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were the single most popular group of the rock 'n' roll instrumental
craze that ran from the late 50's to the early 60's. Their
guitar-driven music was certainly good, but others (Dick Dale, for
instance) had them beat hands-down when it came to originality
and fire-in-the-belly intensity. Still, their middle-of-the-road
approach served them well on The Ventures' Christmas
Album (Dolton, 1965). It rocks along in a jolly mood perfect
for the season - not too hard, not too soft, just right
for making spirits bright.
What elevates it to greatness,
though, is the gimmick: Each track integrates a hit song
from that year into the arrangement of a time-honored
Christmas standard. The effect can be charming ("Frosty
The Snowman" gets tipsy on "Tequila") or
poetic ("Endless Summer" woven into "White
Christmas"). But, once you've heard the Beatles' "I
Feel Fine" segue seamlessly into "Rudolph The
Red-Nosed Reindeer," you'll smile till February.
Originally issued on the Dolton label, The Ventures' Christmas
Album has been reissued a number of times - on CD by Capitol in 1990 and by Razor & Tie in 1995; on CD with a new cover and bonus mono mixes by Toshiba in Japan in 2003; as an MP3 download by Capitol in 2008; on 180 gram vinyl by Sundazed in 2010; and again on CD by Real Gone Music in 2016. That final edition is definitive, including both mono and stereo mixes and excellent liner notes by Bill Kopp.
Nearly 40 years later, the Ventures released a second holiday album, Christmas
Joy (2002). It featured all new recordings, including some remakes from the 1965 album, and was reissued as Guitar Christmas in England the next year.
For most collectors, Christmas
Joy is completely unnecessary. But, like The Ventures' Christmas
Album, it's a barrel of laughs - and who doesn't need more laughs?
Frosty The Snowman
Jingle Bell Rock
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
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