On the 7th Day of Christmas… “Silent Nightclub” — Richard Cheese (album review)

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Richard Cheese may not be a household name, though after this review you’ll likely plow through his entire discography quicker than a one horse open sleigh. A comedic singer, he performs lounge and swing style takes on top 40 hits. Hitting play sucks you into a portal, transporting listeners into a Vegas cocktail bar complete with martini and halfway unbuttoned silk shirt.

Amid Cheese’s extensive catalog is an aptly titled Silent Nightclub. As the name suggests, the album is an amalgamation of “holiday” hits. A quick glance at the tracklist and the brow furrows in confusion. Only five of the 15 total songs are traditional Christmas tunes. The other 10 are mainly pop hits which slightly relate to the holidays. And most of the time the connection is more of a stretch than the Grinch shimmying down a narrow brick chimney. Cheese opens with Dead Kennedys’ punk anthem “Holiday in Cambodia,” presumably because it contains the word holiday. He does however, use jingle bells and a Christmas melody to provide a festive ambiance.

Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” follows up “Holiday in Cambodia,” a hilarious reference to the Virgin Mary. Conservative religious folks may be offended, but one listen to the disc and it’s obvious Cheese isn’t meant to be taken seriously. Cleverly, he includes “Like a Virgin” and unless you’re quick to ponder the non-commercial aspects of Christmas, the reason for inclusion may pass you by like Santa skipping the naughty kid on your block. Cheese also includes “Ice, Ice Baby,” “Imagine,” “Naughty Girl,” “The Trees,” “I Melt With You,” and finishes on an appropriate note with “Holidae Inn.” His choices are undeniably unique for a Christmas CD, and you’ll be gnawing the candy cane in your martini in no time.

Amusingly, though predictably, even the holiday tracks aren’t exactly straightforward. The version of “Jingle Bells” on Silent Nightclub features animal noises rather than the actual lyrics. This album by no means seeks to replace the original versions of your holiday favorites. “Last Xmas” is actually only 18 seconds long, and Cheese explains the shortened Wham cover by proclaiming “…that song sucks.” Sorry Wham fans. Take your problem up with Richie. As the sole original track “Christmas In Las Vegas” paints an entertaining portrait of Vegas with a twist. Rudolph bets on red and the Wise Men roll sevens. Cheese exploits both Christmas and Las Vegas clichés, stuffing both into a witty stocking.

Silent Nightclub serves up a hearty, creative dose of mildly, though carefully and astutely selected tracks. Additionally, Cheese’s mock-serious, sleazy delivery packs a ramshackle sled of laughs. Try not to keep from bursting into fits of giggles while the artist woof-woof-woofs in tune to “Jingle Bells,” double-times through “Christmastime is Here,” or jollily bounces down John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Just like spiking eggnog spices up the holiday merriment, Richard Cheese’s Silent Nightclub is sure to get the Christmas party popping.

Alternative Christmas Playlist

Christmas. It’s the season to be jolly, a time for giving and receiving, a holiday full of fruit cakes, cards and cheesy family pictures. And it’s become a season of too much music. There. I said it. Radio stations really need to stop playing Christmas music so frickin’ early. Sure, we all love Christmas songs, but you can only hear “Last Christmas,” “Where are you Christmas,” “White Christmas,” and “Mele Kalikimaka” so many times before you’ve turned into Scrooge. Hearing “Mele Kalikimaka” once is hellish enough. So for those of you who, like me, need a breath of fresh air in what’s become a stale pine tree air freshener scented Christmas music season: grab some eggnog and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and keep reading for my alternative Christmas playlist.

 

What do eight tiny reindeer and four turtles have in common? Nothing really. So why was the straight to video Ninja Turtles “We Wish You a Turtles Christmas” ever produced? I’ve got no clue. I’m probably the biggest TMNT fan ever, and even I’ll admit this is terrible. Still, it’s only 25 minutes and you’ll probably laugh a lot, albeit at the ridiculousness of a live action TMNT Christmas musical including songs such as the Wrap Rap, Up on the Housetop parody Up From the Sewer and the sentimental Gotta Get a Gift, where the turtles brainstorm gifts for Splinter. Honestly the musical is pretty awful. That being said it is entertaining, and definitely falls into the so funny it’s hilarious category, ranking up there with “Big Trouble in Little China,” “The Evil Dead,” and “Plan 9 From Outerspace.” You could probably find a copy pretty cheap on eBay or Amazon, though I’m not sure why anyone would want to own this clusterfuck of an entry in the Ninja Turtles canon. You’re better off Bittorrenting it or pulling it up on Youtube.

