VINYL VIEWS: WEEK OF 12/21/20 (Part I)
Vinyl Views is our weekly blog where we feature album recommendations from our store team (Shayne and Jaxon), and reveal picks from guest contributors.
Thankfully, the store has been really busy, but that means we have fallen behind on our Vinyl Views duties. To show you how thankful we are, we are going to feature 2 contributors this week.
Today’s edition features long-time friend of the store (and part-time elf), Gino Sigismondi. See what holiday cheer Gino brings us along with Shayne’s alter ego, “Self on the Shelf”. Tomorrow, Jaxon will pair up with our second secret contributor. It’s just like Christmas night…the anticipation!
Scroll down to read this week’s album picks or finish your holiday shopping! Looking for a prior week of Vinyl Views? If so, CLICK HERE!
Gino Sigismondi is a long-time friend of the store. He performs in several bands, including playing guitar with the band Ginger. Ginger is simply described as “Rock and Roll, Red Hair, and Pointy Guitars”. Enough said.
Last Christmas, Gino and friends performed live in store as The Kay-Marts, bringing us holiday joy with their surf-rock stylings of classic Christmas tunes. This video isn’t from that performance, but it gives you a little taste. Check it out.
Artist: Los Straitjackets
Album: ‘Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets
This is the story of how I ended up wearing an elf costume on stage. My company has a holiday party that is unlike anywhere else. Because the joint is rotten with talented musicians, the annual luncheon is followed by musical performances of varying styles and genres. Back in the old days (circa 1998), the de facto mastermind of this Yuletide freak-out was the inimitable Tim Vear (of Captain Rat and the Blind Rivets fame), a walking, talking encyclopedia of rock and roll Christmas songs and the king of cheap special effects. One year, he approached me with the idea of playing a couple tunes from The Ventures’ Christmas album – an amalgam of surf-guitar and famous riffs from 60’s rock tunes (including the well-known version of “Sleigh Ride” grafted onto their own “Walk, Don’t Run”). So we dubbed ourselves the “Kay-marts” (get it?) and picked a handful of tunes. It was…fine, but something was missing. The following year, we added a new arrangement of our own, playing “Little Drummer Boy” in the style of Dick Dale’s “Miserlou.” I was feeling pretty proud of myself for thinking this up, when I stumbled across a review of the first Los Straitjackets Christmas album, whom I was unfamiliar with at this point, but it caught my eye because it supposedly included a version of “Little Drummer Boy” in the style of Dick Dale! Seriously? The Best Buy near us had the CD in stock, so I ran over there to grab it. Thankfully, they had taken the approach of subdued, low-key, Dick Dale instead of the furiously tremolo-picked version we were doing. But thank God I bought this album, because Los Straitjackets are freaking geniuses! If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for bands with good schtick, and these luchadore-mask wearing, surf-guitar wielding weirdos are right up my alley. They followed the Ventures’ playbook, combining familiar holiday tunes with classic rock and roll riffs, including a cover of the Ventures’ “Sleigh Ride.” But the “a-ha” moment, courtesy of the Straitjackets, was the realization that the Kay-marts needed a shtick. Leave it to Tim Vear, but by the next year we were wearing elf costumes and playing miniature instruments. And the year after that, standing in gift-wrapped boxes with little elf shoes on top, and ultimately, performing “The Chipmunk Song” in 3-part harmony through a pitch-shifter (brought the house down every year…). We were honored to bring this seasonal silliness to Val’s stage last year, and though disappointed that 2020 wouldn’t allow for it, we hope to be back next year!
Check out the track Little Drummer Boy.
