I have a hypothesis that Christmas music is one of the few areas of the music industry that’s ridiculously profitable now–no royalties, almost straight up profit–and that that’s why it seems every artist’s mother has their own Christmas album. We don’t need any of them, and we certainly don’t need this one: a Christmas album of Rick Springfield doing 14 standards, almost all of them straight, and one of his own compositions, natch.
Maybe I’m wrong, but you tell me. Was your Christmas incomplete because you didn’t have Springfield doing “Away In A Manager” the same way it’s always been done? Or “The First Noel?” Or “Silent Night,” for crying out loud? To top it all off, Springfield sings almost every note in his breathy voice he pulls out to sound sincerely affected, and it is so cheesy. It’s not your voice we love, Rick, it’s your compositions.
Speaking of which, even that fails us on this album. Springfield’s composition here, “Christmas With You,” is dedicated to all the fallen troops in Iraq, and begins “This night, Christmas seems so far away/Somewhere, are you missing me?/I’m wishing and watching/A star and I pray/To live in a world where we all can be free.” Just imagine it was done by a modern country star and you’ve pretty much got it.
Like I said, just about all of the standards here are done straight, but there are a few exceptions. The strings on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” particularly the breakdown going from chorus to verse, are pretty sweet, as is the backing choir. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” has a doo-wop feel, to bad effect. “I Saw Three Ships” is incredibly upbeat, and an instrumental “Deck The Halls (With Boughs Of Longboards)” is done as a surf rendition. If more of the album had been like the last track, this might have been enjoyable. As it is, though, it’s almost entirely drivel.
In the interest of full disclosure, I hate Christmas. I hate pretty much everything about it. Honestly, the best thing about it is that it does a pretty good job of growing the economy. As far as I can tell, Christmas is about two things: 1) showering kids with things, and 2) trying to rekindle in adults the feelings of closeness they felt with their family in the moments around getting showered with things when they were kids. I’m a Scrooge who basically just bites his tongue for a week so as not to ruin everybody else’s delusions of cheer. However, something about listening to this in the dark, driving home on the interstate with my family asleep in the back seat and the car straining under the weight of new toys…I felt some connection to sleepy, exhausted Boxing Days spent traversing the Midwest with my spoils in my youth. And it was nice. (But only for that moment. I resent Madison Avenue giving all of us the same memories and then advertising to those created memories.) So between that and the few tracks with any redeeming qualities, this disc gets one-half clown higher than my lowest rating. (Though, in truth, that bonus half-clown is probably because I hate giving anything a rating of just one more than any other reason I can manufacture.)
- This album was hampered by issues where the first notes of a song were often on the prior track, so there was a gap of silence where the song abruptly stopped near the beginning of each song. It was very annoying, but I don’t think the review would have been much better without that.
- Christmas With You – Awful tripe. And some crap about wishing everybody could be free. “My spirit is aching/I want to come home.” Jesus Christ. Oh wait, this makes a little more sense since it’s dedicated to all the fallen troops in Iraq. Still, ditch.
- The First Noel – Why? Why do another version of this song? Especially one so straight? Ditch.
- Hark The Herald Angels Sing – See previous track. Ditch.
- What Child Is This? – See previous track. Plus, this is such an amazing song, how could you suck all the wonderfulness out of this song? Ditch.
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Okay, this one seems to be right in your wheelhouse. Maybe a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day. The strings are done well. Like.
- It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Ugh. Ditch.
- Away In A Manger – Kill me. Ditch.
- O Come All Ye Faithful – Stupid. Ditch.
- Carol Of The Bells – There are hardly even any bells. It’s like trying to be that Trans-Siberian Orchestra version, but…there’s just so much wrong with that. Ditch.
- Do You Hear What I Hear? – Man, he just picked so many of the worst songs. Ditch.
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas – What’s with the cheese Harry Connick, Jr./Frank Sinatra, Jr. shoo-doo-wop stuff? Man, even when you don’t play it straight you screw it up. Ditch.
- Silent Night – Wow, really? Another version of this? Ditch.
- Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem – Ditch.
- I Saw Three Ships – A very upbeat version with some interesting backing vocals. I still don’t really like it. Ditch.
- Deck The Halls (With Boughs Of Longboards) – A surf version. I’m not crazy about this, but doing something like this with the whole album would have been welcome. Almost like, but ditch.