The Asylum Street Spankers
would not have been the first folk band to come to mind if I was thinking of artists I'd expect to record Christmas albums, but their 2001 release A Christmas Spanking
does a pretty fantastic job of delivering on the old standards and a few unexpected tunes, as well. Included here are re-arranged renditions of "Blue Christmas," "Baby It's Cold Outside," and "The Christmas Song," as well as some more obscure favorites like "Zat You, Santa Claus?" and "Mele Kalikimaka."
A Collection of Christmas Favorites
One of the finest moments on the disc is a clarinet-led instrumental version of "We Three Kings" (purchase/download
), which quickly takes off into a straight-up jazz credenza, before closing out in a vaguely dark and dreary finale. This is followed by "Silent Night" (purchase/download
) on musical saw. It's perhaps the most eerie and still beautiful version of the classic hymn imaginable, if brief.
Given the band's predisposition to silliness and experimentation, "The Christmas Song" (purchase/download) is an interesting and surprising selection. Performed exquisitely by vocalist Cristina Marrs with backing vocals by Wammo, with sparse, distant instrumentation, the tune comes across quiet and sincere.
Crazy Christmas Classics
Still, while the Spankers can clearly nail sentimental, it's nice to hear they didn't completely abandon their raucous romps for what could have been a sweet, fireside Christmas album. Instead, they threw in infectious good times with tunes like "Zat You, Santa Claus?" (purchase/download
Other notable crazy Christmas Classics come from album opener "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" (purchase/download), in which Wammo utilizes every gimmick his voice can deliver. "Mele Kalikimaka" (purchase/download) is a terrific turn on the Hawaiian Christmas song, driven heavily by Django Porter's electric guitar and a tremendous kazoo solo at the end.
Whether you're looking for a collection of non-traditional Christmas music or a handful of classic carols performed in new contexts, there's something for everyone on A Christmas Spanking.