Christmas with the Beach Boys

by: The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys were the ultimate summer band, their songs full of sun, surfboards, and endless waves of good vibrations, but it is always interesting to remember how many of those bright productions featured sleigh bells as part of their rhythm tracks, as if Brian Wilson wanted to stick a little bit of winter in there. So it should come as no surprise that the Beach Boys recorded two Christmas albums, the first, The Beach Boys' Christmas Album, in 1964, and a second unreleased set, Merry Christmas With the Beach Boys, a decade later. This disc essentially combines both projects, throwing in some alternate mixes and minutiae, and replicates 1998's Ultimate Christmas release (minus one track, the inconsequential "Christmas Time Is Here Again") right down to the same track sequence. If the Beach Boys favored sleigh bells in summer, then their bright and sunny vocals brought warmth into the dead of winter, as well, particularly with their classic holiday single, "Little Saint Nick," featured in three different versions here, including an alternate take (heavy on saxes) sung over the backing track to "Drive-In." "Merry Christmas, Baby" is another example of Brian simply moving the proven and successful Beach Boys formula to a different season. The alternate mix of "Auld Lang Syne" (the one without Dennis Wilson's spoken interjections) spotlights the gorgeous multi-tracked harmonies of the group, while the cluttered kitchen sink production of "Child of Winter (Christmas Song)" shows how complicated Beach Boys arrangements could get when left unchecked. The real gem of this set, though, aside from the sleigh bell-, glockenspiel-, and celesta-laced original 1963 single version of "Little Saint Nick," is Dennis' haunting "Morning Christmas," which is elegantly and stunningly arranged, carrying some of the mysterious power and allure of the season. Capitol releases a version of this holiday material every year or two, and while it won't change your opinion of the Beach Boys one way or the other, that's exactly why it's worth picking up at half price in the post-Christmas CD sale at your local music store. ~ Steve Leggett

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