Holiday Music you must hear…

Since the holidays are upon us, here is my essential holiday albums for 2006. “Barenaked Ladies’ CD “Barenaked for the Holidays” has become my new favorite, even though it came out last year. Where else will you get both Christmas and Channukah songs on the same album? The Barenakeds here have come up with a real festive CD that will be enjoyed by all — and it includes originals and not just holiday standards. It’s chockful of 18 tracks and best of all it’s new on e-music. So you have no excuses. Okay, some songs like “Jingle Bells” are a bit too goofy, but so what! Get it here and now.

Amiee Mann has created a beautiful take on all the holiday classics with this new CD. With Mann’s somber and serious approach, she makes this the Christmas album to drink to. Like the polar opposite of Karen Carpenter, Mann’s mood will get the listener to seriously think about this time of year. She gets a bit of help from hubby Michael Penn, Jon Brion and Grant Lee Phillips doing a respectable version of “The Grinch.” Pour another eggnog and play this one. Also available on e-music.

Do I really need to add the obvious Vince Guaraldi Trio album? here are the links to e-music:
A Charlie Brown Christmas

Elf Power "Back to the Web"

Elf Power has been one of the leaders in twee power pop since 1994. They came into being with the Elephant Six collective that produced Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal and Apples In Stereo. The group has changed a bit from those trippy, pyche sounds of the late 90’s. “Back to the Web” is a more mainstream folkie effort. The music has some great instrumentation and pleasant melodies and themes. Alot like the Essex Green, they mine this melodic folk indie groove. The song An “Old Familiar Scene” has a good beat and vibe and “Somewhere Down The River” begins to lean to the old styled Elf Power I remember. “All The World Is Waiting” is another worthy track that has a great sing-along quality. Unfortunately too much of this album is boring and most of the songs have very little or no key change. It’s all the same folky rythmn to Vocalist Andrew Reiger. Also gone is the DIY ethic and the slick production makes the album a bit bland. You can get this CD cheap at, but it would be better to start with eariler albums at e-music. Oh well. Maybe next the album will be better.

The Flame "The Flame"

Holy Badfinger Batman! This is another “lost” album of the late sixites that suddenly finds itself re-issued today. The Flame were a South African quartet consisting on Blondie Chaplin, Ricky Fataar and two additional Faatar brothers. Although a headliner in Africa, it wasn’t until The Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson decided to produce The Flame’s new album in the USA that we would hear them. The music is amazing and is a power pop fan’s dream. Badfinger-styled guitar licks and McCartney-styled rock and roll combined with a hint of R&B. This album has been legendary among Beach Boys completists, even though it sounds nothing like The Beach Boys. But it does live up to the hype. Why it was ignored on release I’ll never know. After the band broke up, Chaplin and Faatar joined the Beach Boys on their “Holland” LP. Ricky Faatar also was part of the Beatlesque group, The Rutles. My biggest problem here is the remastering. And why no bonus tracks? The sound quality could’ve been better, but as it is Fallout records has done an adequate job. It ain’t cheap though, but it’s available on Not Lame Records.

Jim Noir "Tower of Love"

I heard Jim Noir’s EP “Eanie Meany” and just loved it. Now I get to review Noir’s debut CD. It’s a collection of his many ep tracks. This for me is one of the best albums of the year. It has all the hallmarks of great 6o’s styled psych power pop with a modern bent and lyrical structure. If you take The Beatles, late 60’s Kinks, Nillson, The Beta Band and Brian Wilson and mushed them up together you will get something that sounds like this. Not one weak track here. My only complaint is that is slightly too mellow. It would be nice if Jim got a bit more of a garage-y sound on some tracks, but that doesn’t take anything away from the album. The Beta Band wishes it could could’ve come up with a track as sweet as “A Quiet Man.” An you’ll want to break out The Beach Boys CDs after your hear “Turn Your Frown Into A Smile.” Jim Noir has deliberately used those great studio techniques of that era to come up with this ear candy. You should order this one now. It gets one of my highest praises… so visit his site and listen to the streaming songs for yourself. Support this inide artist! He’ll make more great stuff like this if you do.

The Cyrkle "The Minx"

This is a new re-issue of a rare recording from the 1967 Pop Pysche group The Cyrkle. Fresh off the hits “Red Rubber ball” and “Turn Down Day” they recorded this rarity. It has been literally impossible to find unless you were a bona fide audiophile. Sundazed did an amazing job re-mastering the album. It sounds great. They sound similar to The Association, The Monkees and Simon and Garfunkle mixed together. And has eight bonus tracks to boot. So what is wrong here?

Well, it’s not much of an album. More like an EP of sorts with lots of thowaway tracks. This is a perfect example of the “the great lost album” myth. It is a bit of a letdown (kinda like The Beach Boys “Smiley Smile”) Not that it doesn’t have some awesome songs here, it just does not live up to the years of hype. “Squeeze Play,” “Murry the Why.” and “Something Special” are sunshine pop classics that deserve to be heard. But the rest of the album is alot of instrumental filler. So although I don’t think you should buy this, it would be worth listening to the good songs here. Sunshine pop fans should definitely buy this and put it next to thier Peppermint Rainbow and Yellow Balloon CDs. Buy it on amazon if you must.