The Beach Boys'' first (and only released) Christmas album has been reissued on CD in several different versions over the years. Most of the previous CD editions featured the twelve original tracks as well as bonus tracks (and in a few cases, different titles and completely...
The Beach Boys'' first (and only released) Christmas album has been reissued on CD in several different versions over the years. Most of the previous CD editions featured the twelve original tracks as well as bonus tracks (and in a few cases, different titles and completely different artwork); this latest version (from 2011) contains the original artwork along with some extra art but no bonus tracks. Also, the original "album" version of "Little Saint Nick" has been replaced with the single version, which features some instrumentation that was removed when song was included on the original album.
This is really a very good album, but it''s very short without any bonus material (under 30 minutes). It is almost evenly split between more "rock"-styled recordings (the first five tracks) and more "traditional" performances, most of them with orchestration (the rest of the album).
The "rock" tracks are "original" songs (written either by Brian or by Brian with Mike). The best of these is "Little Saint Nick," followed closely by "Merry Christmas, Baby." (By the way, the single version of "Little Saint Nick" was actually originally released the year before the album came out.) "Santa''s Beard" is probably the third best original song. "Christmas Day" is O.K. but too short, at least lyric-wise. (Incidentally, the song features Al''s first lead vocal as a Beach Boy.) "The Man With All The Toys" is definitely too short both ways, and the lyrics that ARE there really don''t tell much of a story, at least not to me. I can''t help wondering why this song was released as a single instead of one of the other songs on the album.
The non-original songs, most of which appeared on side two of the album, are "standards" that you''d find on any number of other artists'' Christmas albums ("White Christmas," "Frosty The Snowman," "Blue Christmas," "I''ll Be Home For Christmas," "We Three Kings Of Orient Are," "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," and "Auld Lang Syne"). The orchestration that is featured on most of the "standard" songs is great and often beautiful, and the same can be said about the vocals on all of the album (hey, it''s the Beach Boys, so what would you expect?).
There is only one religious song, though ("We Three Kings"), and while it sounds beautifiul, it is a bit tedious. Also, the voice-over on the album closer, "Auld Lang Syne," kind of ruins the track, in my opinion. Including a "Merry Christmas/thank you" message to the fans was a nice thing to do, but it would have been better to place the message AFTER the song. (I must admit, though, that I find Dennis'' flubbed reading of the message --- "If you hap-[stammer] happen to be listening..." --- to be kind of charming! I also find it surprising that Brian, a perfectionist if ever there was one, apparently allowed this very noticeable flaw to slide!)
This is overall an enjoyable, often fun, often beautiful album, but as I said before, it''s very short without any bonus tracks.
The BEST CD version that has been put out is Ultimate Christmas, which features over a dozen bonus tracks, including a stereo mix of the single version of "Little Saint Nick"; a mix of "Auld Lang Syne" without the voice-over; the 1974 Christmas single "Child Of Winter"; several tracks from the shelved 1977 album Merry Christmas From The Beach Boys (that''s what I''ve read that the album was called, anyway), and more. Another CD version, Christmas With The Beach Boys, came out after that one; it includes all of the same bonus tracks as Ultimate Christmas except, for some reason, one of the Merry Christmas From... tracks ("Christmas Time Is Here Again," which I think is one of the best). If you can find the Ultimate Christmas CD for a good price, I would advise you to get it instead of this one; if you can''t get it, then get Christmas With The Beach Boys.
The WORST CD version that has come out, by the way (as far as I know), is a pathetic, chopped up version (also called Merry Christmas From The Beach Boys) that only includes nine of the original twelve songs (no other tracks), and in a different and bizarre running order. Whichever of the other reissues you get, that one should be avoided at all costs!
(I really don''t know why the original album, and the Ultimate Christmas and Christmas With... CDs do not include "The Lord''s Prayer," which was the B-side of "Little Saint Nick." I think it would have fit, even if it isn''t necessarily a Christmas or "holiday" track!)
An update regarding the mixes of the songs: Although Capitol seems to have made it a rule to include the "standard" songs in stereo on their reissues of the album (I don''t think that nine-track Merry Christmas From The Beach Boys was actually a Capitol concoction), they have been somewhat inconsistent in their presentations of the "original" songs. On Ultimate Christmas and Christmas With..., they presented ALL of the originals in STEREO. In fact, those two reissues are, as far as I know, the only ones on which they have done that. For this reissue, not only did they decide to replace the album version of "Little Saint Nick" with the single version, but they also chose to present it and the other originals ALL in MONO! So, the inclusion of ALL of the album tracks in STEREO on Ultimate Christmas and Christmas With The Beach Boys is another reason to get one of those reissues instead of the other ones, at least if you prefer stereo over mono! (However, one complaint I have is that, for some reason, on Ultimate Christmas, and I think also on Christmas With..., "We Three Kings" fades out on the acapella ending!) Maybe Capitol will eventually put out The Beach Boys'' Christmas Album on one of those mono album/stereo album reissue deals and satisfy the "mono" fans AND the "stereo" fans!
A further (but more minor) update: It''s actually the single version of "Little Saint Nick" that appears on the nine-track Merry Christmas From The Beach Boys. So, that release actually only has eight tracks from the original album!