Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pre-Season Mini Reviews

Dang, it was hot in Kansas City yesterday.  89 degrees on October 17th!  Nuts!  What better way to beat the heat than some pre-season mini reviews?

In the off-season I picked up quite a few used CDs at various thrift and used record stores, way more than usual, and my discriminating tastes were set by the wayside in hopes of finding a $2 gem,  Some have turned out to be pretty good, some not so much.  I want to offer up some mini-reviews of releases from years past.

Now, I usually don't write too much that's negative.  If there's something I don't like, I either don't review it, or try to find an appreciation vector and focus on that.  Some of tonight's reviews are a little less cheery than usual, dear reader.  You've been warned.

Tony Orlando & Dawn "A Christmas Reunion" (2005)

Those of us who are of a certain age, and who recall the glory of Tony Orlando & Dawn from the 1970's, probably have a pre-set expectation of a TO&D Christmas album, and you'd be pretty much right.  The sound and groove are generally the expected.  What was unexpected for me, was how much I liked this record.  The musical arrangements are fairly standard, but I really dug the vocal arrangements on several of the songs.  Mr. Orlando, Telma Hopkins, and Joyce Vincent do a really nice job with standards and a few originals.  Ms's. Hopkins and Vincent (collectively Dawn) do a stand-out job, either backing Tony or as soloists.  There is a really nice interplay happening here and there - quite pleasant.  "Mary, Did You Know" is very well done and "Savior's Day" was a completely wonderful surprise.  "I Lose It When I Hear White Christmas" has nice sentiment, but relies too much on Christmas references and catch phrases.  The low point - a bad arrangement of Emmylou Harris' uber-classic"Light of the Stable".  Erg.  Overall, though, at least a $6 return on a $2 investment.  Thumbs up.

Andy Griffith "The Christmas Guest: Stories and Songs of Christmas" (2003)

I love Andy Griffith as an entertainer.  Wholesome, down-home, friendly.  I have the utmost respect for him and his career accomplishments.  This collection of songs and stories, though, didn't hit my wheelhouse.  The stories are the bright spot, including the title track "The Christmas Guest".  I love the idea of "The Christmas Guest" story and like the actual writing, but I wish it would be mildly upgraded to improve a few dated phrases and some clumsy rhyming.  Andy Griffith is a perfect orator of this story, and his other spoken tracks are enjoyable.  His songs, though, sound like the old man sitting behind you in church singing too loudly.  Andy was past his singing prime when this record was made, and it's a tough go.  $3.99 investment, probably a $2.99 return.  My mom will like it, though.

Mojo Nixon "Horny Holidays" (1992)

Mojo Nixon's "Elvis is Everywhere" is freakin' awesome.  The song, the video, everything in all its Elvisness glory.  Alas, "Elvis is Everywhere" is not on this CD.  If listening to your drunk a-hole brother-in-law sing Christmas carols is your idea of a good time, this is the CD for you.  (BTW, I have neither drunk nor a-hole brothers-in-law, just to set the record straight)  Otherwise, it's painful, and not funny.  There were a couple moments on the original songs where there seemed to be novelty/comic potential, but no.  They faded fast.  Novelty Christmas songs are very hit or miss for me - I like a few, dislike many, and want them all to retain the spirit of Christmas even in their novelty.  Not so here.  This is crude and abrasive, and I'll never listen to it again.  $0 return on however much I paid, even $1 was too much.

Destiny's Child "8 Days of Christmas" (2001)

I found this at a Hastings store in Manhattan, KS, and decided to spend the few bucks to check it out.  Beyonce, you know.  She's pretty darned good.  Destiny's Child was a hot group, though I never listened to them because they just weren't my thing.  I had low expectations because their style is not compatible with my taste, but high hopes because you never know where you'll find a nice little treat of a song.

Most of the album was pretty much that - just not to my taste at all, but I tried to appreciate the arrangements, new lyrics to old standards, and general production of the album.  I wasn't really liking it, but I was tolerating it, and giving it the "gotta play it all the way through once" respectful treatment.

Then came "O Holy Night".  Sorry DC fans, but this was the most ear-splitting version of the song I've ever heard.  Michelle Williams, to my ear, can't hit the notes in this performance.  She is flat 80% of the time, sharp 10%, and nasally.  I couldn't make it all the way through the song.  And, apart from the intonation, the runs and vocal gymnastics just messed up the most classic of all Christmas songs.  Two songs later, "This Christmas" came on, and out came the CD from the player.  About $4 investment, I'll take a big ol' loss on this one.  Maybe I'll give it away to someone who actually likes DC to begin with.  Or, perhaps an Evil Secret Santa gift Bwa ha ha ha ha.

That's it for tonight.  Hope no one was offended by some not-so positive reviews.

Anyone want a barely played Mojo Nixon?


  1. What's funny is that Mojo Nixon released a Christmas-ish 12" in 1986, "Get Out Of My Way", which is freakin' brilliant. Was one of my favorites back in the day and played it to the point that I nearly wore through the grooves. "Son of Santa" is my jam, man. Years later, the tunes from "Get Out Of My Way" were included on the "Frenzy" album. I don't hate "Horny Holidays" as much as you do, but it was a YUUUUGE disappointment after "Get Out Of My Way".

  2. Razzleberry DressingOctober 20, 2016 at 5:18 PM

    I actually love Horny Holidays. Not every track, but it's in my regular Christmas rotation. I've downloaded "Son of Santa" and "Transylvania Xmas" from Get Out of My Way. Are any of the other songs Christmasy? "Son of Santa" is great. I also love Mojo's "Christmas, Christmas" sung to the tune of "Louie, Louie."

    I'm tempted to get the Tony Orlando & Dawn album but the last time I checked it wasn't available digitally and the only song I could find a video for was a sub-par performance from some morning show.

  3. They're ALL "Christmas-ish", which is one of the reasons I think it's so brilliant. I don't recall that they mention Christmas specifically in the tunes (it's been a while since I had a working turntable), but if you play it front to back, you would definitely feel you just heard a Christmas album (or EP, technically). The title cut is about traffic. "Burn Down The Malls" about Malls (obviously). "Jesus At McDonalds" obviously has a tie-in. And "Rutabagas" (a staple of many holiday meals) is an instrumental that has the feel of those Breakin' Up Christmas celebrations. The record hits all of the seasonal highlights...traffic, malls, Santa, food and Jesus. It is, to my mind, the perfect non-traditional Christmas record (suitable for friends who love holiday music and friends who loathe holiday music alike). And the original was on clear vinyl, which was pretty cool.

    1. Razzleberry DressingOctober 21, 2016 at 7:19 PM

      I listened to the rest of "Get Out of My Way" on Amazon. Really fun. I think "Rutabagas" might go on next year's comp. I also listened to the Tony Orlando & Dawn Christmas album on Youtube. It was surprisingly good. I don't know that I'd pay full price for it, but if I find a good deal on it used I'll pick it up.