Impossible Christmas (Albany)
by Clarendon Lavorich
If you’re like me, you must think there’s a dearth of really interesting Christmas albums out there. Oh, sure, you can dig out your old A Blue Cheer Christmas (complete with the fuzzed-to-death version of “Winter Wonderland”) or the immortal Charles Manson is Christ, but other than those dubious gems, there’s not much out there. But have faith, adventurous listener! See what has arrived. First, in a flurry of excitement and accompanying froth is a new CD from Esquivel! Compiled of tracks between 1959 and 1962, Merry Christmas from the Space Age Bachelor Pad takes on such classics as “White Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and others. Now, as much as I love the man, it certainly looks like Bar/None is scraping the bottom of the barrel with Esquivel’s work. His adaptations are sappily faithful to the original, and miss the bite of something like his “Sentimental Journey” or “Harlem Nocturne.” Not only that, his singers are actually vocalizing in a language (English) rather than “Zorch-ing” or “Boink-ing.” However, the opening and closing tracks are modern recordings with Esquivel himself greeting us. “Hello. Welcome to my Space Age Bachelor Pad. You look ravishing tonight. I love your boots. There’s a lovely view of Venus tonight… The mistletoe is right over- oh, I see it is being used right now…” Even though Merry Christmas… isn’t his best work, he proves himself to be The Man, for now and evermore.
On the other hand, Gordon Green’s Impossible Christmas is completely and utterly screwy. How else to describe an album that contains songs called “We Wish You A Delirious Christmas” and “The Dance of the Heavy Metal Fairies”? Using a computer to create arrangements impossible (or at least incredibly difficult) to play with conventional instruments, he spins and loops his way through “Silent Night Raga,” and “Silent Night Kaleidoscope.” Green messes with tempo, speeding up beyond belief Tchaikovsky’s “Russian Dance,” alters song structures and totally messes with “We Three Kings,” plays with time signature in the totally warped “Christmas Medley,” and even the melodies themselves are sometimes altered beyond recognition. It’s the perfect antidote for those Tony Bennett or Bing Crosby saccharin fests. If you’re not ready for the Charles Ives take on “The Twelve Dazes of Christmas,” you’ll feel your head begin to twist and warp as the Impossible music takes control. By the time you get to “Hark! The Herald Angels Swing” you’re hooked, there’s no turning back. You just want to lay back and hang with “Cool King Wenceslas,” and start dancing to “Get Down All Ye Faithful.” Forget about caroling this year. Take out your old 1980s boom box, put this in and walk around your neighborhood, playing it at full blast. You’ll be sure to cause disturbing fun all throughout your home town.