Chris Stamey Group

Christmas Time

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This release offers a timeless collection of holiday pop originals and traditional covers perfectly suited to enthusiasts of '80s jangle pop bands such as the dB's and Let's Active. Christmas Time (1985) is a sound alternative to the vast majority of the seasonal saccharine that has rarely been known to contribute in any significant way to an artist's overall catalog. Although the original seven-song LP and title track were credited to the Chris Stamey Group, the aggregate featured here is none other than his former dB's mates Gene Holder (guitar/bass), Will Rigby (drums), Jeff Beninato (bass), and Peter Holsapple (guitar/vocals). In an interesting sidebar, the Miller Beer Company paid for a day of recording at Bearsville Studios, in exchange for using the group's likeness in a photo shoot for a two-page color center spread that eventually appeared in Rolling Stone magazine. Although the title track "Christmas Time" was documented at that session, the advert ultimately featured a shot snapped during the playback for an unfinished and unreleased cover of "Suspicious Minds" cut later that day. Credited as simply the dB's, the band also contributes an additional pair of tunes. The uptempo and punkish "Holiday Spirit" is a full-tilt pop/rocker highlighted by the keen-toned dual fretwork of Holzapple, the song's author, and Stamey. The cover of José Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" is somewhat less intense and with its party atmosphere is a fun musical diversion -- notable for Rigby's highly underrated drumming. The album features a few other gems as well. Chief among them is a duet featuring Stamey and the multifaceted producer/musician Wes Lachot on "Christmas Is the Only Time (I Think of You)" -- which is a blend of a Beatlesque melody, Byrds-like chord changes, and a Jeff Lynne-influenced harmonic arrangement. The trippy techno-inspired "Snow Is Falling" is another Stamey original and also features Mary Mac (bass/keyboard/vocal). Another not to be missed contribution is from vocalist Syd Straw, an irony-laden cover of Blondie's "(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear."

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