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[Off The Record]
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38 Special
A WILD-EYED CHRISTMAS NIGHT
(CMC INTERNATIONAL)

With a few notable exceptions, like the Phil Spector classic and the beautiful one the Roches did a few years back, the standard rule for Christmas albums is, "The sillier the better." By that standard, 38 Special do fine, raising more hell and firing up more slide guitar than Lynyrd Skynyrd did on their low-key seasonal disc last year. Four of the 10 tracks are originals, and it sounds as if theyíd got halfway through the album before realizing that the songs had to be about Christmas. So we get "Wild-Eyed Christmas Night" and "Hallelujah, Itís Christmas," both prime examples of the boozy Southern boogie thatís been out of fashion far too long. They get all sentimental at the end, writing the requisite tearjerker about Mom and doing a pair of carols in traditional style: the bluegrass "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" is nice enough, but the gospel-esque "O Holy Night" leaves you waiting for a "Free Bird"Ėstyle finale that never comes.

The rest is just fine, with "Jingle Bell Rock" getting the rowdiest treatment itís ever had and "Little Drummer Boy" done with unlikely synths and drum machines. Proving that their hearts are in the right place, 38 Special also remake two songs from Elvis Presleyís 1956 Christmas album, and if their version of "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" isnít quite as sexy, at least itís a whole lot louder. Extra points for the cover, which features the tackiest artwork (bloodshot eyeballs hanging from a tree) of any Christmas disc in history.

BY BRETT MILANO

Issue Date: December 20 - 27, 2001

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