For anyone who'd lost track of John Prine after the 1970s, the idea of a rather cynical singer/songwriter recording a holiday album must have seemed a rather odd one. But Prine, while never relinquishing his wry sense of humor, had mellowed quite a bit since writing about getting kicked off of Noah's ark in "Sweet Revenge." Besides, by 1988 he had his own record company, and it's always nice to have a perennial favorite in the catalog. The first two songs are originals and are probably the best songs on the album, with Prine once again offering his observations on relationships gone sour. The first, though, surprisingly relates that even though the narrator's girl dumped him a year ago on Christmas, he's learned to go on with his life. The bitterness, however, creeps back in to "All the Best." Prine opens this live piece with a funny monolog about him and a friend nailing a train set to the dining room table, and then delves into a sad story of love thrown away like yesterday's Christmas tree. He also includes a new version of "Christmas in Prison," a solid song from his third album, Sweet Revenge. The remainder of the album is filled with holiday classics, including a fun take on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." The downside of the album is that it's awful short -- 32 minutes -- and even then, one of the songs -- a duo with Margo Timmins on "If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man" -- doesn't even come close to fitting the holiday spirit (though it may have fit on the Dirty Santa soundtrack). Still, this isn't the run-of-the-mill holiday product, and Prine can still write a good song when he sets his mind to it. Old fans will be glad to see that even cynics can age gracefully.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.