Christmas music

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1994 single)

BON JOVI “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1994 Mercury single)

Christmas of ’94 was a good one for Bon Jovi.  Their first greatest hits Cross Road was a smash, returning Bon Jovi to the charts.   It spawned two hit singles:  “Always” and later on, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”.  With all that going on, it is understandable if you missed another Bon Jovi single that was just under the radar.

“Please Come Home for Christmas” is billed as a Bon Jovi single, but in actuality it’s a Jon Bon Jovi solo track.  It was first released exclusively to the album A Very Special Christmas 2 (1992), billed to Jon Bon Jovi and not performed with the band.  By ’94, solo and band Bon Jovi were becoming blurred.  Jon’s solo track “Blaze of Glory” was on Cross Road even though it’s from Jon’s first solo album.  Nowhere on the “Please Come Home for Christmas” single is it indicated that this is a Bon Jovi solo recording, further blurring the lines.

None of that really matters; Bon Jovi is Jon’s band and this single gathers together his first three Christmas recordings in one place.  It’s actually a great value.

The old Charles Brown seasonal classic has been covered over and over, notably by the Eagles.  Jon’s version isn’t bad either.  You either like Bon Jovi or you don’t.  If you like Bon Jovi then this will probably be right up your alley.

Next up, one of the B-sides from Keep the Faith and an original song too:  “I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas”.  This has the vibe of Keep the Faith, with full production by Bob Rock.  Why can’t everybody be kind to each other every day like they are on Christmas?  It ain’t easy to write an original Christmas song, and Jon did an excellent job on this one.  I’ve always preferred it to “Please Come Home for Christmas”.

Finally, from the first Very Special Christmas album (1987), it’s a live take of “Back Door Santa” (Clarence Carter).  That means it’s from the Slippery When Wet tour.  Vintage Bon Jovi with cheesy keyboards right out “Social Disease”.  It’s not good but it’s here!  Meaning, Bon Jovi fans don’t have to look for A Very Special Christmas to complete their collections.

Two for three decent songs isn’t bad.  All are non-album tracks, so that’ll make this single worth it to you.

3/5 stars

Advertisements

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – A Twisted Christmas (2006)

TWISTED SISTERA Twisted Christmas (2006 Razor & Tie)

One thing I love about Christmas time is the ability to knock out all these Christmas album reviews.  I can only listen to this stuff seasonally, and I wouldn’t subject you to it otherwise.  In my quest to Review Everything I Own and Then Some, we must occasionally delve into Christmas music.

Rock bands doing Christmas tunes is…well, I mean it worked out OK for Elvis, and then later on Twisted Sister and the guys from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Each of those artists had success with Christmas music for good reasons, but I think Twisted Sister’s was purely the novelty value of it.  The humour.  The nudge-nudge-jokey-ness of it.  It wasn’t that they made a Christmas album laden with integrity.  It’s a joke album as the intro implies.

The album commences with Dee & company singing a traditional acoustic version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.  They are then interrupted by someone saying “This isn’t Twisted Sister!”  It then goes metal with a dash a punk.  “Ho ho ho!  Let’s go!”

The biggest joke is that, apparently, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was always just “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in disguise.  This was the big Christmas hit that put Twisted back in the spotlight, and it’s certainly the most enjoyable track on the CD.

Songs follow vague heavy metal blueprints.  “White Christmas” is imbued with an Iron Maiden gallop and a couple chords from “SMF”.  One thing is clear, and that is Dee Snider’s voice still has it.  The guy is a hell of a singer, period.  He’s joined by Lita Ford on “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, in the style of Twisted’s original epic ballad “The Price”.  Unfortunately this one stinks like Christmas cheese that should have been thrown out last year.  A shouty “Silver Bells” is done with a splash of AC/DC, but ends up sounding more like Poison.  Bassist/producer Mark “The Animal” Mendoza has a pretty kickass bass solo, though.

Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” is the foundation of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, and it is at this point that you realise a whole album of this stuff is a bit too much.  “Let It Snow” is given the doomy treatment, as an amalgam with Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”.  I suppose the doomy direction does go better with lines like “The weather outside is frightful”.  Maybe Dee & company are on to something here, but I’m not too sure about the Sabbathy version of “Deck the Halls” with echoes of “War Pigs” and “Never Say Die”.

“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” is a little dull, and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is too long, as it often is.  The only version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” anyone needs for a novelty is Bob & Doug McKenzie’s classic.  That’ll make your party pop a lot better than Twisted’s version.

Let’s check some boxes.  Is this album:

  • Fun?  (sometimes)
  • Heavy?  
  • Twisted?  
  • Creative?  

All well and good.  But will you:

  • Listen to it more than once a year?  
  • Enjoy as much as something else you could have played instead?  
  • Be able to use more than one or two songs for your Christmas party?  
  • Ever really look forward to hearing it again?

It is good that A Twisted Christmas brought the band the kind of success they deserved, but it is truly a shame that it is the final Twisted studio album.  They were always considered a joke to the critics, they shouldn’t have gone out on vinyl as a joke.

2/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Merry Axemas – A Guitar Christmas – Various Artists (1997)

Welcome to…
…Hosted by Vinyl Connection

MERRY AXEMAS A Guitar Christmas (1997 Sony)

Do you have a favourite Christmas album? Perhaps you need some Merry Axemas in your life.  The first one, in particular.

I used to have an annual tradition of making a Christmas mix CD.  I dropped it because after a while I ran out of good Christmas tracks. Something from Merry Axemas used to make the list every year.  Not only are there great traditional songs, but also the finest guitar slingers in the world.  For an album of (mostly) instrumentals, this one really rings the bells.

Louisiana blues rocker Kenny Wayne Shepherd gets things started with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.  Anyone on board with the blues should enjoy the solid jamming going on here!  This isn’t for grandma.  This is for guitar maniacs!  Progressive stylist Eric Johnson has a beautiful “First Nowell”, on a classical and electric guitars with accompaniment.  Grandma won’t mind this one at all, in fact she might want a copy for herself.  The wizard of the wires, Jeff Beck, then presents his slide guitar version of “Amazing Grace” complete with choir.  A different mix of elements, but not too hard to digest.


Not the version from this CD, which is instrumental

The Brian Setzer Orchestra comes out swingin’ with their instrumental “Jingle Bells”.  If you ever needed reminding how awesome the former Stray Cat is on six strings, then check this out.  Brian keeps it all accessible while simultaneously blowing off your nuts.  The big band is icing on the cake.  Joe Satriani is next up to the plate with an adventurous “Silent Night/Holy Night Jam”.  This one is strictly for guitar-heads and players, as it’s more a Joe showpiece than anything else.  Picture Joe circa Flying in a Blue Dream and you’re in the right place, but not very Christmas-y.  This is the only song that has never made one of my annual Christmas mix CDs.  Steve Morse’s “Joy to the World” is far more successful as far as the Christmas theme goes.  Steve does do it his way, but at least you can tell which carol you’re listening to.  If anyone can capture angelic Christmas guitar tones, it is Steve Morse.

How big can these names get?  Try Steve Vai on for size.  You might recall “Christmas Time is Here” from the classic Charlie Brown Christmas special.  Vince Guaraldi made it popular for all ages, and Steve does a playful take on it, using his guitar like a voice.  And the names keep getting bigger.  Heard of Joe Perry before?  The Aerosmith guitar hero does Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” as a Hawiian guitar instrumental which suddenly goes surf rock.  Rush’s Alex Lifeson then brings “The Little Drummer Boy”, with a low-key and quiet instrumental.

“‘O Holy Night”, performed by Richie Sambora formerly of Bon Jovi, swings and just barely misses.  It just doesn’t have that Christmas feel.  The Japanese guitarist Hotei has the final track, John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”, which is actually a traditional that Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote lyrics to.  He goes a little over the edge partway through, but it mostly maintains the right feel.

