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Christmas Time Again

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Album Review

For fans of smart, hooky pop who imagine the Carolinas to be the musical center of the universe, the Chris Stamey Group's 1986 holiday EP Christmas Time was a truly happening yuletide gift from the former leader of the dB's, and in 1993 the disc was reissued on CD in expanded form, with the track count jumping from seven to 16 tunes. In 2006, Collectors Choice Music has given this album its third incarnation as Christmas Time Again, with three songs dropped from the 1993 version and eight more added, equaling 21 seasonal tunes from various pop-meisters for the delectation of aging hipsters everywhere. The tunes comfortably move back and forth between the clever and the sentimental, with "You're What I Want for Christmas," "Sha La La," and "Holiday Spirit" (the latter featuring an enthusiastic chorus of "Gimme gimme gimme!") sounding like manna from heaven for power pop fans as Alex Chilton's version of "The Christmas Song" and Don Dixon's soulful take on "I Saw Three Ships" find an ideal middle ground between the traditional and the modern. A number of newer tracks have been added for this edition, including Marshall Crenshaw's great and bluesy "(It's Going to Be A) Lonely Christmas," an alternate version of Whiskeytown's "Houses on the Hill" (which barely has anything to do with Christmas, but sounds fine in this context), a new dB's cut called "Home for the Holidays," and another great song from Dixon, "Christmas Is Saturday." While the ambient and meandering "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Snow Is Falling" close out Christmas Time Again on a less than impressive note, most of this album is good and spirited fun, and who knew the dB's could record a version of "Feliz Navidad" that would rival the seemingly definitive interpretation by El Vez? Good Christmas fun for the new wave guy or gal in your life.


Formed: 1978 in Winston-Salem, NC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Playing sharp, tuneful songs with a hint of psychedelia and some challenging melodic angles, the dB's were the band that bridged the gap between classic '70s power pop (defined by bands such as Big Star, Badfinger, and the Scruffs) and the jangly new wave of smart pop, personified by R.E.M. And while the dB's spent the bunk of their career living and working on the East Coast, they were the among the first and most important representatives of the Southern branch of the new wave;...
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