THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA The Ultimate Christmas Collection (Surfdog Records)
Swing music passes in and out of fashion depending on general public sentiment, but Christmas is one time sentiment swings in favor of retro flavor. It’s the time of year when nostalgic thoughts are never far from anyone’s mind, whether it’s because of the millionth viewing of A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker or the donning of gay apparel (like that old sweater with the reindeer and snowflakes on it). Swing makes for excellent Christmas party music. You could do worse than this compilation for your holiday gathering, as the band tears through renditions of material as varied as “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Some of the arrangements don’t work, such as on the awkwardly composed “The Nutcracker Suite” — but the skip button can help save Christmas. And I wouldn’t recommend tossing this record on in any nonparty situation— the corny jokes, “cool cats and kitties” references, and kitschy cover tunes can become too grating. But hey, musically, there’s little to complain about. Setzer is an excellent guitarist, and he runs a tight ship. While the humor is strained, the music is never labored. Oh yeah, and it comes with a colorful concert DVD that the cool kiddies might get a kick out of.
— Robert Benziker