The original Ventures Christmas album, from 1966 (and still in print), ranks as one of the greatest rock-and-roll holiday discs ever. Not only did they turn all the songs into surf instrumentals, they wrapped each one around the main riff of a then-current hit ó revealing, for instance, that the Beatlesí "I Feel Fine" had more in common with "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" than anybody wanted to admit.
Three and a half decades later comes this follow-up featuring three-quarters of the same band (Leon Taylor has taken his late dad Melís place on drums, and late-í60s lead-guitarist Gerry McGee plays alongside Nokie Edwards, whom he originally replaced). But you wouldnít expect (or even want) these old surfers to learn an albumís worth of current hits. So they play it relatively straight this time. Itís a lower-key album than its predecessor, heavier on traditional carols. Yet despite some unwelcome keyboards and an overeager jingle-bell player, they havenít given in to schmaltz. "Silent Night" and "O Holy Night" allow the underrated McGee to play it slow and pretty, with plenty of tremolo. For fans of the 1966 album, "Joy to the World" and "O Christmas Tree" are worked into the riffs from "Pipeline" and "Walk Donít Run," respectively, And "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" shows whatís kept the Ventures afloat for four decades ó their ability to make a surf instrumental out of absolutely anything.