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Los StraitjacketsLos Straitjackets are a crazed instrumental outfit in the energetic, early 60's tradition - except that they always perform dressed in Mexican wrestling masks. Their original albums (recorded for Upstart and Yep Roc Records) are very enjoyable, and there's nothing wrong with their Christmas album, 'Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets (2002), either. In fact, it's a gas start to finish - a guitar-driven, all-instrumental romp through the holidays. But despite the verve and skill Los Straitjackets bring to their performance, I have to consider it a second-rank album because it's clearly a tribute to the much earlier, highly regarded Ventures' Christmas Album. Like that classic, 'Tis The Season often melds a Christmas song with a non-seasonal hit - for instance, Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" introducing Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad," or "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" interpolated with the Chantay's "Pipeline."

It's a charming gimmick, and it bears up well in repetition. And like the Ventures, the Straitjackets toss in a couple of fun originals, "Christmas Weekend" and "Christmas In Las Vegas." In some ways, 'Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets is even better than the album on which it is modeled. Certainly, it rocks harder. But, originality counts for something, and the Ventures did it first.

I suspect, however, that regard for Los Straitjackets' newer offering may eventually catch up to the Ventures' well-established classic - it's that good. In the meantime, to paraphrase the All Music Guide, surf's up at the North Pole - enjoy! (Two songs from 'Tis The Season, "Sleigh Ride" and "Marshmallow World," were recorded for a 1996 promotional single, six years before the album's release.)

Update. In 2009, Los Straitjackets released of their second Christmas album, Yuletide Beat, sold as a digital download except for a limited run of CD and vinyl to be sold exclusively through the band's website and by their label, Yep Roc. In 2015, they shared the bill with Nick Lowe for The Quality Holiday Revue Live. [top of page]

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • Feliz Navidad (2002)
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (2002)
  • Here Comes Santa Claus (2002)
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (2002)
  • A Marshmallow World (1996)

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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