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its boffo-but-befuddled stepsister, Rhino Records' Christmas
Classics (read more), The
Best Of Cool Yule (1989) suffers no identity crisis. Subtitled "A
Collection Of Rockin' Stocking Stuffers," The
Best Of Cool Yule compiles strange, wonderful, and rare Christmas rock.
In fact, despite some overlap, The
Best Of Cool Yule forms the perfect compliment to Christmas
Classics' more conventional hit parade. While I wouldn't want to be caught
dead without all the favorites from the latter disc, it's the obscure slices
of insanity on the former that make Christmas music so fascinating and record
collecting so fun.
Best Of Cool Yule is a collection of highlights from two LP's that Rhino
released during the mid-80's - the period when compact discs were being introduced.
Originally, Rhino resisted the new technology, releasing abbreviated CD versions
of their deluxe LP sets and series. Hence, the quintessential The
Best Of Cool Yule - as good as it is - is somewhat less than the sum
of its parts.
All the same, it's a gas. Thrill to the Marquees' jungle hijinks in "Christmas
In The Congo"! Witness Tina Turner rip her guts out singing "Merry
Christmas Baby," Charles Brown's formerly mellow classic! Travel down on
the bayou with Brenda Lee in "Papa Noel," then hop on over to New Orleans
where Huey "Piano" Smith & The Clowns celebrate "Silent Night" like
it was Fat Tuesday! In addition, we get Solomon Burke's soulful, magnanimous "Presents
For Christmas" and Dodie Stevens' "Merry Merry Christmas Baby" (1960),
which was adapted from Joann Campbell's "Happy New Year Baby" (1958),
which was itself adapted from the Tune Weavers' "Happy Happy Birthday Baby" (1957)!
Unfortunately, one track on Cool
Yule is highly questionable. Rhino includes former Monkees Davy Jones,
Mickey Dolenz, and Peter Tork's plodding 1976 version of "Christmas Is
My Time Of Year" rather than the effusive 1968 original by Christmas Spirit.
Christmas Spirit, you see, was a one-off group consisting of Howard Kaylan
and Mark Volman (later Flo & Eddie) of the Turtles; erstwhile Byrd Gram
Parsons and his brother Gene; a young-and-as-yet unheralded Linda Ronstadt;
and (from the sound of it) anyone else who happened to be hanging around the
studio. Kaylan cowrote the song, and the group released it on the Turtles'
label, White Whale, in 1968. The record flopped miserably, and though it was
preserved for posterity on Rhino's 1984 LP, Rockin'
Christmas: The 60's, it has never been released on compact disc. Why Rhino
used the Monkees' lackluster version here is a mystery....
Anyway, don't let this lapse in judgment deter you from searching down The
Best Of Cool Yule. It's an all-time Christmas classic of (nearly) non-stop
fun including several songs unavailable anywhere else. Though out-of-print,
copies are relatively common on Amazon and
elsewhere. [top of page]
- Christmas In The Congo
(I Want A) Rock & Roll Guitar (Johnny Preston, 1960)
Merry Christmas Baby (Ike & Tina Turner, 1964)
Merry Merry Christmas Baby (Dodie Stevens, 1960)
Papa Noel (Brenda Lee, 1959)
Presents For Christmas (Solomon Burke, 1967)
Rockin' Santa Claus (Martels, 1959)
Santa Claus (Sonics, 1965)
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Harmony Grits, 1959)
Santa Claus Santa Claus (James Brown, 1968)
Santa's Got A Brand New Bag (Gary Walker, 1965)
Silent Night (Huey "Piano" Smith & The Clowns, 1962)
Sleigh Ride (Ventures, 1965)
There's Trouble Brewing (Jack Scott, 1963)
White Christmas (Drifters, 1954)
Yulesville (Edward "Kookie" Byrnes, 1959)
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Now, you can hear the Christmas music I write about! My Christmas Jukebox is bulging with over 450 tracks, and I'll be adding more rockin' Yule tunes throughout the year. [listen now]