The Brian Setzer Orchestra - Dig That Crazy Christmas

O.K., lets get this out of the way right away for those that are not aware:

Brian Setzer is as close to my idea of God walking the face of this earth as we will probably ever run into in our lifetimes. I don’t expect Jesus to make that second coming anytime soon, so we will just have to do as best as we can, and that happens to be worshipping at the foot of the man known as Setzer.

Now then, expect some instant bias in this review just because I love the man’s playing. He still has yet to put out what I would call a “bad” album, and I do have everything he has done. So you know I will find something to like here.

After a break of a few years of recording with them the Orchestra returns to us with a brand new Christmas album this year. Unfortunately for big fans of the Orchestra, the last album we had from them was, you guessed it, a Christmas album. Fans of Setzer in general at least had a solo album earlier in the year. But, then again, that was a note for note tribute to earlier Rockabilly artists. Before that we had a reunion with The Stray Cats. So where as there has been a bounty of Setzer material, it still seems like we haven’t really been getting much. Picky? Yes, maybe, but it would be nice to hear something truly brand new.

Back to the topic, and that being the new Christmas album DIG THAT CRAZY CHRISTMAS.

First, before you consider buying this one, you need to ask yourself a few simple questions.

1. Do you enjoy Rockabilly or Big Band Swing? Obviously with this being Setzer, and with his orchestra, it is all Rockabilly with the Swing styling.
2. Do you like Christmas music, and especially Christmas music done in a Rockabilly/Swing vibe? Make no mistakes about this, it is a Christmas album, and that is why it will vanish after the holidays have passed.
3. How “cool” are you, or how “cool” do you want people to think you are. Really, if you don’t understand “cool”, you should probably stay away from Setzer products.

The CD kicks off with “Dig That Crazy Santa Claus” and there is really no questions to be asked as to what you are in for. All of the standard Setzer Orchestra trademarks are here: female backing vocals right away, cool Gretsch sound and riffing, big horns, and the voice we fans love almost as much as that Gretsch sound he gets. At just over 2 minutes, the song has a much larger feel to it.

Second up is the traditional “Angels We Have Heard On High”, and though it is not listed as being an instrumental, it may as well be as the vocals don’t come in until the very end, but the rest is all instrumental.

Next around is another version of the Swing Standard “In The Mood”. This time it’s done Christmas style and called “Getting’ In The Mood (For Christmas). Yes, it’s what you are expecting, nothing different from the last time done by the Orchestra, with the exception of the lyrics being about Christmas.

The Setzer version of “White Christmas” suffers at first since your mind instantly thinks Bing Crosby, and even Setzer will tell you he can’t compare to ol’ Bing. He chooses to handle the song with a Western flavor, and at first his voice sounds a little shaky. But then the song kick in towards the half way mark, and it really comes alive.

The song “’Zat you Santa Claus” is a mix of Tom Waits and “Stray Cat Strut”. Setzer even uses parts of the solo from Stray Cat Strut. It’s a pretty cool song with a great guitar sound going on.

The Setzer Orchestra standard duet this time is between Setzer and back-up singer Julie Reiten. This one has been a long time coming, as she and Setzer had been dating for years and finally just got married this past May, it only seems right that we would get a duet between the two. As odd as it might seem though, it kind of lacks the chemistry as last albums duet with Ann-Margret.

The CD is a mix of traditionals and originals. Setzer still sounds more alive and like he is having fun with his Orchestra as opposed to his solo material. His playing is better here, and his voice is more relaxed and lively sounding. It’s a little odd for me to be realizing that I might actually enjoy his Orchestra stuff to his solo stuff. I am wishing though that he would do a standard release, as soon people will be looking at me weird for listening to Christmas albums in May.

My one main complaint is that I wish there were better liner notes. We have a full booklet with all the lyrics, and plenty of nice drawings in the style that has become standard with these releases. But there is no listing on who is in the orchestra still. I like comparing as to who is still there and who is back for this one. I also was really interested if Mark Winchester had made a full return or if the recent ROCKABILLY RIOT release was a one off for him. If I was to be picky, I would also like a list of which guitars got used on each song and what made Setzer choose each guitar. But that is just the “Guitar Geek” in me.

Lastly, don’t let my wife fool you, this album’s instrumental is a fine version of the song “My Favorite Things”. She was bummed because it is her favorite Christmas song, but regardless, it’s a wonderful version of the song, and you can probably expect another Grammy nomination for the Orchestra with it.

Best tune: “Hey Santa” – talk about a FUN tune

by Carl I. (Be sure to check out Sonic Ruin, the direct link to this review is via HERE)

Visit the Brian Setzer Website