Even as a ho-hum host, it's hard not to have fun at a Big Bad Voodoo Party.
Everything You Want For Christmas may not quite live up to its name, but it's a lively and reliable collection for those holiday mixers. The band adopts the eleven songs reasonably well to their horn-heavy modern swing, but somehow the result feels more professional than inspiredsort of like a quality team dismantling a poor foe methodically, but with their eye on next week's key rival.
The game plan is solid. The album opens with "Rockabilly Christmas," an up-tempo crowd pleaser and introduction to the band, albeit with any individual moments of note. The mid-tempo shift on "Merry Christmas Baby" allows lead vocalist and guitarist Scotty Morris to get in some blues licks. Anyone familiar with BBVD probably knows "Mr. Heatmeiser" (best known from the TV show "The Year Without A Santa Claus") is the quintessential holiday song for this band.
It's all there and yet something is... missing. Maybe it's that Morris just doesn't have the oomph of earlier and better years. Maybe the horns are too sterile. Or that pianist Joshua Levy's riffs feel a bit worn-out from too much use.
Still, this is mostly up-tempo music with horns that doesn't take itself to extremes, a welcome change of pace from traditional carols and hypermodern hip-pop. About half of the songs are recognizable standards. There are also originals, such as Morris' "Rockabilly Christmas" and his bar-hopping tale telling on the rockish "Last Night I Went Out With Santa Claus." The so-called "bonus track" at the end is an instrumental "Jingle Bells" with some nice rock 'n' roll sax licks, albeit a bit repetitive. There aren't a lot of actual misfires, although it's hard to believe BBVD members didn't know from the beginning that a song like "Blue Christmas" is a terrible fit for this group's style.
Fans will do just fine with the album, those merely interested in this style of caroling might want to fish around the listening bin a bit first. It's hard to say if BBVD dialed things back a bit for the holidays or if maybe longevity is simply catching up with them, but in the end they're hosting a party more suited for the office than an uninhibited bash at home.
Track Listing: Rockabilly Christmas; Merry Christmas Baby; Mr. Heatmiser; Blue Christmas; Last Night (I Went Out With
Santa Claus); Christmastime in Tinsel Town; Party for Santa; Jingle Bells (Cha Cha); Is Zat You Santa
Claus?; We Three Kings; Bonus Track
Personnel: Ira Nepus, bass and tenor trombones; Lee Thornburg, trumpet; Alex Henderson, bass and tenor
trombones; Ruben Estrada, vibraphone; Karl Hunter, bass clarinet, saxophones, clarinet, flute; Andy
Rowley, baritone sax, vocals; Scotty Morris, vocals, guitar; Joshua Levy, piano; Dirk Shumaker, vocals,
acoustic bass; Kurt Sodergren, drums; Glen "The Kid" Marhevka, trumpet; Brent Harding, acoustic bass;
Dennis Faris, trumpet; Ronnie Manaog, glockenspiel, marimba, tympani, sleigh bells, wood block; Greg
Varlotta, banjo; Lenny Castro, percussion