Beach Boys – Christmas Harmonies (review)

Beach Boys – Christmas Harmonies (Capitol) review

One of rock’s best holiday albums gets re-sequenced with some added tracks

The Beach Boys’ original Christmas Album (see review here) from 1964 stands as one of rock’s finest Christmas records.  It’s the perfect mix of rockin’ originals and string-laden classics.  Plus, there’s a youthful exuberance that you can’t get anywhere else.  The guys attempted another Yuletide record in 1977, but it didn’t get released til much later as The Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas.  But, a lot of those tracks just aren’t that good.  What Christmas Harmonies attempts to do is grab a few of the later tracks and add them to mix for what could be the finest Beach Boys holiday album yet.  But is it?

Unlike the original 1964 album which started with the originals “Little Saint Nick” and “Man With All the Toys,” this collection begins with standards – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “White Christmas” all come from side two of the original album featuring orchestration.  That’s followed by the mono version of their stone-cold classic “Little Saint Nick,” and “Christmas Day,” another original song, then more orchestration in “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”  The problem is, the rock material is in mono, while the orchestrated stuff is in stereo – making for an odd listening experience.

We sent an email to Beach Boys’ engineer/curator Mark Linett asking about the mono/stereo issue and got this reply:

“For many years the Beach Boys “rock” tracks have been presented in mono while the tracks with the orchestra have been stereo”

The other thing is that with the originals and standards all jumbled up, it doesn’t flow as well as the original LP.

But, the real problem is that the later, 70’s material, just doesn’t stand up.  “Child of Winter / Here Comes Santa Claus” goes for humor but falls flat, “Melekalikimaka” tries to revisit their early hit “Hawaii,” and “I Saw Santa Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is cute, but doesn’t really rock.  The bottom line is, the Beach Boys were 15 years older when they recorded those tracks, and it sounds like it.

Christmas Harmonies contains all 12 of the tracks from the original album, so if you want to grab this one – you’ll be fine.  But, the addition of the three extra tracks add nothing to make it any better.  This is definitely a case of less is more – stick with the original Beach Boys Christmas Album.  –Tony Peters