Well, friends, here we are. You thought the day would never come. I know. It’s been rough, hasn’t it, listening to all this Mellow holiday music? But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it shines brightly today, as we present The Most Mellow Holiday Record Of All.
Starland Vocal Band – Christmas At Home
Entire album (zip)
O Holy Night
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Away In A Manger
Angels We Have Heard On High
The First Noel
What Child Is This?
Joy To The World
Here Comes Santa Claus
The Two Days Of Christmas
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Deck The Halls
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
You didn’t even know this existed, did you?
We haven’t talked about Starland Vocal Band on Mellow Gold as of yet. I’m sure we will at some point. But it means that I haven’t told you my dirty little secret: I have a Starland Vocal Band bias.
You see, my parents were both big John Denver fans in the ’70s (be nice, people, they read my website). They saw SVB open for Denver a number of times and really loved them. They bought their first two albums, Starland Vocal Band and Rear View Mirror, and played them all the time. And I mean all the time. Every road trip we ever took involved Starland Vocal Band. I know all 20 of those songs from the first two albums by heart. I know the harmony lines. I can play them on piano. The whole thing.
So, for better or for worse, because they were such a part of my childhood and my musical memories with my parents, I really love those two albums. I am actually amused by the repeated flak they get for "Afternoon Delight," because I can’t find anybody that’s ever actually listened to any of their other songs. Some are actually quite good, and all feature their best quality: a pristine, four-part harmony blend.
Being a good son, I made it my goal in the late ’90s to get as much SVB stuff as possible for my dad (who, by the way, had moved on by then, but I didn’t know what else to get him for Christmas). Eventually those first two records were released on CD, so that was an easy one. Finding their last two original albums, Late Night Radio and 4×4, only came within my grasp once eBay came around. Those two (mediocre) albums, lovingly transferred to CD, and maybe an SVB songbook, and I was pretty much out of ideas.
Then, one year, I came across Christmas At Home on eBay. I had never heard of it. Most sites that mention Starland Vocal Band don’t have any record of it, either. In fact, I think the only place I’ve really found it documented is on founding member Bill Danoff’s website. So I bought it, had it transferred to CD (as you’ll be able to tell, there are some clicks and pops I wasn’t able to remove), and proudly gifted it to my father for Christmas.
And we listened.
And we realized: this album sucks.
And that, my friends, is the story of how Jason ruined Christmas.
But the album IS mellow, and from the right time period as well. I’ll argue that it’s not as Mellow Gold as Fogelberg, but it’s got the smooth acoustic guitars and the trademark SVB harmonies (oh, the harmonies!). It’s as close to a full Mellowmas album as we’re ever going to get.
I hadn’t listened to it in about five years, and gave it a re-listen. I sent it to Jeff, too. We opted not to do song-by-song commentary, because, well, we didn’t want to kill you. But here are some of my favorite Jefito comments:
Oh Jesus, is this ever square.
Bing Crosby would have laughed at this.
I think I’m going to throw up.
What fresh hell is this? (JH note: this one is my favorite.)
It isn’t as bad as REO or Medeiros, certainly.
Actually, it’s probably better than most of the shit we’ve been posting about.
But it’s still pretty awful.
It sounds like argyle. (JH note: second favorite.)
"What Child is This?" is an urgent plea for gang violence.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Funny guy, that Jefito. (By the way, from the minute I informed him of this album’s existence, he claimed it was my moral imperative to share these songs with you, so he shares in the blame.) Although I admit to being a bit ill-equipped for snarking on this band, I was able to recognize what songs were good and what songs sucked. I do recommend listening to the whole thing – even with 14 songs, it clocks in at under 25 minutes. However, if you want to pick n’ choose, here are my thoughts on a few:
Best Songs, Seriously: "Angels We Have Heard On High"; "The First Noel"; "Silent Night"
Worst Songs, Seriously: "Here Comes Santa Claus"; "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Most Mellow Gold, Mainly Because Of An Overactive Bass Drum: "Deck The Halls"; "O Holy Night"
Worst Use Of Children’s Voices: "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" "Rudolph"
Song That Would Have Been Proclaimed "Ironic Genius" Had Sufjan Stevens Recorded It: "The Two Days Of Christmas"
Biggest Suckers/Best Sports This Mellowmas: You guys.
So there you have it. Enjoy, or don’t enjoy, this final Mellowmas offering. Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy holiday – and from both Jeff and I, thanks for indulging us as we reviewed The 12 Days Of Mellowmas! Now let us never speak of it again.