Talk about being late with a review... Last year (2014) I received Tom Dyer's CD "Xmas - 30 Years in the Making". It did make my 2014 Top 5 list, but I did not get to fully review it. So, now, here in early 2015, here we go...
Why did this make my Top 5 in 2014? Creativity bursting from every song on the record. The thirty years in the album title refers to Tom Dyer's 30 years of recording Christmas songs. The album presents Tom's Christmas catalog in reverse-chronological order, starting with 2013's "It's Christmas (And I'm Jolly)", "No Lou This Christmas", and "Christmas (It's Around the Corner)" and works back to 1983, where Tom recorded "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Angels We Have Heard On High". The 1983 entries are the only two traditional Christmas songs, with the other 13 songs being Tom Dyer originals.
There is an energy and passion running through these songs, as well as a slightly slanted take on the holidays. "No Lou This Christmas" refers to Lou Reed's death in October 2013, hence no Lou around for the holidays that year. On the album website, Tom says that he uses the exact chord progression from the Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll" for "No Lou..." as a tribute to the great rocker. Then he admits that the chord progression is used in thousands of songs. We at Merry and Bright appreciate musical honesty :-) "Propane Santa" is pretty danged hilarious, based on, actually pretty much verbatim, an e-mail from friend Howie about a Santa-looking dude buying propane at a convenience store. "Hot Dog! It's Christmas" is a smile generator, especially the responding "Hot Dog!"s in the back of the mix. In a song of life inspiring art, 2001's "The Christmas Rosie Came To Town" is about Tom's niece Rosie coming to stay with them while finishing high school. Rosie even sings backup! And you'll have to read the liner notes for "It's a White Mule Christmas" yourself to get the story on this one...
Through and through, Tom Dyer has written eminently listenable and very creative Christmas songs. As you can tell, many of the songs are inspired by happenings in Tom's life, unremarkable as they might be until set to music. I am reminded a bit of Substance W's brilliant "A Boiling Vat of Adhesive Xmas", not in sound per se, but in the quality of the unexpected. You never really know what to expect from track to track, except you are pretty sure that it's going to be good.
Best time to listen to "30 Years..."? In the car, cranked up good, so you can enjoy the zaniness and genre-busting personal Christmas history of Tom Dyer. Check this one out. If anti-mainstream Christmas music is your bag, you'll want Tom Dyer's album in your stocking this year.
Album website: link
Green Monkey Records website
Hey! How about some bonus stuff? Snooping around on the Green Monkey Records site will uncover more Christmas music, such as "Frothing the Nog: Ye Fourth Green Monkey Christmas" (link) "Frothing the Nog" includes songs by Tom Dyer, Kat Dyer (who also sings on several songs on '30 Years..'), and many more. You'll also fine collections like "Merry Krampus" and "It Crawled Down the Chimney". I think I'll get them all :-) Enjoy!