Artist: Rob Halford
Many heavy metal artists have tried their hand at Christmas music, with varying degrees of success. It usually works best when it comes from unexpected places with tongue firmly planted in cheek (King Diamond or Spinal Tap’s “Christmas With the Devil”), but more often than not falls below expectations. (Despite the melodic similarities of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” Twisted Sister’s Christmas album was pretty forgettable). The exception comes via Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, who’s 2019 album “Celestial” took me completely by surprise. This is actually his second Christmas album, but somehow the first one flew completely under my radar. Despite the expected adaptations of familiar Yuletide favorites, what sets this record apart is that the original songs (which, 99% of the time, fall flat – name a new Christmas original that’s become part of the “canon” since “All I Want for Christmas Is You”) are actually quite good! “Donner and Blitzen” could easily have been lifted from Priest’s most recent release, “Firepower,” galloping along with chugging riffs and sneering vocals. Other highlights include “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” which borrows the riff from Ozzy’s “I Don’t Know” and concludes with one of Halford’s trademark shrieks. “Deck the Halls,” one of the thrashiest tracks here, puts a dark twist on the familiar “fa la las” by transposing that section into a minor key – it’s truly ill and supremely entertaining. The album reaches its festive climax with a truly epic take on “Good King Wenceslas” that builds like a modern-metal “Stairway to Heaven.” All hail the high Priest of holiday heaviness!
Check out the track Good King Wenceslas.
Artist: Phil Spector
Album: A Christmas Gift For You
I really didn’t want to include something so obvious, but how can this not make everyone’s list of favorite Christmas records? Honestly, it was a toss-up between this and “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” but in keeping with the rock and roll theme, what brings tidings of comfort and joy more than an album produced by a gun-wielding, psychotic control freak? So much has been written about this record already that all I can add are my personal highlights:
• A signature version of “Sleigh Ride” that changes keys incessantly and never gets to the bridge: “Phil, how come we don’t sing the ‘giddy-up let’s go’ section?” “Because I’m Phil Spector!”
• Ronnie Spector’s “whoa’s” at the end of “Frosty the Snowman” give me chills every listen.
• Darlene Love’s “Christmas” may well be the greatest Christmas song ever recorded, and as far as I’m concerned, her performance and this tune are inseparable. Nobody else’s version can touch it. The raw emotion in her voice and sound of the mic preamps distorting when she really lays into it…untouchable. The best Christmas songs are those that couple a slight sense of melancholy and longing with a dash of hope (see Charlie Brown above). Baby, please come home!
• And who can forget Phil Spector’s moving spoken word message set over “Silent Night” that closes the album?
(Ok, I’m kidding about that last one…)
Check out the track Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).
Artist: Alien Sex Fiend
Album: Singles 83-95
I’ve kept Alien Sex Fiend in the chamber throughout Vinyl Views existence, Tap-danced around them with Specimen and what/not. Jaxon as well, both of us agreeing that this needs to be “My Christmas Pick.” While lyrically it is more of a Christmas song, this is kind of a Thanksgiving staple for me while cooking. I meant to have this as my last post as “The Casserole” but we were blessedly too busy (not a bad problem to have!) This one was always meant to do double-duty so it all works out.
I have more to say about Alien Sex Fiend themselves but will save that for a future entry.
Post Credit Scene: Alien Sex Fiend will return.
Album: Excelsis Vol. 2 (A Winter’s Song)
I don’t have much to say about this delicious cover of the Lennon classic other than that, between the two of us, Cristina and I amassed a truly impressive collection of goofy goth shit! I can’t even claim to be a fan of Cruxshadows in general, but I absolutely love this song!
Check out the track Happy Xmas (War Is Over).
Artist: Type O Negative
Album: October Rust
If you’re not listening to the same stuff while remaining festive holiday to holiday than baby, you just ain’t Goth enough. I couldn’t exclude Type O from my month of “Spoopy’s” and despite the fast turnaround, I can’t exclude them here either. “The stockings were hung but who cares, reserved for those no longer there.” “Goddamn ye Merry Gentlemen.” After Black #1 this is to my mind the best example of how brilliant their satire really was.
Check out the track Red Water (Christmas Mourning).
We missed a few weeks there (thanks to you all being wonderful) and “Self On The Shelf is not one to ignore good deeds. So, enjoy a few fun (not so goth) tunes as well!
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!