Here’s the great thing about Merry Axemas.  Even if you don’t care for Christmas music, there is usually a need for it around, once a year.  Merry Axemas, with some modest editing, could suit your needs.  Don’t celebrate Christmas?  No problem — if you’re a fan of these players (particularly Morse, Vai, Perry, and Johnson) then you’ll want to hear what they did with these tracks.

4/5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: The Darkness – Last of Our Kind (Christmas deluxe edition)

NEW RELEASE

Last review before Christmas!


 

Scan_20151221THE DARKNESS – Last of Our Kind (2015 Canary Dwarf deluxe holiday edition)

If there is one thing we collectors hate, it’s buying a rare collectible version of an album, only to see it reissued later with more tracks!  I waited ages to get the Japanese printing of the brand-new Darkness album Last of Our Kind, featuring two bonus tracks.  Now, just in time for Christmas, the Darkness have released a seasonal deluxe edition, with four bonus tracks this time, and special packaging that looks like Darkness wrapping paper being torn open to reveal the CD inside.  Even so, I had to order this CD in from Europe.

This counts as your annual seasonal content here at mikeladano.com, and it’s my only seasonal content this year!  Humbug.  Unusually for a seasonal post, this one is 100% rock!

Buying the album twice hurt a little bit less because it’s really, really good.  The Darkness have quality standards, and they have not dropped between albums.  They also had a new member, the talented drummer Emily Dolan Davies, who sadly couldn’t stick around and has since been replaced by Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen sticksman Roger Taylor.  Emily plays on all tracks herein, and she does so seamlessly.  On first spin it would be hard to tell that original drummer Eddie Graham wasn’t around anymore.

Laden with the screams of flighting Vikings, “Barbarian” opens the album heavier than expected.  “Barbarian” storms the gates, leaving trails of blood behind it, but fear not!  “Open Fire” is fast n’ catchy hard rock n’ roll, the way the Darkness has always done it.  The high vocals are toned down, with Justin Hawkins singing in his normal voice for most of it.  His throat has acquired a little bit of grit to it (light sandpaper only) which he uses effectively on “Open Fire”, which would have been a hit had it come out 10 years ago.

The very best track on the album is #3, the title track, boasting one of those Darkness choruses that has become their trademark and strength.  “Last of Our Kind” rings down as the highlight album and indeed one of the best songs to come out in 2015.  Just like he did in the days of yore, Justin lets his voice rip, while laying down Lizzy-like guitar harmonies with his brother Dan.  If singles were a still a thing, this would be the one.  You’ll notice how Davies accents the song on drums the way Ed Graham used to.  She doesn’t overplay, but she punctuates it where it has to be.

Rather than having used up all their ammunition on these first three great tracks, The Darkness have plenty more shells in the belt.  “Roaring Waters” is a mid-tempo groove, and almost lacklustre except for that slippery Hawkins riff.   Then you need a ballad, so you get a ballad: “Wheels of the Machine”.  It’s not as pompous as “Love is Only a Feeling”, but still has the golden Justin voice that makes their ballads either unique or unpalatable, depending on your tastes.  I say, turn it up.  You’ll especially want it loud on “Mighty Wings”, which has a neat spacey 80’s sci-fi keyboard intro.  Don’t be mistaken, for “Mighty Wings” rocks with a groove so chunky that neck strain is a real danger.

“This ain’t no double entendre.  This ain’t no euphemism.  This is real life.”  Well hey, a mudslide is a weird subject for a song, but that’s what “Mudslide” appears to be about!  “It’s a fuckin’ mudslide!” says Justin, to reiterate his point, after lamenting the loss of his “dear beloved gazebo” in the natural disaster.  Fortunately, this song kicks lots and lots of ass.  I wonder how many song lyrics reference a gazebo?  “Sarah O’Sarah” has a vaguely celtic feel due to the mandolin.  It’s an album highlight, sounding much like the Darkness’ second LP, One Way Ticket.  Davies proves her mettle on the chorus section, a gallop of percussion that frankly Eddie Graham didn’t seem to have the chops to do.  “Hammer & Tongs” shares its pop-chorus bent, but has some juicy slide guitar backing it up.  There is even a slight Stones vibe in the gee-tars.  The proper album ends on “Conquerors”, a ballad that serves as the dramatic pompous outro, featuring Dan Hawkins taking the lead vocals.

