Friday, December 02, 2022

Vista Blue - We Practiced All Year Long

Writing about Vista Blue's annual Christmas releases has become a favorite tradition of mine. It has reached the point where it wouldn't feel like Christmas season without some new Vista Blue songs in the rotation. For Christmas 2022, the band offers us the three-song EP We Practiced All Year Long (paraphrasing a line from a particularly polarizing Christmas classic). Half the fun in hearing a VB Christmas release is discovering the choices the band made in terms of cover material or subject matter for new songs. It's not like these guys are just recording the typical standards year after year. On that note, We Practiced All Year Long is a most satisfying collection. 

Up first, "Santa, Teach Me To Dance" is a cover of what I consider to be one of the best-ever Christmas songs — a 1962 gem of a release from the otherwise unremarkable girl group Debbie and the Darnels. Vista Blue's arrangement is delightful, taking a doo wop influenced pop-punk approach that is right in the band's wheelhouse. Who doesn't love a keyboard solo? I think a lot of people who don't know the original version will be thankful to Vista Blue for pointing them in the direction of an overlooked classic. Your holiday playlist is not complete without "Santa, Teach Me To Dance"! Track 2, "Kmart Christmas 1979," is literally a cover of a Kmart Christmas commercial from 1979. Obviously, this gives me nostalgic goosebumps since I was a '70s kid (although we were more of a Hills family). But it's also a reminder of a time when advertising was so much simpler. A department store could literally run an entire commercial just listing all the cool products it had available for purchase. I was watching the original commercial and admiring the craftmanship and musical professionalism that went into that jingle. In a strange way, Vista Blue's rendition is quite faithful to the original! Who remembers being able to buy records at Kmart? To finish up, "Why Is The Carpet All Wet, Todd?" is an original track the band recorded for a new compilation of songs about Christmas movies. As the title suggests, it's an homage to the Griswolds' villainous yuppie neighbors in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Suffice it to say, if you've never seen the movie, you won't get the song at all. There's a certain genius in revisiting an iconic line from a film and repeating it over and over. That is the genius of Vista Blue. Every year as I watch Christmas Vacation, I find myself impressed how the Margo and Todd scenes derive such idiotic laughs out of scathing social commentary. And now this song is making me laugh idiotically. Well done, gentlemen. Well done! 

Fans of Vista Blue's Christmas music ought to be reminded that Blue Christmas, a limited edition bootleg CD compilation of some of the band's seasonal favorites, has been placed into circulation by the nefarious but goodhearted Tiranasaurus Recs. A parcel from Albania containing this disc recently arrived in my mailbox, and I was pleased to find that Merkush selected some real winners. I especially enjoyed revisiting the Jingle All the Way themed "Nobody Wants Booster," the Home Alone inspired "I Made My Family Disappear," and the band's version of Paul "Fat Daddy" Johnson's Baltimore Christmas classic "Fat Daddy." None of these songs are new, but it's kind of cool to have them on one disc. Since I'm not in the business of sanctioning criminal activity, I'll just say that if you know what you need to do to acquire a copy of Blue Christmas, it will be well worth your effort. "Nobody Wants Booster" has risen to the level of being one of my favorite Vista Blue songs, period. 

Out of consideration for those of you who don't celebrate Christmas, morally object to jollity, or spend your days tormenting your hapless employee Bob Cratchit, I promise to limit myself to exactly four Christmas related reviews this month. I believe I have chosen wisely in granting We Practiced All Year Long one of those limited slots. And you bargain shoppers will like the price!

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