Christmas-themed albums are a given at this time of year, but it kinda seems to us that there are a few potentially superior choices lurking amongst the usual pop shlock this year… or at least, potentially more entertaining than Eric Clapton’s Happy Xmas.
For instance, there’s the Old 97’s Love the Holidays (ATO Records, Nov. 16). Arriving a week after Rhett Miller’s latest solo album The Messenger, aside from an album-closing “Auld Lang Syne,” their Santa set consists entirely of new Christmas originals by the Dallas band.
Following the success and acclaim for their 2016 album Good Times, The Monkees have up and thrown a Christmas Party (Rhino Records, out now). The 13-song shindig mixes familiar fare with new originals written by Andy Partridge, Rivers Cuomo, Adam Schlesinger and Peter Buck & Scott McCaughey. Davy Jones even appears on two posthumous selections.
Mitch Ryder’s still kickin’ up there in Detroit, and he’s wrapped up a package of seasonal favorites titled Christmas (Take a Ride) (Goldenlane Records, out now). While we’re at it, he’d also like you to know he’s been recording another new album that’ll be out soon featuring guests including Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls), James Williamson (The Stooges), Brian Auger and more.
Los Straitjackets’ Complete Christmas Songbook (Yep Roc, CD out now, LP out Dec. 7) compiles every Christmas song the masked surf-rock band has ever recorded: the entirety of 2002’s ’Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets and 2009’s Yuletide Beat, both sides of their 2011 Christmas 45, their song from Yep Roc’s Oh Santa! compilation and their live version of “Linus and Lucy” from 2015’s Quality Holiday Revue. (Nick Lowe’s Christmas songs from that album, with backing by Los Straitjackets, are not included here.)
Not wacky enough for ya? How about another curveball from none other than William Shatner, whose Shatner Claus – The Christmas Album (Cleopatra Records, out now) includes helter-skelter collaborations with a veritable Island of Misfit Toys: Iggy Pop, Brad Paisley, Rick Wakeman, Henry Rollins, Billy Gibbons, Judy Collins, Todd Rundgren, Ian Anderson and more!
New West Records has two rootsy stocking stuffers set for release on Nov. 2nd. Rodney Crowell’s Christmas Everywhere features 12 original songs, a few of which were co-written with his daughters and granddaughters. Georgia expatriate Lera Lynn duets with Crowell on the title track. Then there’s JD McPherson’s Socks, whose 11 original tunes the songsmith ranks as “some of my best lyrical work.” JD and band are embarking on a corresponding Christmas tour which will bring them to Atlanta’s Terminal West on Dec. 9, and if we’re lucky he’ll have some leftover promotional socks and greeting cards available at the merch table!
On the brink of their 30th year together, The Mavericks spike the nog on Nov. 2nd with their own eclectic album of Christmas originals and a pair of covers, Hey! Merry Christmas! (Mono Mundo Recordings). In the mood for more mainstream country? Perhaps Martina McBride’s It’s the Holiday Season (Broken Row Records, out now) fits the bill. Dailey & Vincent’s The Sounds of Christmas (BMG, out now) features Dolly Parton and Ricky Skaggs on selected tracks. And LeAnn Rimes sings all sorts of holiday favorites on the soundtrack to her Hallmark Channel movie It’s Christmas Eve (EverLe Records, out now).
Of course, if you have an evil aunt, sinister stepbrother or some other less-than-worthy people on your gift list this year, you might consider the new holiday records from Michael McDonald (Season of Peace), John Legend (A Legendary Christmas), Jessie J (This Christmas Day), Engelbert Humperdinck (Warmest Christmas Wishes) or the aforementioned Mr. Clapton (Happy Xmas). Somebody has to listen to that crap – better them than you!
Happy Ho Ho, to one and all!
Old 97’s photo by Will Byington.