This deluxe CD continues on, with four bonus tracks, the first two of which are also on the pricier Japanese import version.  “Messenger” and “Always Had the Blues” are fine as bonus tracks, with “Messenger” being album quality (and then some).  Lush vocals from the back create swirls of melody that stick in your ear like gum in your hair!  The real gem among the bonus tracks is the newbie “Million Dollar Strong”, which has a sweet 80’s riff (think Dokken) and a horn section for added oomph!  The fourth track is their second Christmas single, “I Am Santa”.  With an obvious “Do They Know It’s Christmas” bassline and beat, plenty of folks will find a nostalgic glow on this one.  I especially like the line referencing “Ferrero Rocher”, a candy I always look forward to every Christmas.  Like the chocolates, “I Am Santa” is sweet and delightful.

My only disappointment:  2013’s non-album single “The Horn” was not included as a bonus track.  That leaves it frustratingly unreleased on a physical format.

4.5/5 stars

Japanese version:

Merry Christmas, and stay safe!

REVIEW: Marillion – A Collection of Recycled Gifts (2014)

NEW RELEASE

MARILLION HAPPY XMAS_0001MARILLIONA Collection of Recycled Gifts (2014 Racket Records)

It has been a Very Marillion Christmas this year at mikeladano.com.  We’ve already taken a detailed look at three of their prior Christmas albums, all fan club-only releases.  They were:

2001: A Very Barry Christmas
2002: Santa and his Elvis
2007: Somewhere Elf

Marillion stopped making Christmas albums in 2009, instead releasing Christmas DVDs.  This year, however, the band has released A Collection of Recycled Gifts (Happy Christmas from Marillion).  This collection compiles all of their Christmas songs, a period from 1999-present, all of them long out of print.  It’s important to note that not all of Marillion’s Christmas releases had Christmas songs on them.  The first, 1998’s Happy Christmas Everybody!, had only a Christmas message with a CD of new song previews and karaoke mixes.  2001’s A Piss-up in a Brewery was a special live acoustic performance with no Christmas songs, and was later reissued as its own standalone concert DVD.  So those releases aside, A Collection of Recycled Gifts contains a song from each Christmas CD, along with some that are new to CD, and one that is brand new, period.  A brilliant gift to the fans.

Brand new is Marillion’s cover of “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”, a John Lennon classic that very few can cover without sounding like douchebags.  Marilllion seldom sound like douchebags, and this version featuring the backing vocals of the band’s kids works without a hitch.  It’s rich and warm like a good cup of hot chocolate on a snowy Christmas night.  “War is over, if you want it.”  I’ll drink to that.  I’d like that.

All the way from 1999’s marillion.christmas is the carol “Gabriel’s Message”.  The interesting thing about a CD of this nature, that spans a decade and a half of recordings, is that you end up with a vast variety of material as you’ll see.  “Gabriel’s Message” begins as a purely vocal performance until it turns dark and gothic with chugging guitars and haunting keyboards.  Great unique version, but not one for Christmas dinner with the family, unless it’s the Addams Family.  In that case, proceed.

MARILLION HAPPY XMAS_0003

 

A huge U-turn takes us to “The Christmas Song”, also known as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”.  Marillion take Nat King Cole’s cue and perform it as a jazz standard.  This one is new to CD.  It was originally released as a video on a 2013 Christmas DVD called Proggin’ Around the Christmas Tree.  “Stop the Cavalry” from 2003’s Say Cheese is fun and goofy, a contrast to the previous tunes.  Maybe it’s just me, but I had never heard this song before.  It’s not a favourite of mine, so onto “That’s What Friends are For” from 2006’s The Jingle Book.  I’m not sure what the Christmas connection is with this song, but Marillion aren’t making anyone forget anyone else’s version.  It too falls under the “fun and goofy” category, as does “Let It Snow”.  We talked about this one a bit before in my review for Somewhere Elf.  This one, I love!  “I’m afraid we’re all shit-faced,” indeed!  By choosing such a naturally fun and familiar song, and then doing it up as a drunken jaunt in the snow complete with kazoos, Marillion hit the spot.

