On the 2nd Day of Christmas… “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” (album review)

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Elvis Presley dominated the airwaves for years, and maintains a posthumous presence today.  Though he’s renowned for hits such as “Hound Dog” and infamous pelvis gyration, his Christmas music ranks among the elite classics. Browsing the Elvis Christmas releases can be daunting, as his holiday tunes have been released and re-released an obnoxious number of times. For simplicity’s sake, I’m reviewing If Every Day Was Like Christmas. Grab a chair, crank up the stereo, and slip on the blue suede shoes.

Browsing the back of the album, you’ll notice that If Every Day Was Like Christmas is a hefty release. A whopping 24 tracks, it’s a purchase that feels well worth the cash. Every song is phenomenal. Festivities begin with “Why Can’t Every Day be Like Christmas.” Fair enough Elvis, I respect your holiday spirit, but that would require a year-round tree, decorations encroaching on other holidays, and a never-ending onslaught of relatives. Thus, it may be better that every day is not actually like Christmas. His point, however, is the tranquility and sense of unity which Christmas traditionally bestows upon the masses. Who can resist smiling with Xmas jingles blaring, jolly fat Santas ho-ho-hoing and red Starbucks cups adorning mittened hands?

As per usual, the content of Elvis’ album isn’t particularly new, but his renditions are the reason we all dust off the disc and throw it on the turntable, pop it in the CD player, or stream all 24 tracks. “Blue Christmas” bounces along merrily, despite the assertion of dampened sentiments. Presley brings his unique mumbling warble to each song. “Here Comes Santa Claus” shines with this recognizable delivery. As the song progresses you can almost see Elvis’ expression growing increasingly animated as his voice crescendos into an energetic “Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!” Try playing Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” then the Elvis version. The contrast is remarkable, and highlights the positive vibe Elvis emanates. Gone are the wistful, church-like Bing baritones. No offense at all, Bing. Your version set a standard. But Elvis broke barriers, which earned fame (and infamy).

“Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me” further illustrates the joyous nature so prevalent on If Every Day Was Like Christmas. Elvis sounds unlike a man depressed by absence from his gal, but rather finds consolation in begging Santa for a reunion. Why Santa has said female friend isn’t really explained. Let’s just hope Elvis hung a large enough stocking for his beloved. Interestingly, Elvis even brings his upbeat performance to serious tunes like “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” He understandably tones down the bulbous joviality which graces most other tracks, but he still manages to infuse such songs with a celebratory feel. Considering the fact that Christmas is intended as a season for generosity and caring, it feels more appropriate than funeral march adaptations which often pollute holiday albums. While you can’t go wrong with any Elvis Christmas release, If Every Day Was Like Christmas certainly comes with substantial play time and replay value. Spontaneous hip gyration is a known side effect, so grandma might be offended. Dance at your own risk.

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David Cassidy: The Higher They Climb The Harder They Fall

My mom is a huge Partridge Family fan. Every year while we decorate the tree she pops the “Partridge Family Christmas” album on the turntable. There is never enough spiked eggnog to go around while the record spins. The most entertaining part is when my dad, keeping true to tradition, amps up the rpm making the Partridge Family sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Record browsing in a London Oxfam store a few years ago, I unearthed a lesser-known album by David Cassidy, “The Higher They Climb The Harder They Fall.” Now, I’m still not sure what exactly the name means. From my reading, it appears that David Cassidy is admitting his fall from stardom and consequent plummet into obscurity. But most artists don’t poke fun at themselves, so I’m not entirely sure what Cassidy intended with the title. Assuming the album to be worth less than the one pound I purchased it for, I threw it on while cleaning my room, intending to multitask while transferring it to digital. Having heard the Partridge Family before, I was expecting a collection of clichéd pop songs with all too much backing harmony and lyrics about picture perfect romance.

The album opens with the track “When I’m a Rock’n Roll Star.” The song begins with David Cassidy repeating the titular phrase over a somber piano melody. At the 1:20 mark it switches to an upbeat piano piece complete with a tambourine and electric guitar. The track morphs from a lamentation to a bluesy number which almost sounds like it could have been a Queen song. Cassidy sings about magazine photo shoots and limo rides, staples of stardom.

“Be-Bop-A-Lula” builds on the upbeat, blues-inspired opening track. The song name refers to Cassidy’s romantic interest. I think if I called my girlfriend “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” she might not take it so well, but I guess it was a different time. The track borrows a few elements from Chuck Berry and Elvis, and the result had me dancing about my room with the vacuum. Although I hated to admit it, the album was pretty good so far. I think what makes “The Higher They Climb The Harder They Fall” a great album is how Cassidy spices up the Partridge Family routine. Instead of crooning to the pre-teens as he did before, David Cassidy opted to make music for a more mature audience. The album pays homage to the period when the Beach Boys and The Shirelles branched out from their innocent roots.

David Cassidy exposes an increasingly complex side of himself on tracks such as “Darlin’.” He professes “I was living like half a man/Then I couldn’t love but now I can/You pick me up when I’m feeling sad/More soul than I ever had/Gonna love you every single night/Cause I think you’re too outta sight.” Cassidy shows a vulnerable side to the otherwise invincible pop star while adding a “racy” element to his music. Nevertheless, he keeps it pretty tame and still caters to a family friendly audience.

Sure, tracks like “Get It Up For Love” are pretty clear, but still mild enough to meet the approval of meddling parents. I’ll let you make of this track what you will…Other songs include “Common Thief,” a really catchy funk-soul inspired piece complete with horns, keyboard and bass accompaniment. If you’re a Partridge Family fan, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of this album. Even if you aren’t, or have never heard of them, this is a worthy addition to your music collection and most likely a musical experience you’re missing. Pick it up from Amazon, iTunes, or stream it on YouTube. Happy listening!