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Longtime local music maven Dan Pavelich has joined us at Racine County Eye. Look for Dan’s weekly CD and LP reviews, Quick Spins, as well as news about local musicians, gigs, and recordings of interest.

CeCe Winans: Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album (PSG)

CeCe Winans

This is not CeCe’s first foray into Christmas music, though I believe it will stand as her best. While her family legacy is firmly-placed in Gospel music, “Something’s Happening!” Gives equal attention to her pop leanings. Had she been born a few decades earlier, she might’ve been a hugely-successful Motown singer.

“The Giving Season” is as uplifting as chestnuts like “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” and it’s refreshing to hear new holiday material. “It’s Christmas” has a nice Supremes-ish feel, and is definitely my fave.There are plenty of standards, however, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Silent Night” are both splendid. I may have to order this on vinyl.

William Shatner: Shatner Claus (Cleopatra)

William Shatner

Much like Shatner’s version of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” you have to go into this knowing that it’s all a goof. Shatner can’t sing and doesn’t even bother to. He speaks the lyrics and sounds like he’s in on the joke and having a ball. George Takei might have a slightly more acidic take on “Shatner Claus,” but it’s still fun in a middle-school kind of way.

The highlight of the disc is a cowboy version of “Blue Christmas,” which features Brad Paisley, a famous friend of Shat’s. On this one, there’s at least a bit of pretty guitar work and a verse that’s actually sung. Look, there is really nothing serious going on here. If you appreciate what William Shatner brings to the world, you’ll enjoy it and have a laugh. If not, you’ll be asking Scotty to beam you to sickbay.

Los Straightjackets: Complete Christmas Songbook (Yep Roc)

Straight Jackets

For the uninitiated, Los Straightjackets ply the trade of surfy instrumentals made famous by 1960’s groups like The Ventures and The Surfaris. Twangy guitars drenched in reverb and tremolo driven by go-go beats are the order of the day. Los Straightjackets are impressive torchbearers for the genre, as is evidenced by these twenty-seven zippy Christmas tracks.

Yep Roc Records has collected all of the band’s many Christmas releases and presented them here in a nifty collection that’s also available on vinyl. “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Jingle Bell Rock” is ripe for a holiday beach party, and “The Little Drummer Boy” rocks with a jungle rhythm. All the retro goodness you need to get your Christmas party cookin’.

New Releases:

  • Neil Young/Songs For Judy (Reprise)
  • Jeff Tweedy/Warm (Anti)
  • David Bowie/Glastonbury 2000 (Rhino)
  • Elvis/50th Anniversary ’68 Comeback Special (RCA)
  • James Howard/Fantastic Beasts Soundtrack (Disney)
  • Various Artists/Now That’s What I Call Christmas ’18 (Razor & Tie)
  • Wheeler Walker Jr./WWIII (Pepper Hill)
  • Cher/Dancing Queen (Warner)
  • Phish/Live At Madison Square Garden (JEMP)
  • Ellis Marsalis/New Orleans Christmas Carol (Elm)

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