“I Saw Three Ships” is from A Very Barry Christmas.  It sounds like a twin brother to “Easter” in some respects.  Though we’re now back to soft and pleasant Christmas music, “I Saw Three Ships” is one of my favourites on the album.  Elvis is back in the house for “Lonely this Christmas” from Santa and his Elvis.  My favourite part is when they do it as a punk rock version, after the Elvis version!  Hogarth does it with Johnny Rotten’s sneer, and I love it.

Loosely connected to Christmas is “The Erin Marbles” from 2005’s  Merry Christmas to Our Flock.  This is essentially a version of Marillion’s song “Marbles” done as a drunken celtic bar jam variation on “Jingle Bells”!  It’s totally fun, though nobody at your Christmas party will understand what the words have to do with it, so fuck ’em!  Who doesn’t love a good ol’ drunken celtic bar jam?  Not me!

Getting closer to the end now, the Beach Boys are covered on 2008’s “Little Saint Nick” from Pudding on the Ritz.   Sounding nothing like the Beach Boys at all, and completely like a Marillion song with jingle bells on top, I can’t see mom and dad digging this version at all.  It bears striking similarities to “Deserve” from 1999’s marillion.com, and other Marillion songs such as “This Strange Engine”.

Finally 2013’s “The Carol of the Bells” has been given a CD release.  I bought this one on mp3 download last year, but I will always take a CD over an mp3.  I love this carol and this version of it.  Marillion do this very well, traditionally, before going electric and all Deep Purple on us.  They even go Led Zeppelin and James Bond at the end!  Brilliant version that fans will absolutely love.  Although nobody has ever done it better than Peter Griffin:


“Look at the bells, look at the bells, Holy crap here comes Jesus, and he doesn’t look too happy.”

Some songs are hits, some are misses.  It is what it is, when it’s a collection of tracks that were never intended for wide release.  On the other hand, I’m grateful that the band put together a compilation CD that included tracks I didn’t have before.  The collector in me appreciates it.  Merry Christmas Marillion!

3.5/5 stars

MARILLION HAPPY XMAS_0002

REVIEW: Helix – A Heavy Mental Christmas (2008)

HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS_0001HELIX – A Heavy Mental Christmas (2008 GBS)

Ahh, Christmas albums by rock bands! To me, the current wave all started with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. However, it is undeniable that Twisted Sister’s version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” also changed the playing field, giving them their biggest hit in decades.  It meant that any metal band could record Christmas songs now.

So Helix’ Brian Vollmer, no stranger to Christmas music (check out his Raising The Roof on Mary Immaculate disc) decided to record some Helix versions in that hot summer of August 2008. Yes, Christmas music is often recorded in summertime — that’s how they get it on the shelves for December. The effect this has on the music is worth questioning. It must be hard getting inspired to go caroling when it’s beach weather.

A Heavy Mental Christmas is not a bad Christmas album if you’re a metal fan. I wouldn’t nessesarily play this for grandma, but for people who already enjoy metal versions of Christmas songs, it’s a good listen. It’s not really my thing, personally. I loathe Christmas music in general (too many years working retail) and metal versions are not something I really get into. Having said that, with Vollmer’s excellent delivery here, these songs do shine. They are enjoyable, the band is in top shape, and all the songs are classics or traditionals except one original, “Christmas Time Is Here Again” by Brian’s friend and collaborator Steve Georgakopoulos. (Obviously, this isn’t the Beatles song “Christmas Time Is Here Again”.) Like some other Helix albums, this one clocks in at under 30 minutes, so be aware.  Only one song clocks in over 3 minutes.

HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS_0003

The Helix band pictured on the sleeve is not entirely the band playing on the CD. Drummer Brent “Ned” Neimi, bassist Paul Fonseca, and guitarist Rick VanDyk (ex-Zero Option) are present, but long-timer guitarist Jim Lawson is not. (He lived in Sudbury, far from the London recording studio where this was made.) Instead you will find the wonderful guitar stylings of the aforementioned Steve Georgakopoulos (say that five times really fast), who played Ace Frehley in the London-based KISS tribute band Alive. Steve also played guitar on the previous Helix album, the excellent Power Of Rock And Roll, although he has never been an official member of the band. Either way, he’s a great writer and player, and he does have a Frehley-like vibe to his shredding.

Highlights:  The slick metal blues of “A Wonderful Christmas Time”.  The Lennon classic “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” which to me is kind of sacred territory.  It’s hard to sing a song that John Lennon made famous, but Vollmer does so successfully.  And then there’s the original tune, “Christmas Time Is Here Again” which is really just a vintage Helix rocker with Christmas lyrics.  Musically it could have been on Long Way to Heaven, but there’s no mistaking the lyrics.  “Santa’s coming to the show!” announces Brian.

So, to sum up:

  1. I loathe Christmas music,
  2. but I love Helix,
  3. and this is still a pretty good album.

I think rock fans out there will like it a lot. The running time doesn’t bother me personally, as the album does not overstay its welcome and I have paid more money for less music before. If you’re a Helix fan, this album is a must to have.  It’s just fun, and it has balls. It was somewhat of a landmark for them, while it is only their 11th studio album, it was their 20th official release overall, and certainly that is worth celebrating.

3/5 stars, maybe 4/5 if you’ve already gotten into the egg nog!

If you want more Helix Christmas tunes, check out their 7″ single for “All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup”.

HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS_0002

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – “Ring Out Solstice Bells” (2004 Christmas single)

This review goes out to Jonathan who asked me about a year ago for more Jethro Tull reviews! Here you go buddy, and Merry Christmas!

IAN ANDERSON & JETHRO TULL“Ring Out Solstice Bells” (2004 R and M)

Although Ian Anderson had played seasonal music many times before, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album in 2003 was the band’s first full-blown Christmas disc. The following year, Anderson released an independent single from it called “Ring Out Solstice Bells”, with proceeds set to help a wild cat benefit that he supports. The track “Ring Out Solstice Bells” is an Anderson original, jaunty and gleeful. Jethro Tull’s signature enchanted acoustic sound is well suited to seasonal music, and the vibe is captured on a great original song that doesn’t annoy like other seasonal tunes often do.
RING OUT SOLSTICE BELLS_0002

The traditional “God Rest Ye Gentlemen” is a live version from 2004. It’s worth noting that even though Tull’s Christmas Album was reissued and expanded to include a live CD called Christmas at St. Bride’s 2008, these B-sides are from 2004.  They are still exclusive only to this single. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was arranged by Ian to be a jazzy and playful upbeat jam, virtually impossible to hate.  It even goes menacingly electric before the ending.  Then, from Aqualung is the brief “Slipstream”, also live from 2004.  It is backed by lush keys.

The packaging for “Ring Out Solstice Bells” is pretty basic, just a single panel digipack.  I do like the little touch of the inside cover doubling as a Christmas card.  If you so wish, you could give this CD to a friend for Christmas, by inscribing their name under “To”, and your own where it says “From Ian  Anderson, Jethro Tull and.”  Of course no collector would do such a thing.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” (single)

THE DARKNESS“Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” (2003 Warner CD single)

The Darkness wins when it comes to Christmas songs.  Not content to rock up a classic, or write a crappy original, they did something that very few artists do:  They wrote an original Christmas tune as good as any of their prior singles.  For that reason, I heartily recommend “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” to discerning rock fans everywhere.   If you can’t find or don’t want the single, you can still get the track on the UK best-of compilation The Platinum Collection.

Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song.   It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.  It is incredibly difficult not to smile.  A suitably joyous music video was made for this song, featuring the band opening gifts from each other such as a double-neck guitar.


“You know those guitars that are like, double guitars?”

