christmas-tributeAbout two years ago, thanks to the Things We Said Today podcast, I learned of an album of Beatle-esque Christmas music, the Abbey Road Xmas Ensemble’s A Christmas Tribute to the Beatles.

(There’s also this one, The Liverpool Christmas Band’s Beatle-esque Christmas, which looks like it’s the same material, but with karaoke versions of the Christmas songs as well.)

With Christmas falling a week from today, I queued up the album over the weekend and listened to it, skipping the nine covers of Beatles songs because they’re really not necessary. The musicianship is fine, but the voices don’t sound a great deal like the Fab Four, some of the instruments sound weird (like, is that a synthesized harmonica?), and the distinctive guitar sounds of the Beatles, particularly George and Paul, aren’t recreated very well. The result is an album that sounds like it was inspired by the Beatles more than a “What if the Beatles made a Christmas album?” album.

At the time, I wrote of A Christmas Tribute to the Beatles:

The thirty tracks run 90 minutes total, and of the 30 tracks, nine of them are Beatles covers. (The 25-track version, Abbey Road Christmas, has five Beatles covers, by comparison. And one fewer version of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” as well.) The brain just goes numb. This is the kind of album that requires some DIY moxie — figure out the tracks you like and make a playlist of those in your mp3 player of choice, skipping entirely over the lesser tracks and Beatles covers. Whittled down to 12 tracks and a 40-minute running time, this could really soar.

Over the weekend, then, I did just that. Twelve tracks, less than 40 minutes.

My very edited version of A Christmas Tribute to the Beatles, with the Beatles inspiration where I could discern a direct correlation:

  1. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (“Hey Bulldog”)
  2. Silent Night
  3. Hark, The Herald Angels Sing (“Run for Your Life”)
  4. Last Christmas
  5. Blue Christmas (“Love Me Do”)
  6. Merry Xmas Everybody (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”)
  7. Mary’s Boy Child (“Please Please Me,” maybe?)
  8. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (“Things We Said Today”)
  9. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (“Good Night”)
  10. Merry Christmas Everyone (“Let It Be”)
  11. Wonderful Christmastime (“Love You To”)
  12. We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Some of the correlations aren’t perfect. “Happy Xmas,” for instance, starts out as one sort of thing and then turns into something like “Good Night” by the end. “Wonderful Christmastime” kicks off with the sitar riff from “Love You To,” but then it’s sung by a John soundalike rather than a George soundalike and is wildly psychedelic. (Honestly, I get more of an Oasis vibe from the song than a Beatles vibe.) These aren’t necessarily great versions of the songs, and this isn’t necessarily a great playlist, but for my needs this works. The psychedlic, sitar-heavy “Wonderful Christmastime” makes McCartney’s throwaway into something interesting and worthwhile. “Merry Christmas Everyone,” a Shakin’ Stevens song I wasn’t even aware of until two years ago, is a delight. At forty minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. There may be a better order, but this suffices.

There is, however, a Beatle-esque Christmas album I can wholeheartedly recommend — the Fab Four’s Hark!. I’ve bought this album twice, first in the two disc release by LaserLight fifteen years ago (bought at the Sam Goody’s on the lower floor of Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh shortly after I moved there), then in the single disc edition with bonus tracks almost ten years ago. I like it, it’s fun to listen to, and more evocative of the Beatles than A Christmas Tribute to the Beatles.

But both have their place in my collections, and as a Beatles fan, that’s fine. :)

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