that lingering line of awkward and incessant “is this album EVER gonna’ end” vibe. This album, like most everything Herb Alpert was involved with, is extravagant and considerably timeless. One thing is clear after listening to this album; I don’t listen to NEAR enough Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. My list of New Year’s resolutions is growing exponentially. I blame Obama.

Ambition Has its Flaws Volume 5

Audio

Well, it’s December 15th, and with only 10 days until “the big one,” we’ll only have to drudge through only two more Christmas themed audio posts. Check out today’s tracklist:

1. The Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)

2. The Chinkees – Christmas

3. The Flaming Lips – Christmas at the Zoo

4. The Promise Ring – Holiday Adam

5. Clifton Chenier – It’s Christmas Time

6. Lou Rawls – Merry Christmas, Baby

7. Sammy Davis Jr. – Christmas Time All Over the World

8. The Statler Brothers – I’ll Be Home for Christmas

All this Christmas music is starting to get to me… light at the end of the holiday tunnel.. HURRY UP AND GET HERE!

A Thoughtful and Timely Christmas Gift from Brenda Lee

Rockin FrontBrenda Lee was mindful enough to remember us this year, and put together a rip-roarin’ collection of rockabilly and surf rock tidings of good cheer to keep all of us, especially those in the colder regions, busy and movin’ this holiday season. Kickin’ off this 12-track comp (released in 1986 by MCA Records) is Little Miss Dynamite’s (aka Brenda Lee) 1958 classic, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. What follows is a musical sleigh ride of body movin’ classics from Bobby Helms & The Anita Kerr Singers, Dodie Stevens, the Surfaris, Chuck Berry and others (others is not a band, I just didn’t want to type up the rest of talented acts featured on this flawless album…).

Rockin BackThis record in particular generally gets more spins each holiday than the other knots in the holiday tree library. Played again, for the 3rd time just yesterday, I foresee (Brenda Lee Presents) Rockin’ Little Christmas to fill these walls at least three more times in 2013. After that she’ll head off to the dormant “Christmas section” and hibernate for a good 12 months. At this point, I’m just about over the whole Christmas music deal, but I agreed to something and I’m sticking with it (facepalm).

Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus

HB, BJNothing says Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus like the appropriately titled rock n’ roll comp, Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus. Released in 1993 on Sympathy for the Record Industry, a Washington-based, one-man-operated punk and garage rock label, HB, BJ captures that glorified sleaziness found within the smoke-filled, brawl-inducing dive bars scattered across this giant, rotating rock, but you know, with that perfect amount of stocking stuffed sincerity.

BackFeatured on this, borderline anti-Christmas rager are The New Bomb Turks, Rocket from the Crypt, Jackknife, The Humpers, Shitbirds, The Devil Dogs a many more! Act now and receive a free… or, wait… I’m not actually selling this album, but if you’re in the market for quality garage rock with a pinch of Christmas cheer, Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus is just the right amount of straight bourbon guzzling, tree decorating, sibling-shoving mess of holiday overindulgence.

You Can Say There’s No Such Thing as Grandpa, But as for Me and Santa, We Believe

GrandmaA renowned classic throughout the family for as long as I can remember, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer was, for many Christmases, the soundtrack to the season. Mix in a few Brandy Old Fashioneds, the light accumulation of snow, and a warm room heated up by a wood-burning furnace, and you’ve got a Norman Rockwell painting of my early Christmas years.

As a young, little, mischievous ankle-biter, I’d heard, and was familiar with the name, Elmo & Patsy. Patsy was my grandfather’s nickname for my grandmother, and now that I’m older, I wonder if it was derived from this album. He’d give her a hard time about something, playfully of course, and would always end his boisterous rant with Patsy. My grandmother would laugh, almost embarrassed, which would then set the room into a joyous ruckus. My grandfather was great at that… setting an infectious, and heartfelt fire to a room. I miss him, but will always remember the little details of family Christmases thanks, in part, to this song. Egga Cleva anyone?

Merrie (Melodies) Christmas!

Bugs FrontAlthough MUCH is lost when Looney Tunes is stripped of its visual brilliance, the unmistakable talents of Mel Blanc are more than enough to make this LP of “four wonderful stories” a necessity for the holiday season.

