Somehow, in the flurry of recordings that the Beach Boys made during the mid-'60s, the band found time to issue an entire album of Christmas songs, nearly half of them originals written by Brian Wilson. Released in October of 1964, The Beach Boys' Christmas Album remains one of the few holiday recordings that merits serious discussion as an album of new work, even warranting an expanded reissue with bonus cuts in 1991. However, that original work is beyond the scope of this review. Merry Christmas From the Beach Boys is merely an abridged version of the 1964 LP, featuring nine of the original 13 tracks in a budget-priced reissue for pennywise shoppers. While the reduction in size might seem unseasonably stingy, the reduction in cost makes this a purchase even Scrooge might consider. After all, budget-priced holiday cassettes and compact discs are often sold in nontraditional venues: supermarkets, convenience stores, etc. The target audience isn't looking for the alternate take of "Auld Lang Syne," they just want something to listen to in the car on the way back from the mall. In that respect, Merry Christmas From the Beach Boys is a satisfying impulse purchase. The orchestrations behind classics like "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" and "Frosty the Snowman" are dated and corny, but isn't that what Christmas music is all about? The originals are surprisingly effective given that surf music and Christmas aren't a natural fit. "Santa's Beard" and "Little Saint Nick" are classic rock 'n' Yule (right up there with the Kinks' "Father Christmas"), and the decision to write a song about a failed romance that may be redeemed by Christmas ("Merry Christmas, Baby") is pure genius. The rest of the material is good, standard Christmas fare, with the new twist being the boys' brilliant harmonies (e.g., "We Three Kings of Orient Are"). Merry Christmas From the Beach Boys has been reissued many times over the years, each time with a different cover (though the difference is sometimes slight). The sound quality is fine for holiday music, but Beach Boys fans may want to forgo this appetizer and splurge for The Beach Boys' Christmas Album or, better still, Ultimate Christmas.
AllMusic Review by Dave Connolly