The idea here is great, the execution not so much. This is essentially John Mueller's gig, abetted by bandmates Jay Richardson & Ray Anthony and then nine sessioneers (including Wayne Peet!). The Winter Dance Party combo is enamored of 50s era music, particularly Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. Unfortunately, that devotion is slavish and the performance the result of much enthusiasm but just as much amateurism...in an uneven recording. I'd say the vocals are the chief culprit but that would be wrong: pretty much everything is.
A tribute is supposed to call into play the current musicians' interpretational talents, not tear elements tooth and jowl from the originals with heedless pointless abandon. One of my fave modern Xmas songs is Jose Feliciano's Feliz Navidad, which here is set to La Bamba, a collision so jarring that the listener never recovers from the first few measures. Little Town of Bethlehem is forced into a Becky Sue cadence, the guitar horrifically recessed and the rhythms skewered. Some of the other takes are pretty straightforward, Silent Night and such, and a couple aren't bad, but, overall, ouch!
I mentioned Wayne Peet, a cool jazz and fusion player (check out 1994's Fully Engulfed), but his engineering here is mostly mediocre, occasionally bad. My only advice would be that he stick to the keyboards and tackle the pan pots only on his own own stuff. A little hint for the rest of the cats: if you want to see one of the few times 50s music was handled well outside its own time (an era we're very thankfully rid of), listen to Willie and the Poor Boys, where Gary Brooker and Co. rock the living hell out of the medium in a dynamically updated context.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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