Bugs TailFeatured on this collection are the pillars of the Looney Tunes franchise, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (who didn’t make the cover, surprisingly), along with Yosemite Sam, Sylvester & Tweety, and the crowned king of calamitous camp, Elmer Fudd. Available here, with its special twist of Looney Tunage, are Bugs the Red-Nose Bunny, Santa-Claustrophobia, Holly Daze, and ‘Twas the Sight Before Christmas. Tracks that could have, but didn’t make the cut were Bugsy the Snowman, Don’t Eat Duck for Christmas, and Yosemite Sam Presents: Russian Roulette aka Red Christmas.

Sick of the same ol’ holiday schtick? Why not spice it up this season with a few, long-winded stories by the master of voice entertainment, Mel Blanc? Your inner child, and your 4-year-old nephew will thank you.

Christmas in California

Yosemite ChristmasChristmas in California does not look like the cover of this album for about 99.9% of its lackadaisical residents, I can assure you. With seductive lies aside, what this album does appropriately present is plenty of sunshine fa-la-las and hometown holiday melodies because, let’s face it… only Peter Nero can wistfully combine Jingle Bells with Winter Wonderland in that seamless Peter Nero kind of way.

This 12 track compilation is more your parents’ speed, provided your parents are that pipe smoking, holiday cookie-baking, smoking jacket-wearing, red cabbage-prepping dynamic duo of yesteryear… and, let’s face it… don’t all of our parents secretly wish to engulf that 1968 middle aged persona? I know mine do, although they’re reluctant to admit it.

Yosemite BackReleased in 1968 by RCA Records, although not necessarily my immediate go-to, classics by the classics (Arthur Fiedler, Al Hirt, Henry Mancini, Robert Shaw, Harry Belafonte, The Norman Luboff Choir, etc.) do deserve at least one spin a year, and today, apparently, is that day.

O Tannenbaum aka A They Might Be Giants Christmas

O Tannenbaum1993 was a good year for a lot of good reasons. Mainly, it saw this two-track holiday offering by the two Johns (Flansburgh and Linell) of They Might Be Giants. Featuring O Tannenbaum and the b-side Christmas Cards, this nifty little stocking stuffer comes on mistletoe green vinyl, and bridges that perfect gap between early 90s college rock and classic holiday warm and fuzzy music.

Christmas CardsAlthough released in 1993 (wow, that’s now 20 years ago!), both songs harbor that “timeless Christmas” vibe, and if you’re like me and enjoy the cheese-filled, gluttonous, help me forget about my everyday life kind of distraction, They Might Be Giants have a neatly wrapped 45 with your name on it. It’s under the tree next to the zeppelin and the Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle.

House Party Series Presents: Carols for Christmas

Carols… as opposed to Carols for Groundhog’s day, I suppose. Look at these kids. Now, look at this stupid-ass snow-gentleman… trying so hard to please whomever is JUST off camera, widening their gullets in the fiendish attempts at pretending the words of Joy to the World. I call bollocks, if I am so allowed! And to blame, in all of this maddening banter, is, of course, Columbia Records.

Ok, so the Norman Luboff Choir accompanies these lolly-gagging kids… find and dandy (don’t call me Dandy). But what the sh!t is ol’ Frosty McFrostersons doing following along with the mitten wearing, class skipping, coal stealing hoodlums of the mid 1950s? Honestly, I thought Mr. Snowman had more class than that. Well, touché, cruel world… touché indeed.

Funky, Funky Christmas

New KidsJordan, Jonathan, Joey, Donnie & Danny want to wish your 1989 self a money cow-milking merry Christmas. Apparently “dedicated to the children of the world,” Merry, Merry Christmas is a Christmas star-shining example of late 1980s awesomeness and features five white mimes with questionable talent and poor fashion sense cascading down a blanket of fake snow atop a wooden toboggan on some back lot at CBS Studios in Studio City, California. If the now 40-somethings ever made it to the bottom of We Need to Hurry Up and Release a Christmas Album Hill, the world may never know, but one thing is for sure, they certainly made their way into Heartthrob Base with little to no trouble.

With such profound lyrics as, He said you left the fire burning and I burnt my butt, and It’s going I’m showin’ fresh rhymes I’m throwin’, it’s snowin’ outside but we Ho Ho Hoin’, it’s no question that this album is ripe with the unmistakable scent of Christmas class.

So, don’t forget to include NKOTB on your Christmas card list. Here is their address in case you lost it: New Kids, P.O. Box 7080 Quincy, MA 02269.