Brian Setzer and his big band originally released this fine rockabilly/swing Christmas album in 2002, and they resurrect it for 2004 with 2 new tracks. Setzer and the band sound great when they rock out, as on "Santa Claus Is Back in Town," and the swinging version of "Sleigh Ride" will get listeners' toes tapping.
But the album's unequivocal highlight is the seven-plus-minute rendition of "The Nutcracker Suite," which moves from triangle-tapping orchestral snippets that you might hear at the ballet to all-out cymbals-pounding, horn-tooting rockabilly. The complex arrangement is fascinating in its unpredictability and well worth the price of admission for the CD.
There are some missteps, to be sure. Setzer is no Elvis vocally, and his take on "Blue Christmas" falls flat. "Cactus Christmas," one of the two new tracks, is a weak attempt at a western country song. But then a quick flip back to the beginning of the CD returns the listener to the band's forte, the standup bass, electric guitar and horns of "Jingle Bells." This is an imperfect, but immensely enjoyable, Christmas album.