The Beatles never quite made a commercially released Christmas album, though they put together special singles for their fan club every year from 1963 to 1969, then compiled them as The Beatles Christmas Album, also just for the fan club, in 1970. These recordings were more spoken-word than musical, though there was a song, "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)," heard in excerpts on the 1967 record. It has been left to Ringo Starr to release the first full-length Christmas album from a Beatle, and I Wanna Be a Santa Claus is very much in the group's spirit. Since he returned to recording in 1992, Starr has made a point of making music reminiscent of the Beatles, hooking up in 1998 with a group led by Mark Hudson dubbed the Roundheads. Hudson is everywhere on I Wanna Be a Santa Claus, co-writing the half-dozen originals with Starr and others, co-producing with Starr, and handling a variety of instruments. He and keyboard player/arranger Jim Cox clearly are steeped in the Beatles, and they have effectively recreated a Beatles sound on the record, in some cases aping specific songs. The Roundheads are also good at showcasing Starr's drumming, which is always high in the mix. If none of the new songs are likely to become classics, they are respectable efforts that Starr handles well. On the standards, Starr is his usual good-natured self, and the standout track is the cover of "Christmas Time Is Here Again." There are precious few lyrics besides the title, but it deserves to be added to the ranks of Christmas standards. So, Ringo Starr is well-served by his supporting musicians on I Wanna Be Santa Claus, and his typically cheery manner is so well-suited to the holiday spirit that it's only a shame he waited so long to make his seasonal recording.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann