Hey! Merry Christmas!
(Mono Mundo/Thirty Tigers)
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
It’s so easy to imagine Raul Malo wrapping his golden pipes around Christmas classics, it’s almost a wonder the band hasn’t gotten around to crafting an album of them until 2018, nearly 30 years after they formed. But those waiting to hear him croon “White Christmas,” “Blue Christmas” or any of the other hundreds of holiday favorites that would seem to be a natural fit for his Presley/Orbison voice will have to make due with only two covers on the Mavericks’ contribution to December’s favorite music.
Others will rejoice, though, in the handful of newly penned songs, all co-written by Malo, now added to the seemingly endless list of December 25th-oriented fare. Out of the eight fresh originals, six have Christmas in the title and two more nod to Santa (“Santa Does,” seemingly custom made for Bruce Springsteen, and the finger-snapping, humorous “Santa Wants To Take You For A Ride,” complete with vibes), so these guys are going all-in.
It’s a diverse set touching on many genres the Mavericks are known for: boogie woogie (“Christmas Time Is [Coming ‘Round Again]”), ska (“One More Christmas”), schmaltzy pop (“Christmas Without You”), Jerry Lee Lewis rollicking (the title track), and lovelorn ballads driven by Malo’s always astounding singing (“Christmas For Me is You”). The Mavericks give the Phil Spector/Darlene Love classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” a whirl, keeping the arrangement almost note-for-note. It’s a perfect exercise for Malo, who gets to unleash his substantial lung power on what many consider the finest rocking soul Christmas classic.
Perhaps they could have forgone the overly sugary Irving Berlin chestnut “Happy Holiday,” even if the stripped down waltz-time arrangement is a nice way to drop the album’s energy level, which generally stays at a high clip.
The green and red cartoon cover art conveys the joyful contents inside as the Mavericks take this traditional release and bring their unique, fizzy spin to it. At just over a half hour, it’s on the brief side, but better short and sweet than overdone and goopy. The band has never been less than classy fun and the jaunty, delightful Hey! Merry Christmas! doesn’t stray from that by keeping the season alive and well with a holiday album you’ll be returning to each year.