1000 Albums Project


A Very Special Christmas, by Various Artists
Suggested by Santa Claus

When it comes to Christmas songs, I’m a traditionalist.

If I’m looking for a slice of Festive meat, I’ll carve myself a bit of Slade, of Wizzard, of Mud. I’ll shake to Shakey, I’ll Step In with Elton, I’ll Stay with East 17, I’ll Drive Home with Chris, I’ll even stand under the Mistletoe with Cliff, given enough Wine. In a very real sense, All I Want For Christmas is Mariah.

I’m not totally traditional. While it’s still a classic, my favourite Christmas song is Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie. One brand of traditionalist would also suggest, rather loudly and with spittle, that the PC Brigade have ruined the nation’s favourite Christmas track The Fairytale of New York by recently removing a homophobic slur that was first removed by the band themselves in 1992, but I find that to be an incredibly odd hill on which to die. And one of my favourite Christmas Music experiences was popping into a trendy tech shop one Christmas Eve as they played Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks, a song which is now indelibly linked with the season.

If you’re bored of the same old Christmas songs, A Very Special Christmas is a fine alternative. Released in 1987, this fifty-minute fifteen-track compilation contains a plethora of Eighties stalwarts, each rocking around the Christmas tree without actually singing Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. It’s mid-range, catchy, and largely – largely – inoffensive.

It kicks of with what’s likely a parallel dimensional classic Christmas tune, Santa Claus is Coming to Town by The Pointer Sisters. This is packed with festive cheer, from the faux friendly chatter at the start to the wailing saxy finish. So far so good… then Annie Lennox arrives and is completely weird. She takes the standard Walking in a Winter Wonderland and goes full-on Grace Jones for the intro. Happily, things kick in with some prime Eighties funk bass and drum machine combo, and we’re soon back on solid, snowy ground.

There’s so much to love here, from Whitney Houston belting out Do You Hear What I Hear to the Pretenders bringing a smoky flavour to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Stevie Nicks soothes us with a sumptuous Silent Night, while Bon Jovi is happily baffling as a Back Door Santa. My standout track, though, has to be Run DMC’s Christmas in Hollis, mostly because of its appearance in Die Hard. Yippee Ki Yay.

While so many tracks are nice, there are more than a few on the Naughty List. I’ve a lot of time for Sting, but his frankly ridiculous Gabriel’s Message is pompous and unintelligible. Seriously, I’d have actually preferred listening to Gabriel’s Answerphone Message. “Hi folks, Gabriel here. I can’t come to the phone as I’m standing in the presence of God, please leave a message after the horn.” Alison Moyet brings us a lacklustre version of something called The Coventry Carol, and Madonna’s mutilation of Santa Baby pitches her as a rather deranged Betty Boop.

On any other day, this album would get a 6/10 score, as the jingles do outweigh the jangles. But this is not any other day… in the words of the immortal Noddy, it’s Christmas. So deck the halls, folks, as A Very Special Christmas gets 8/10.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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