The Ventures Christmas Album By The Ventures

Why spend your Christmas in the snow when you can spend it on the beach? If you're from the Midwest like me, it's sort of easier said than done.  If you can't afford a plane ticket, you may have to travel via music.  That's where The Ventures Christmas Album comes into play.  The Ventures are the premier surf rock band.  I'm sure you've heard them a million times.  Along with artists like Dick Dale & The Deltones and The Beach Boys, their influence on the genre is incalculable.  Need more context? Ask for "context" in your letter to Santa Claus.  If you've been naughty and that's not possible, you can just click here.

On The Ventures Christmas Album, The Ventures interpret 12 Christmas classics including "Jingle Bell(s) (rock,)" "Frosty The Snowman" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas."  The interpretations are pretty cool—and pretty quintessential Ventures.  The only truly "Christmas-y" thing about them are sleigh bells, which were added later.  Otherwise, it's pretty much straight-up surf rock.  This makes it tolerable for holiday music cynics who still don't want to be seen as total Scrooges.  

Hey—Hey you! That's right—YOU.   Have yourself a good holiday season.  

The Ventures Christmas Album By The Ventures


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Trip Shakespeare (L-R: Matt Wilson - Guitars, Vocals; Elaine Harris - Drums, Percussion; John Munson - Fretless Bass, Vocals; Dan Wilson - Guitar, Piano, Vocals)

"Snow Days" was never anything close to a hit song, but for thousands of people in Minneapolis, it is almost a state anthem—a tribute to the notoriously brutal yet joyous winters of the Twin Cities.  It is the third track on Across The Universe, the third album by the Minnesota locals Trip Shakespeare.  Though a cult favorite, Trip Shakespeare isn't quite as famous as the sum of its parts.  After breaking up in 1993, bassist John Munson and vocalist Dan Wilson left to form Semisonic, which spent the later half of the 90s topping the charts with a song called "Closing Time."  Dan Wilson has since won two Grammys for his songwriting collaborations with Dixie Chicks ("Not Ready To Make Nice") and Adele ("Someone Like You.") 

"Snow Days" was written by Matt Wilson—Dan's slightly younger brother—and is sung primarily by John Munson. It tells the story of a "Mrs. Braintree" and the violent morning snow which makes her commute to work essentially impossible.  After all, "all the roads are closed" and "It's coming down."  The three singers cry out "it's coming down" so often on "Snow Days" that you can't help but take their word for it—it's probably a blizzard out there.  Though Dan Wilson's piano sounds nothing like Vince Guaraldi's, his sensitivity on the instrument combined with drummer Elaine Harris's performance on sleigh bells makes the song sound almost like a B-side off of A Charlie Brown Christmas.  John Munson isn't as gifted of a singer as the Wilson brothers—who sing lead vocals on about two thirds of the group's entire catalog—but he is theatrical and emotive, almost like a stage actor.  He is also a brilliant fretless bass player and he slides around on his instrument like a car hydroplaning.  As singers, the Wilson brothers of Trip Shakespeare pull off wonderful harmonies which would make the Wilson brothers of The Beach Boys quite proud.  If John Munson sounds like he's singing about Mrs. Braintree, the two brothers sound like they are singing to Mrs. Braintree.  They sound almost like guardian angels, providing the same advice to the poor Mrs. Braintree: "go home and take a snow day."  Rarely has a psychedelic rock band pulled off something so endearing and heartwarming.  Trip Shakespeare did.  For more than 20 years,"Snow Days" has been played on radio stations in Minnesota.  If you ask me, it should be played all over the world in December.  

"Snow Days" by Trip Shakespeare

"Snow Days (Live 2010)" by The New Standards (feat. John Munson. Special Appearance by Matt Wilson)

On December 7th 2013, the full Trip Shakespeare lineup reunited for two songs at the annual New Standards holiday show.  While 3/4 of Trip Shakespeare have been known to perform from time to time with semisonic drummer Jake Slichter, this was the first reunion with the amazing stand-up drummer Elaine Harris in 20 years! Here's an extra special performance of "Snow Days" featuring Chan Poling, vocalist and pianist of both The New Standards and The Suburbs.  

"Snow Days" by Trip Shakespeare (feat. Chan Poling)

That same night, Trip Shakespeare also played "Susannah" a fan-favorite b-side which Matt Wilson also included on "Descender," his out-of-print post-Trip Shakespeare demo from 1994.  

"Susannah" by Trip Shakespeare



Oy To The World: A Klezmer Christmas by The Klezmonauts

Oy vey.  Holy Dustin Hoffman! What in the name of Joe Lieberman do we have here? 

Just because you're Jewish doesn't mean you can't enjoy Christmas.  Here are the Klezmer versions of your favorite Noel songs as arranged by composer Paul Libman of The Klezmonauts.  The great irony is that this might be one of the most original Christmas albums of all time.  Just listen to "Little Drummer Boy" or "Jingle Bells" and you'll understand just how much chutzpah it took to execute this.  I give this effort four out of five latkes. 

Oy To The World: A Klezmer Christmas by The Klezmonauts