I first learned of this album over at FaLaLaLaLa.com where The King of Jingaling posted a very nice review. To quote:
"This is probably like no other Christmas album I've heard (and suffice it to say I've heard quite a few). That's because it is a 'rock' Christmas album that has the spirit and tone of a classic vocal Christmas LP of the fifties or sixties.
"Mann avoids the temptation of so many modern artists to put out a Christmas album with big band arrangements that ape the classics. Instead she sticks with sounds that she knows well (provided by some of her old friends, including Patrick Warren). And the results are warm and sublime."
Based on the King's recommendations, I put this one on my list of CDs to search for. On Christmas morning, it was under my tree courtesy of my beautiful wife who eagerly wanted to listen as well, being a child of the 1980s.
However, I've kept the CD in its shrink wrap... until now.
I tend to shy away from reviews in general (ironic, huh?) because I'd rather read, listen, or watch something on my own to form my own opinion. Only then I would go back and read the reviews to see if our opinions were the same or different.
My dilemma is I read the King's review first, it's from someone whose music my wife have always enjoyed, and it's a Christmas CD. Add to this that about 97 percent of the reviews on this yuleblog have been favorable, bordering on gushing.
That's the main reason why it's stayed sealed. I will listen to the first notes for the first time since I received it while I review it. Will this change my opinion? Probably not... but it's my way of trying to keep my objectivity on an even keel.
Several things you may or may not know about Aimee Mann:
- Aimee Mann was born in Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Attended the Berklee College Of Music and later dropped out to sing with The Young Snakes in the early 1980s.
- Teamed with classmate & then-boyfriend Michael Hausman to form 'Til Tuesday in 1983.
- 'Til Tuesday's 1985 album "Voices Carry" was their breakthrough album, reaching #8 with the title song (rumored to be about Mann & Hausman's break-up).
- The "Voices Carry" video became a MTV staple and won them "Best New Artist" at the MTV Video Awards.
- Aimee sang backup vocals on the Rush song "Time Stand Still" and appears in their video.
- By 1986, Mann wrote most of the songs for their second album - "Welcome Home".
- Their lead single "What About Love" only reached #26 on the charts.
- In 1987, Epic Records released Mann's first Christmas related track.
- 'Til Tuesday's final album was 1988's "Everything's Different Now", peaking at #124 on the album chart, and breaking up shortly thereafter.
- In 1988, Epic Records released Mann's second Christmas related track.
- After the breakup, Hausman became Aimee's personal manager.
- She met future husband Michael Penn around the time of the breakup as well.
- Mann's first solo release (1993's "Whatever") failed due to the collapse of its record label.
- Geffen Records released her 1995 critically acclaimed album "I'm With Stupid".
- Mann & Penn teamed in 1996 to record "Christmastime" for the "Just Say Noël" compilation.
- Aimee & Michael married in 1997.
- Mann's 3rd album was "Bachelor #2" which Interscope Records (who swallowed Geffen) refused to release.
- Penn, Hausman, and Mann formed United Musicians, which allows an artist freedom and control over what they record, and self released "Bachelor #2" on Aimee's own label (SuperEgo Records).
- Aimee contributed several songs to the 1999 film "Magnolia"
- In 2002, Aimee released her 4th solo record "Lost In Space" and released a "Lost In Space Special Edition" the following year at her website.
- Aimee & Michael contributed a Beatle cover ("Two Of Us") to the movie soundtrack of "I Am Sam".
- Aimee contributed a Beatle cover ("Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds") to the European movie soundtrack of "I Am Sam".
- Mann's 5th solo release was "Live at St. Ann's Warehouse", a live album/DVD in 2004.
- Mann's 6th solo release was "The Forgotten Arm", a concept album set in the 1970s about two lovers on the run.
- In 2005, Aimee released an EP of Christmas songs at her website and on iTunes (adding this to my list). Last year, she released the album you see before you.
1.) Whatever Happened To Christmas?
This version of this great Christmas song far outdistances the original recording by Frank Sinatra no less!
2.) The Christmas Song
Mann's voice is still haunting. Need proof? Listen to this one!
This stripped down version is nice but I still like the "Just Say Noël" comp version better.
4.) I'll Be Home For Christmas
Slight strings, longing in the guitars, the voice of Aimee drifting across the speakers. Magnificent.
5.) You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Take some dramatic recitations of Dr. Seuss from Grant-Lee Phillips, add Aimee's sultry voice, and you've got a great new take on this Christmas classic!
6.) Winter Wonderland
Aimee cleverly rearranges this song (the intro comes in the middle of the song!), giving us a brilliant new version of this song.
7.) Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Well done version of this song... however, it's starting to sound all the same.
8.) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
WOW! Forget what I just said. This one sounds more like "The Little Drummer Boy"! What a track!
9.) White Christmas
Soft and lovely... Irving Berlin would have been proud of this version.
10.) Calling On Mary
Aimee's own composition... Christmas anxiety meets Holy Mary, Mother of God. Mind blowing! What a great song to end the CD.
Some reviews of this album at Amazon.com claim "it's downbeat", "it's BORING", and "it lacks originality" while others wholeheartedly enjoyed the CD.
I'm happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this album. Mann has produced a simple, introspective Christmas album, light on the tinsel. For longtime fans of Aimee and fans of Christmas who are tired of the same old releases, this one will make you sit up and take notice. I hope I did this album justice.
UP NEXT: I finally got one of the greatest Christmas CDs of all time for Christmas!