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VINYL VIEWS: WEEK OF 12/21/20 (Part 2)

Vinyl Views is our weekly blog where we feature album recommendations from our store team (Shayne and Jaxon), and reveal picks from guest contributors.  This week we are bringing 2 Vinyl Views to you (to make up for our slacking the last couple of weeks).  In Part 2, Mary Kroeck returns and shares some of her holiday favorites. 

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Mary Kroeck is back with some holiday music recommendations because at least a quarter of her music collection consists of Christmas music. This time, Mary wanted to share three brand new 2020 Christmas albums because if you don’t already own staples like Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas,” Boyz II Men’s “Christmas Interpretations,” or Mary J. Blige’s “A Mary Christmas,” call Val’s and order them ASAP. These new holiday releases shine bright in a strange year. You can also read about her favorite 2020 releases in her previous contribution to Vinyl Views. Happy Holidays!

Artist: Goo Goo Dolls
Album: It’s Christmas All Over

The Goo Goo Dolls are one of my all-time favorite bands, so adding this record to the list was a no-brainer, but also a teeny bit biased. That being said, this “It’s Christmas All Over” is the Goo Goo Dolls record I never expected, but am glad exists. It’s genuinely good. Okay, if I’m truly being critical, it’s just the right amount of holiday cheese. The album opens with a cover of Tom Petty’s rockin’ “Christmas All Over” and features classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and Alvin and The Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late.” Though, I’m partial to the band’s original release of “Better Days,” if you like hearing kids sing, you might appreciate the new rendition performed by 7-year-old Sydney McGorman (daughter of co-producer Jimmy McGorman). The album is rounded out with “The Christmas Party,” a jazzy instrumental medley of seven holiday standards, including “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” However, what really shines on this record are the band’s originals. The ballad “This is Christmas” has that signature Goo Goo Dolls sound. “You Ain’t Getting Nothin’” feels like it was pulled straight from an updated version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” In addition to the album, the band has produced an augmented reality movie musical, “It’s Christmas All Over with the Goo Goo Dolls,” which is being shown at select drive-ins across the country and can be viewed with a monthly subscription to FanTracks, an on-demand streaming platform for classic live concerts.

Check out the track This is Christmas.

Artist: Leslie Odom Jr.
Album: The Christmas Album

Leslie Odom Jr. is probably best known for his role as Aaron Burr in the original Broadway cast of “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Since leaving the show, he’s been quite busy. He wrote a book (“Failing Up,” 2018), released an original solo album, (“Mr.” 2019) and starred in a number of television shows and movies. He was scheduled to tour in support of “Mr.” this year, but 2020 being 2020, he recorded “The Christmas Album” instead–and thank goodness he did. Though this is not Odom’s first go at a holiday album (the first being “Simply Christmas,” 2016, and a deluxe edition released in 2017), “The Christmas Album” is like a warm hug for your spirit that comes through your ears. From holiday standards, like “O Holy Night” and “Auld Lang Syne” to the Hanukkah tune, “Ma’oz Tzur,” Odom’s voice is smooth as silk. The album also includes two new songs co-written by Odom: the get-up-and-dance-in-your-kitchen, “Snow,” and the stunningly beautiful ballad, “Heaven and Earth.” In a collaboration with the renowned South African Mzansi Youth Choir, Odom delivers one of the best renditions of “Little Drummer Boy” I’ve ever heard. In short, add this album to your collection immediately. I can’t stop listening to it, and, honestly, don’t want to.

Check out the track: The whole album. For real. If I have to pick one, “Snow.” (I don’t like the “s” word, so that says a lot.)

Check out the track Snow.


Artist: Jamie Cullum
Album: The Pianoman at Christmas

Jamie Cullum could have easily done a record of holiday covers and jazzed them up with his pop-jazz style. Yet, when 2020 is 2020, what does Jamie Cullum do? He releases a double album of almost all original holiday music of course. The English singer-songwriter’s ninth studio record is his first holiday collection and it does not disappoint. You can snap your fingers and (if you’re daring) maybe do the jitterbug to a tune or two. Songs like “The Jolly Fat Man” and “So Many Santas” are fun, and funny while numbers like “Beautiful, Altogether” and “How Do You Fly?” are heartwarming. There’s also something beautifully real about the fact that, according to his interview in American Songwriter, Cullum wrote the songs for this record in the time between his kids’ homeschooling sessions. If you’re looking for a holiday album that can make you dance, there are plenty of tracks on the record to do just that.

Check out the track Hang Your Lights.


Artist: James Brown
Album: James Brown’s Funky Christmas

This is one of the Christmas albums that is on constant repeat at our house this time of the year. There are so many family memories tied to these songs. With tracks like “Go Power at Christmas Time” and “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”, you just can’t do better than this. A little funk, a little, soul, and all James Brown. This is hands down my favorite Christmas album, and I don’t think any other will take its spot.

Check out the track Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year.


Artist: Duke Ellington Orchestra
Album: Nutcracker Suite

While James Brown’s album is the Christmas album most played at my house, this one is a close second. This is a wonderfully magical interpretation of the classic ballet. While being very upbeat and swingy, the hazy dream-like quality of the music does not get washed away. I would highly recommend you check this one out.

Check out the track Peanut Brittle Brigade (March).


Artist: The Sonics, The Wailers, and The Galaxies
Album: Merry Christmas

This album is a high-energy blast of Christmas joy. It’s simple, fun, and has goofy lyrics. What else do you want in a Christmas song? These guys kept their songs short so I will keep my review short. Check this one out.

Check out the track Don’t Believe in Christmas.

How Do I Order Music (Or Other Things)?

Val’s is now open again (safely)! Bring a face mask and we will sanitize your hands on the way in.  Social distancing, of course.  Val’s halla has worked hard over this quarantine period to launch its Online Store which has thousands of titles for you to choose from.  We will continue to add inventory everyday, but just let us know what you are looking for!  We are happy to look through our off-line inventory of over 50,000 titles to see what we have for you.  Also, we place orders with our distributor every Monday which means we see them in our store by Tuesday (most of the time).  We sell records (as well as turntables), CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, DVDs and more.  To get started, you can Click Here to access the Online Store, or fill out the form below to let us know what you are looking for.

What About Delivery?

Val’s is offering Curbside Pickup and No-Contact Delivery Service to customers who live within a 5-mile radius of the Oak Park Arts District. Orders can also be shipped to customers outside that radius for a flat fee of $5.  Order as much as you want – still $5 shipping! Stay safe and be well!

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