Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Harmonies From the Beach Boys

The 1998 compilation 'Ultimate Christmas' from The Beach Boys is my second-favorite holiday record. It's the entire 12-song 'The Beach Boys' Christmas Album' from 1964, plus alternate versions, single mixes and several unreleased songs from later years that brings the number of tracks to a whopping 26. Even if 'Ultimate Christmas' never saw the light of day, 'The Beach Boys' Christmas Album' alone would still rank No. 2 on my holiday list. Five of the 12 songs are originals, pretty unique for the time period, and those 27 minutes are chock full of those patented vocals that you, your mother and maybe even your grandmother love. That, indeed, makes it the "ultimate" holiday listen during family time.

In 1977, the Hawthorne lads (well, not really lads at that point) attempted a second Christmas album. It was completed, but the label said "Bah, Humbug". Most of that record collected dust until it was included here 21 years later. I think you'll find the following songs quite interesting. The first is Brian Wilson taking a rare turn at vocals all by his lonesome with the classic "Blue Christmas". This was only the second time the band had a completely solo vocal performance. Everyone knows the Beach Boys holiday smash "Little Saint Nick". Here is the single version released during the holiday season of 1963, a year before 'The Beach Boys' Christmas Album'. It's quite a bit more complex than the album version, with overdubs of glockenspiel, celeste and sleigh bells added to a stereo mix. "Christmas Time Is Here Again" is from '77, and it was recorded while relaxing at Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa. "Winter Symphony" was Brian's contribution to the unreleased '77 Christmas album, and it is the most beautiful of the tracks from those sessions. The horns are great, and the French horn in particular stands out. It was played by an unknown Maharishi International student that goes uncredited.

'Ultimate Christmas' is still very much in print and would make a wonderful Christmas gift for the discriminating Beach Boys fan.

The Beach Boys - Blue Christmas (mp3)
The Beach Boys - Little Saint Nick (Single Version) (mp3)
The Beach Boys - Christmas Time Is Here Again (mp3)
The Beach Boys - Winter Symphony (mp3)

Also From Linear Tracking Lives!
Holidays With the Rat Pack
Holiday Gifts For You From NRBQ

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