Hip Hop and Christmas. You normally wouldn’t think they mix well, but just like those shots of Jack Daniels which supplement my eggnog so as to make it through family holiday gatherings, there are actually some great rap-oriented Christmas tunes. There’s the classic Run DMC jam Christmas in Hollis. Originally it was on the compilation album “A Very Special Christmas.” In true Run DMC fashion, the song is sample laden, including recognizable pieces from Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, and Joy to the World. The track opens with a comical narrative about Santa walking his dog in the park, and the song includes some classic lines such as “It’s Christmas time in Hollis Queens/Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens/Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese/And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees.” Yeah, they just went on for two lines about food. But what family doesn’t obsess over food when the holidays come around? Definitely queue this track up for the Christmas party.

Keeping in tune with hip hop Christmas melodies from “A Very Special Christmas” CD’s, the one and only Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion if you prefer), released his own holiday anthem. And this includes a very unlikely cast of characters from the rap scene including Mase, P. Diddy, Salt N Peppa, and of course Snoop. While the title is Santa Baby, it’s a pretty loose interpretation of the original.This one’s a little more hardcore than Christmas in Hollis, with lines like “If I wasn’t a boy I wouldn’t have had nuthin’ to play wit” and “On December 25th I knew I wasn’t getting jack/When I saw Santa Claus on the corner buying crack.” Still, it’s a fresh take on a classic song and Snoop’s buttery-smooth vocals crooning “Cookies and milk/Satin and silk/I’m chillin’ in the living room, wrapped in a quilt,” are like sugarplums dancing on your eardrums.

Much to my delight, Cee-Lo Green dropped “Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment” a few weeks back. If your only experience with Cee-Lo’s music is Fuck You, don’t worry, this one album is completely kid-friendly. I wouldn’t even classify this as rap. “Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment” is actually a jazzy, upbeat album which deserves several slots in your holiday playlist. Likely you’ll recognize every song on the disc. The collaboration with Christina Aguilera on Baby it’s Cold Outside is amazing, and their crooning, overlapped back and forth is cool as the crisp wintery air on your windows. All I Need Is Love featuring the Muppets is also fairly amazing, and the kids will definitely love this one. There’s a nice mix of lighthearted tunes like I’ve mentioned and some more serious, somber tracks such as Mary Did you Know? and Silent Night, both ofwhich showcases Cee-Lo’s versatility as a musician.

If you’ve also got a wacky family like I do, you’ll appreciate Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas from the Family. It’s a hillbilly Christmas anthem complete with references to 7-11 runs to pick up Newports and tampons, and a list of holiday cocktails long enough to shame an Ernest Hemingway novella. Add the fact that Robert Earl Keen sounds wasted while singing, not entirely out of the realm of possibilities, and this is sure to get the party started.

Getting back to the hip hop Christmas songs, R.A. the Rugged Man and Mac Lethal just released a holiday song, “Crustified Christmas.” While it is absolutely hilarious, this one can be pretty offensive and is NOT for younger audiences. The zany lyrics are complimented by an instrumental of Sleigh Ride with an insanely catchy bassline thrown underneath. Be sure to give this a listen, but add it to your “naughty” Christmas playlist.

Lastly, although it’s not technically a song, I’d like to include the SNL skit “Dysfunctional Family Christmas.” It’s kind of the theme song for the holidays in my house. “Folks behaving infantile/Family Christmas time.” Could anyone sum it up better than that? The whole things is hilarious and all 2:21 of the skit will have you laughing until the tears roll. Highlights include “Daddy’s nose is red and runny/Daddy’s voice is gruff and funny/And the only words I can understand are ‘god’ and ‘damn’ and ‘Christmas’.” There’s also the classic “Leave me alone, please go away I’m doing fine just get away,” set to the tune of Carol of the Bells and dubbed The Carol of Intimacy. The only downside is that this was only a skit and never made into a full album. Otherwise I’d have totally purchased this disc to set the mood for each family holiday. Be aware that there is a country album of the same title which is not related. I only listened to a few 30-second samples on Amazon, and it was nowhere near as fantastic as its SNL predecessor.

Well, that’s my holiday playlist. If you feel I’ve left out any tracks, feel free to let me know. In the meantime, happy listening and happy holidays. If you’re stuck watching Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” for the umpteenth time, here’s some fun trivia for the whole family: Bing supposedly toked up with his good friend Louis Armstrong back in the day. And considering ol’ Satchmo’s horn-blowing capabilities, he could probably take a massive bong hit. So let the “Bong Crosby and Louis Armbong’s Magical Christmas” jokes flow. Leaves of green and a blanket of white assume a totally different meaning.