The Classic Christmas '80s Album

Various Artists

Sony/Legacy, 2015

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/05/2015

Quite by accident in 2006, I stumbled upon a free turntable and promptly created a decent vinyl collection, which included a few Christmas albums when the season rolled around that year. One of the albums I happened upon was A Very Special Christmas, and to this day I think it's probably the best collection of '80s Christmas songs there is. Many of the songs get played on Christmas radio stations to this day and have become classics in their own right.

The Classic Christmas '80s Album attempts to recapture the sound and spirit of that disc, with little success. There is no artist overlap and more than half the songs are not holiday classics; only five of the 15 are firmly in the "you know them by heart since you hear them 27 times a week every December" category.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So, whether you like the 10 other songs depends on your fondness for '80s artists (some well-known, others not so much) or these particular tunes. I will say that "Christmas Wrapping" by one-hit wonder The Waitresses is very good, a post-punk/New Wave holiday tune with some great bass work, and it gives the listener hope for the collection. But what immediately follows is Wham! and the tearjerker "Last Christmas," so there goes that theory.

Like much of the popular music of this decade, most of the songs here sacrifice warmth for production values, togetherness for cash, depth for superficiality. That is to say it's a lot of fun and pretty darn disposable. But it’s not something you need to spend your money on unless, as said above, you really love the Bangles, Hall & Oates, The Pointer Sisters, early Whitney Houston, Ray Parker Jr. and New Kids On The Block. Those are the better-known names for a mass audience, at any rate; also here are Fishbone, Billy Squier, The Hooters, Buster Poindexter and Run-DMC ("Christmas In Hollis," naturally)

This compilation deserves credit for unearthing holiday songs that don't get radio saturation on your local light rock station, like Dave Edmunds' "Run Rudolph Run," the Bangles' "Hazy Shade Of Winter" (not even a Christmas song) and the odd "Slick Nick, You Devil You" from Fishbone. A moment of levity arises in Bob & Doug McKenzie's "Twelve Days Of Christmas," which is a Canadian hoot even in single form ("On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me / Four pounds of back bacon / Three French toasts / Two turtlenecks / And a beer...in a tree." But the handful of songs that are keepers are unbalanced by the many forgettable ones (has "Jingle Bell Rock" ever been done in a more soul-free and plastic manner than Hall & Oates do it here?) or the smarmy pap of New Kids' "This One's For The Children."

Bottom line: You can listen to your radio and hear the best of the '80s Christmas songs by pop/rock stars, or you can buy A Very Special Christmas and own them yourself, but you can probably pass on this one unless you want to play some boring and/or goofy holiday music at your dentist's office.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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