A gift from my lovely wife for this year’s Christmas, I am a bit torn. I surely do love me some Blue Rodeo. But I don’t tend to like Christmas music. How will I do with this one?
First up is Jesus Christ, a Big Star song. I’m not an overly religious guy, but I can respect those who believe in this stuff. It’s an OK tune, nice to hear Greg Keelor’s voice, as usual. The tune plods a bit, but no matter. A decent opener.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is next, and the boys keep it soft and gentle. Simple arrangement, low-key instruments and a great piano part. Jim Cuddy’s voice stands out on top, and that’s a great thing, here.
Up next is Merle Haggard’s If We Make It Through December. Blue Rodeo was built to play this song, and it’s a pleasing country run through. Gotta love Merle.
We move on to Joni Mitchell’s River, with its Jingle Bells teaser intro. This really is a beautiful version. Pretty hard to muck up a Joni song, they’re built strong.
And now it’s my favourite-titled Christmas tune of all time, O Come All Ye Faithful. Yes, ye faithful, come as often as ye can! Give ‘er! Ahem. Anyway, they rock this hymn up, Blue Rodeo style. Cool enough but I’m not likely to play it much. I have lots of other songs of theirs built like this that don’t have a church hymn as the lyrics.
Now we’re hearing Paul Simon’s Getting Ready For Christmas Day. You should know, I generally dislike Paul Simon’s music. And it’s a Christmas song. That’s two heavy strikes against it. And how is it? It’s a fairly straight-on rock tune with lots of the BR instrumental accents, but it doesn’t change much so it’s a bit monotonous. It’s alright.
Now we have a remake of Glad To Be Alive (from Palace Of Gold). It sounds like… well, it sounds like Blue Rodeo. Imagine that! Very nice, it’s one I’d play again. I don’t own Palace Of Gold, but I surely should. [I’m actually missing several of their albums, so I need to get on that!]
And here is a new song written for this collection, Home To You This Christmas, and it’s Jim Cuddy in front of a mid-tempo BR song, with piano and steel guitar accents. This is actually quite awesome. Even the “doo doo doo doo” solo at the end, haha!
Gordon Lightfoot’s Song For A Winter’s Night has a special place in our lives, at our house. It was one of the songs that would help our daughter calm down when she was a baby and we had to put her in the car and drive her around to get her to sleep. Keelor makes a decent job of it. I can still only hear Gord’s version. The song is so GORD, a cover seems almost superfluous. Still, good on them for including it.
And last is Robbie Robertson’s Christmas Must Be Tonight, which they turn into a Blue Rodeo song, basically. Again with the Jesus in the manger lyrics, but there you go, that was Mr. Robertson’s choice.
The boys are stronger on their own stuff. Some of the covers are good, some just OK, but one still gets the sense they’re aware it’s a cover tune so they’re approaching it that way. Yes, they make them sound like themselves (how could they not), but it’s when they’re playing stuff they’ve written where they really stretch their legs and sound comfortable. I (personally) still have a hard time with the Christmas side of it. I just don’t go there with all those bible stories. Again, that’s my own lack of need for it, you’re all welcome to believe whatever you like.
This is a very good CD. Reading this back myself, I may have seemed a little critical of it, but as I prefaced this whole thing, I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas music to begin with, so that is a factor here. And you have to know by now that even fair-to-middling Blue Rodeo is ten times better than a lot of other music that’s out there. These guys are a superlative band, there’s no questioning their abilities as players. I liked this, but I’ll probably reach for other BR first. Maybe next Christmas I’ll give it another spin!