The holidays are a strange and unusual time of year. Full grown trees are chopped down, only to be brought inside and decorated. Adults can show up for work, dressed as giant elves and be rewarded for this behavior. We collectively grow a fondness for English food and beverages, with strange pairings of ingredients, like drinks with sugar and raw eggs. So, why shouldn’t the music we listen to be just as weird? With the holidays coming to an end, we thought we should pay tribute to a great and often strange tradition of holiday music. So we went through what we have left of our holiday music section, and pulled a few titles to review and share, in hopes of making your holiday just a little more strange and unusual. We still have a bunch of albums left that will make for great (or horrible) gifts for your friends and loved ones. These are just a few of them!
If you were to apply the descriptor of “kitschy” to an instrument, it would no doubt be applied to the organ. With the exception of some hip jazz and r&b musicians, it brings to mind beehive hair dos, polyester suits and horn-rimmed glasses. Add the familiar melodies of your favorite holiday tunes, set to a bossanova beat and some maracas and you’re sure to have a very merry kitschmas, indeed. Marlene Hershey does not disappoint our deepest desires to look back at past generations with a cringe and a smile. This album is why you should never listen to your parents or grandparents when they criticize your style or the music you listen to.
As a fan of classic country music, this album might actually get some sincere, non ironic playtime in my house. Some of the greats are represented here, like Johnny Cash, Patti Page, Tammy Wynette, Mary Robbins and Ray Price. The vibe is pretty tame, without any of the real smokin’ country tunes we love from these legends. We do have to consider the context of the music, when applying any expectations on such an album. This is just good wholesome family fun…performed by some musicians who dealt with some pretty unwholesome life choices. However, with the holidays, we forgive and we forget.
In the 50s, “for the family” was code for homogenized. Let’s take every ounce of fat and nutrients and just squeeze it through a filter that leaves only something resembling a substance. And boy howdy, does Dennis Day knock this one out of the park! Even the cover tells the story of an ever watchful santa, leading you and your loved ones in song, keeping a close eye out for any sort of rebellious acts or dissonant harmony. The fear in the father and mothers eyes show true concern for their children, but also a reverence for the lording Santa, prepared to strike at the slightest hint of tomfoolery. But little Timmy (top/middle) has other plans. You can tell by his schoolyard srapper, battle wounded face, and mid eye roll, that he is not one to give in to authority. He will someday be his own man and create Christmas music that breaks all the rules. Yes, he will bring the world Yuletide Disco!
Ok, this is well intentioned, but man does this suck! Disco requires a level of mystique and misbehavior that holiday music does not lend itself to in any way. The tinsel clad dancer on the cover does not look comfortable with this situation. Keeping with the sinful nature of disco, she is wearing tights and revealing a good deal of skin on her upper torso, but the tinsel looks like it was forcefully wrapped around her by a school dance chaperone, to maintain a chaste look and to instill the itchy wrath of god on her for her seductive moves. And, like this dancer, anything possibly intriguing about this music is wrapped in WAY too much tinsel and itches like hell. It looks like little Timmy still has to shed some of his upbringing. When considering a “white elephant” gift exchange, I’ve never been a fan of getting the thing everyone wants. I like to shake things up with the thing NO ONE wants. This is just the thing.
Alvin Simon Theodore is an anagram for Admonisher Onto Evil.