When I say I hate holiday music with the heat of a thousand suns‚ it's not hyperbole. And I know for sure that I'm not alone on this subject. The downside is that‚ one of these days‚ some Macy's temp clerk is going to whip out a Glock and start firing into the crowd because the Little Drummer Boy went "rum pa pum pum" one too many times.
Jingle All the Way probably wasn't made with that scenario in mind. That said‚ Béla Fleck & the Flecktones have transported holiday classics light-years from "the traditional" while retaining the flavor of the original recordings. Those who love the standards can see them in a new light; those who are primed by December 25th to pistol-whip Burl Ives get some blessed relief; and the rest of us are reacquainted with things that have been beaten out of the season: Intimacy‚ and genuine fun!
Take‚ for example‚ "Twelve Days of Christmas." You knew the Flecktones were going to have fun with anything they played‚ but they seriously upped the degree-of-difficulty here‚ performing each day in a different key and in a different time signature! The lyrics to a Klezmer-fueled "Jingle Bells" are launched into space by the remarkable Tuvan throat singers Alash Ensemble. "Sleigh Ride" should be renamed "Kamikaze Bluegrass Sleigh Ride down a Mountain with No Brakes‚" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" becomes "6 Degrees of We Wish You‚" as Béla's bunch effortlessly runs six Christmas classics through the base tune.
It isn't all a goof: Klezmer aficionado Andy Statman contributes the somber traditional "Hanukkah Waltz" to the set. Edgar Meyer brings a classical touch to "O Come All Ye Faithful" and Bach's Christmas Oratorio‚ and the Flecktones give Vince Guaraldi's iconic soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas the big love it deserves. (Okay‚ some holiday music‚ I like! Get past it!)
Bing Crosby's fireplace and Trans-Siberian Orchestra's pyrotechnics may now proceed to the dustbin of history. Jingle All the Way is how holiday specials should be done! Now‚ where's that mistletoe?
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