Brian Setzer takes his horn-fueled big band on a sleigh ride into Christmas/holiday music with generally impressive results. Meshing his rockabilly guitar solos with brassy charts and a lounge/Vegas sensibility that is part tribute and part retro characterization, Setzer dusts off and polishes up obscure nuggets like Kay Starr's "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With the Bag" and Lionel Hampton's swinging "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus." He rocks up played-out chestnuts "Winter Wonderland" and "Jingle Bells," slightly altering the latter's lyrics to, "Oh what fun it is to ride in a '57 Chevrolet." Elvis' "Blue Christmas" succeeds despite, or maybe because of, its obvious inclusion, narrowly missing a parody of the original due to Setzer's reverb-heavy guitar solo. A rough, blues-heavy "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" successfully kicks the tune into classic urban R&B territory, with the bandleader's guitar getting down and dirty and the horns blasting away like Doc Severinsen's orchestra. Ann Margaret sounds a little tentative playing the sultry sex kitten next to Setzer's slick Bobby Darin on a nevertheless frisky duet romp through "Baby It's Cold Outside." But the album's obvious highlight is an intricately rearranged, instrumental big band blowout of "The Nutcracker Suite," originally written for Les Brown's orchestra in the '50s. It displays the group's stop-on-a-dime chops and swings like mad. A 30-piece choir backs Setzer doing his best Presley mannerisms on a smarmy "O Holy Night" and closes the album on a serious note with a prayerful "The Amens."
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz