We're going to continue the Christmas festivities this week, turning back to the undoubted King of island music, Jimmy Buffett and his second Christmas record from 2016, 'Tis The Season.
It's fair to say that we've covered Buffett a couple of times on this website, and it just goes to prove that he can make music for any occasion! There was our Music For Summer playlist (https://www.untitledblog.co.uk/post/music-for-summer-a-selection-of-albums-for-you-to-get-stuck-intohttps://www.untitledblog.co.uk/post/music-for-summer-a-selection-of-albums-for-you-to-get-stuck-into) and more recently, a live review of Buffett's sterling London gig from back in late September (https://www.untitledblog.co.uk/post/jimmy-buffett-live-from-the-london-palladium-23rd-september-2019-review). Both of those articles are really worth a read just to understand how compulsive it is to listen to Buffett's music and this album is absolutely no different.
We're first greeted with a great cover of Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime that Buffett puts his signature island spin on, with a reggae-type beat backing his crisp vocal. There's little hints of an acoustic guitar in the background too that really does open this record nicely. Jingle Bell Rock follows, complete with typical bells, and also Robert Greenidge on steel drums. Whilst some may see it as a little gimmicky of Buffett to release something like this, it plays to his strengths, as the pedal steel guitar and steel drums combine to produce something you can listen to on Christmas Day anywhere in the world. You could be sat at home on a mundane British day, or laying on the lazy river at Typhoon Lagoon in Florida - it doesn't matter. The song is utterly fabulous.
All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth rolls back the clock to the mid-forties, with Buffett taking things a little slower than the previous two songs, allowing the Coral Reefers behind him to express themselves nicely. The muted trumpet within the middle is a lovely little addition, reminding us of Buffett's live renditions of Pencil Thin Mustache these days. Drivin' The Pig (Manejando El Cerdo) is the first of Buffett's original compositions, written with longstanding band members Peter Mayer and Roger Guth, featuring some lighter guitar work, John Lovell's great little trumpet interludes and Robert Greenidge on steel drums creates a proper island Christmas track. There's notes of a Caribbean influence, but also some Latin music too, with the overall sound, as well as the percussion from Eric Darken in the background. It's a welcome spin on Christmas from different parts of the world.
You can't really do a Christmas record without featuring some form of Twelve Days Of Christmas rendition and 'Tis The Season is no different, featuring a Parrothead version. Just for context, a Parrothead is the affectionate term for Jimmy Buffett's fans. Featuring the likes of "Seven Vegas tickets" and "Five cheeseburgers" , it toys with the things that Buffett fans enjoy most, in a rather playful way. What I Didn't Get For Christmas comes straight from Buffett's long-term partner Mac McAnally, picking up the pace nicely for something a little more rocking, and fits in nicely with the sentiments of the album with something rather joyful.
Following that, another cover greets us - this time it's Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree. It harks back to the rock 'n' roll of the late fifties, with its raw guitar solo exemplifying this perfectly, although there's just a little bit of an island sprinkle on top that makes this one of the album's stand-out tunes. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer strips it right back with the slide and acoustic guitar taking centre-stage, complete with a lovely little music interlude that picks up the pace a tad, offering a song of two halves, which works really nicely.
Santa Stole Thanksgiving is Buffett's second own tune here, talking of how Santa Claus has stolen the longstanding American tradition and reduced it to merely Christmas. It's lost its meaning to Buffett, calling it "Black Friday degradation". It's a really lovely song, featuring some light drums, great little trumpet interludes and a simple set of backing vocals, which goes to prove that you don't always need a myriad of instruments or stellar arias to make something clever. Mele Kalikimaka is a reworking of the song from Buffett's first Christmas album, Christmas Island, from 1996. This version features a cool ukulele solo courtesy of the amazing Jake Shimabukuro, a former Coral Reefer himself, that really gives it some edge over the previous recording. It's a much rawer version, which is all the more welcome on what is a rather good album.
Winter Wonderland continues the collaborations, with steel drummer Robert Greenidge taking centre stage with Buffett here. Greenidge's work on the steel drums are, as always, second to none, and help to bring a different version of the Christmas classic to the front of 'Tis The Season. The interludes are relaxingly festive, allowing the island sentiments to be put across perfectly. Baby It's Cold Outside is an interesting one. Featuring Nadirah Shakoor, it's a brilliant version, there's no doubt, and interestingly, the typical gender roles have been switched, which change the sentiments of the song completely. With all lyrical controversies aside, it's a Christmas classic to be appreciated, and Shakoor and Buffett do it justice really rather well.'Tis The Season finishes with Buffett's cover of White Christmas, which really does eke out that island feeling perfectly. The pedal steel guitar combines with Robert Greenidge on the steel drums to make it a good song to raise a glass to and a great end to a fantastic album.
'Tis The Season, there's no doubt, is a great Christmas album. The works of Buffett and the Coral Reefers is, as always, second to none and something to be proud of. Even after a few listens, the festive spirit doesn't wane and it's guaranteed to make you want a margarita this time in December!
If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/3hIEA6H
Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a Spotify link:
More merry musical magnificence to come next week!
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