Various Just In Time For Christmas
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Just in Time for Christmas" is a good example of the kind of holiday album of Christmas rock that used to hit the record stores sometime around Black Friday -- back when there were record stores, that is. Perhaps the executives and marketing personnel at the major rock-music labels got tired of watching Andy Williams et al. monopolize the Christmas-album market. Whatever the reason, the late 1980's and early 1990's saw a growing number of rock-themed Christmas CD's in which one can see some similar trends. This album, released by I.R.S. Records, reflects the alternative-rock sensibilities of the label that once counted R.E.M., the Go-Go's, the Alarm, and Concrete Blonde among its stable of acts. Like many of these albums, "Just in Time for Christmas" starts with a relatively well-established act and then proceeds to less well-known artists -- perhaps in hopes of providing said artists with greater exposure, and thereby drumming up sales. The relatively well-established act that starts things off here is Squeeze with "Christmas Day." Back in those days, Squeeze was considered definitively cool -- it was always safe to play Squeeze at a graduate-school party -- but I must confess that their work, while intellectually satisfying, never did much for me emotionally. That being said, "Christmas Day," a guitar-based song with a harp intro and good harmonies, typifies well the band's smart, hip, self-conscious approach. The Rebel Pebbles' "Cool Yule" is a fast-paced, peppy song with a definite Go-Go's vibe to it. Klark Kent (whose secret-identity name is a pseudonym for Stewart Copeland, according to Wikipedia) contributes "Yo Ho Ho"; with its low-timbre vocals (especially the words "Yo Ho Ho" in a deep, rumbling bass) and sardonic delivery, it could perhaps be retitled "Have Yourself a Portentous Little Christmas." Torch Song's "Hark" is very synthesized, with syncopated percussion and phase-shifted harmony vocals. One hears, in this song, many of the musical trends of the 1980's fading into the distance. But things pick up with the next couple of songs. Reckless Sleepers' "Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday" is a country-tinged song that seems sincere rather than ironic, with fine harmony vocals. Steve Hunter's "We Three Kings," an acoustic-guitar instrumental supported by bells, has a pleasant and contemplative quality. And the dB's, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, bring their own country overtones to "Home for the Holidays," offering a fresh take on the familiar theme of family members missing each other when they can't be together at the holidays. With the vocalist's high thin tenor, effective use of lap steel guitar, and violin coming in on the chorus, this song is a highlight of the album.