The Beach Boys Christmas Album remains a tremendously popular album since its release in late 1964. It is also a short album, even by 1960’s standards, clocking in at just over 27 minutes.
I have to admit that while the album does have some highlights it is one of my least favorite pre-Pet Sounds releases. I think of it as a pleasant pop album more than inspirational Christmas music. But hey, that’s just me and sales show that the album was a big seller.
I feel that the better songs were contained on side two of the original LP release. I purchased this LP when it was issued (what can I say? I’m old) and remember that I rarely played the first side.
The traditional “We Three Kings Of Orient Are” leads off with a Brian Wilson-Mike Love duet with overdubbed harmonies in support. The song is slowed down from the norm which gives it a different feel. The Beach Boys created one of the better versions of this old Christmas hymn which has probably been recorded a thousand or so times.
Brian Wilson provides two great lead vocals on “Blue Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” His clear high register voice has rarely sounded better and the other members provide subtle support. Brian Wilson’s interpretation of these two modern classic Christmas ballads remains poignant forty-four years later.
The Beach Boys Christmas Album ends with a traditional New Years Eve Song. “Auld Lang Syne” is a perfect vehicle for the Beach Boys to show how well their voices fit together. Time had not yet eroded any of the members’ vocal power and we are left with the Beach Boys at the top of their singing prowess.
Side one of the original LP begins with the two Beach Boys Christmas singles. “Little Saint Nick” was released in 1963 and added to this LP. Brian Wilson and Mike Love co-authored this simple yet eternally popular Christmas ditty. It remains a radio staple every December. “The Man With All The Toys” features a lead vocal duet between Brian and Mike. This is another simple song but does have an odd staccato refrain. Of interest is the song “Christmas Day” which features the first Al Jardine lead vocal of his Beach Boys career.
Later album notes show that Brian Wilson was less invested in this LP than the regular studio releases. He even brought in an outside arranger to work on some of the instrumental arrangements while he concentrated on the vocals. This division of duties shows as the vocals are, for the most part, of the usual Beach Boys caliber. The instrumental backing however, is inferior and more stripped down. It may be that Brian Wilson was just tired, as this was the Beach Boys fourth album release of 1964 and their eighth in 24 months.
Dispite my personal feelings, The Beach Boys Christmas album remains one of the groups more popular pre-Pet Sounds releases which is a testament to the pure voices that the members of the group possessed.