The B-side is a non-album track called “I Love You 5 Times”.  This slow ballad features Justin teasing like a purring cat, stuttering, and joking around.  It’s not one of their most outstanding songs, and wouldn’t make my own Darkness mix tape.  It is however a non-album Darkness song with a typically great guitar solo, so not completely a throw-away.  The A-side is the reason to get this single.

And that A-side is holly jolly good time.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Fight – “Christmas Ride” (1994 single)

1db1835968cbc23429860145ff5 (1)FIGHT“Christmas Ride” (1994 single, 2009 free download reissue)

Some people think Halford III: Winter Songs was Rob’s first Christmas release.  Truth be told, I don’t even own Winter Songs.  Christmas music is barely just above tolerable for me.  The completist in me wants to own everything; the music lover in me doesn’t really care for Christmas tunes, metal or otherwise.  Besides, in 2009 Rob’s website was offering a limited time free download of “Christmas Ride”, a song Rob recorded in 1994 with Fight!  20 years ago!  Unreal.

Don’t let the jingle bells throw you.  That soon turns into revving engines, and a chugging Fight riff not too dissimilar from the stuff they did on War of Words.  This was, however, probably recorded during the Small Deadly Space sessions, because Mark Chaussee is credited on guitar, even though Russ Parrish appears on the cover.

Either way, it’s purely metal.  Rob is screaming in his upper register for all but the choruses, for which he howls.  There’s absolutely nothing Christmas-y about the music (which is fine) but I just can’t get into the chorus of “Christmas ride!”  The lyrics are funny enough.  Fight have paid tribute to Santa this time: “The fat man’s coming and he knows no fear, He’s a big red rebel with some mean reindeer.”  There’s even a reference to breakin’ the law: “Cruising ’round town breaking every law, He’ll come back next year to crank it up some more.”

I’m assuming Rob is referring to the crime of break & enter.  He may also be breaking various aviation laws, but I don’t know how that works.  I’ve never read about any charges being pressed, or warrants being issued, so I’m assuming that these minor infringements have been overlooked because of all the gift giving and so on.

But OK, it’s an alright song.  Nothing special, though it does quote the “Nailed to the Gun” riff at one moment.  It was released as a promo-only fanclub release in 1994, which I have never laid eyes upon.  The free download offer was a legal way for me to get the tune.  It also came with “Rob Halford’s Holiday Greeting” (11 seconds)! “Hey everybody, this is Rob Halford from Fight, wishing you all a crazy heavy metal Christmas and an insane, wild manic New Year!”  There I spoiled it for you.

Would love a physical copy of this, for the collection.  This is for fans only.  Grandma will not dig it if you play this at your Christmas dinner this year.

3/5 stars

b_33746_Fight-Christmas_Ride-1994

 

REVIEW: Jimi Hendrix – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (2010)

MERRY CHRISTMAS_0001JIMI HENDRIX – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (2010 Sony EP)

I couldn’t resist picking this single up on CD when I found it at my local Sunrise, although I wish I had also picked up vinyl. It wasn’t a huge expense, and if you’re an old-school music fan like me, you won’t mind paying to have an actual physical format with full colour cover art and liner notes.   A quick browse on Discogs reveals average prices today for all formats:  About $5 for CD, $7-10 for two-track 7″, and about $14 for the 10″ single.

The Band of Gypsys’ 1969 instrumental take of “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne” sounds largely improvised and spontaneous.  It is, in my humble opinion, a brilliant interpretation and serves to remind us that no matter what he did, nobody sounds like Jimi Hendrix. It’s incredible to me that today, 40 years after his death, there is still nobody that sounds like Jimi Hendrix.

“Three Little Bears” is the same version as on War Heroes so you may have this version already. Then the third track is an extended version of the first, which actually is pretty cool since it’s still over way too soon.

Inside the package are the aformentioned liner notes, as well as an alternate shot from a 1967 “Jimi dressed as Santa” photo shoot, holding copies of Axis: Bold as Love. Liner notes are detailed for a single, revealing the whens and wherefores of the recording sessions.

Recommended for all Hendrix fans, perfect for downing some ‘nog by the fire this winter.

4/5 stars