III. Christmas 2005: Something Strange...
It is 75 degrees (F) the day before Thanksgiving at my home outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. If one does not believe in global warming, please join me duck hunting while I swat mosquitos and shoot cottonmouths. Unseasonable hot weather and sweat dripping on my keyboard does not enable my anticipating the holidays. All of this strangeness reminds me of the immortal words of the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, "When the going gets weird the weird turn pro. 2005 offers a polyglot collection of such holiday celebrants.
Dig That Crazy Christmas
Surf Dog Records
There is no way possible that anyone should have as much fun as Brian Setzer did making this record. The tattooed guitarist is making a cottage industry out of his big band and Christmas considering his previous Christmas release (Boogie Woogie Christmas). The Stray Cat squirts out lively renditions of the standard fare: "Angels We Have Heard on High, White Christmas, and "Let it Snow. The former of these is performed as an instrumental and is arranged way over the top with a stinging Setzer guitar solo. Setzer also supplies the less than standard. "Getting In the Mood (for Christmas) is a rave on the Glenn Miller classic, replete with a guitar solo note-for-note matching the original wax. "My Favorite Things is given a very cool instrumental workout (in a traditional Wes Montgomery sort of way), while "Dig that Crazy Santa Claus and "Santa Drives a Hot Rod shake the rock-a-billy Christmas Tree down. "'Zat You Santa Claus is a take-off of "The Stray Cat Strut with Setzer cheekily performing the exact same guitar solo as on the Stray Cat's hit. "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch is the disc highlight with Setzer hamming it up. Combine all of this with Setzer's tasty guitar and horn charts and the listener has a winning recording to consider.
The Reverend Horton Heat
We Three Kings: Christmas Favorites
Yep Roc Records
While Christmas Favorites is comparable to Brian Setzer's Dig that Crazy Santa Clause. It is rawer and on a much smaller scale. Setzer refines his big band sound to accommodate his rockabilly inclinations, while the good Reverend fully indulges his. It is an odd thing that I find Diana Krall's offering and Horton Heat's view of holiday music as the best of any kind of music that each have produced. Horton Heat and his quasi-trio are most comfortable playing in the minor-key Dorian mode instrumentals, "We Three Kings and "What Child is This? the latter played in the style of "Ghost Riders in the Sky. "Jingle Bells, performed instrumentally is a freight train heading into the Oklahoma Oil fields for the holidays, while "Frosty the Snowman is celebrating Christmas in urban Fort Worth. "Silver Bells is played straighter than any other selection and is quite effective. The Reverend throws in "Pretty Paper and "Santa on the Roof just for kicks, creating one of the most satisfying holiday collections coming our way this year.
Steve Lukather and Friends
Favored Nations Entertainment
Imagine for a moment that Mannheim Steamroller (or the bathetically equivalent, Trans-Siberian Railroad) was hijacked by the likes of Jeff Babko, John Piere, Gregg Bissonette, Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Edgar Winter, Trevor Lukather, Simon Philips, Mike Landau, Scott Hamilton, and Lenny Castro and this merry band of carpet baggers and scalawags were lead by guitarist and impster Steve Lukather. The holiday results of this most unholy union would be nothing less than the redefinition of seasonal music. And, here it is, SantaMental. The opening "Joy to the World sports a guitar duel between Lukather and Eddie Van Halen guaranteed to singe Santa's beard to stubble. And that is merely a beginning. "Greensleeves features Edgar Winter playing John Coltrane and Jeff Babko playing Keith Jarrett. Steve Lukather plays razor sharp on this ancient English melody. On Lukather's own "Broken Heat of Christmas the guitarist spars with Slash and even sings. "The Carol of the Bells has a three guitar front with Steve Vai joining Lukather and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Babko all playing at white heat. This is a loud and virtuosic recording that would appeal to any metal head/fusion freak, even if it was not holiday music. What a find! Be sure to have your fire extinguisher on hand.
Joe Wulf & The Gentlemen of Swing
Joe Wulf Swing and Blues