Oh, a Christmas album. Yes, in the classic Christmas spirit John released an 8-song Christmas album for the cost of a full-length release. It’s a Christmas miracle!
Hey, maybe you’re super into the yule spirit and this is right up your stylistic alley, but if that’s the case then are you sure you’re on the right website? I do not have happy scrappy Christmas memories. For me, Christmas is the time when most of my friends and my girlfriend are out of town and I walk abandoned streets recording empty parking lots and shivering. Then it signifies the real start of winter, when all the holidays are soon to be over and it’s about four long, dark months until it’s pleasant to be outside again. When I was young, Christmas was equal parts gifts and my family hating each other, and I think the whole Santa Claus lying-to-your-kids is heinous bullshit aimed at protecting not our kids’ innocence but our own parental need to believe in the myth of our children’s innocence. And if you do belong to a happy family that celebrates happy Christmases then I don’t think what you need is yet another cheerful reminder of the joys of the happiest day of the year, you need an album celebrating February 16th instead.
But no. Here’s another cheeseball celebration of the magic of snow and Santa, all for the low, low price of your own dignity. Prine actually throws in three of his own songs in live variations, and they’re easily the best things on here. “All the Best” even has a neat short story at the start, while “Christmas in Prison” is sung in a wonderful tired smoking-too-long lower registry thing that totally works. But then you have three stupid Christmas standards, all about how great it is that Christmas is coming and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” which assumes that kids understand that infidelity is wrong before they doubt the existence of a magical man who comes rich kids’ chimneys to give them gifts. Then there’s the boring “If I Were the Woman And You Were the Man,” a duet which bravely wonders if the other would act like an occupant of the observe gender if they were indeed of said obverse gender. Then there’s a silly campfire story of Prine’s origin story and a cute ending, but come on here.
It’s hard to understand an album going from “Kids don’t know / They can only guess / How hard it is to wish you happiness” to “I just love Christmas! / It’s so neat!” in only a few songs, but the first quote is present on “The Missing Years.” But that instead. JP’s a terrific songwriter when he puts together his solemnity and his sense of humour and his melodic sense, but this is a bunch of meh about family memories that I have no patience for (mostly because they make me sad). Christmas isn’t magic, it’s just a day where people who care about each other continue to care about each other and people who don’t love each other pretend that they do. If jingle bells make you misty then go play in the snow while the sun sets at 4:30. Personally, I’m fine hearing a city be as quiet as Anne Frank’s drum kit, and I don’t like a bunch of boring Christmas songs telling me how joyful I need to be.
“All The Best” and “Christmas in Prison” are still really good, though.