Monster Ballads X-Mas. Razor & Tie, LLC. New York, NY, 2007.
Yeah, yeah, it's off topic by a long ways but it's my blog so what the heck. That and I love Christmas music so it seemed appropriate to me.
Coming of age in the 1980's allowed me to listen to some of the best in metal there has been. OK we're not talking Led Zeppelin or vintage Black Sabbath but the hair metal era was a great time for music. Long may it live on great compilations like this one.
Monster Ballads Xmas contains 15 mostly rocking tracks. As with any compilation of course some are better than others. This one has extremes on both ends. Some songs are great versions and there are a couple of clunkers thrown in as well.
For me this CD gets off to a great start with Skid Row doing a somewhat punk sounding version of Jingle Bells. It's not Sebastian Bach but this track gets the CD going in the right direction right from the start. Winger does a great version of the John Lennon classic Happy Christmas (War is Over). I really liked the mixing of acoustic and electric guitar on this track.
Twisted Sister join forces with Lita Ford and belt out a version of I'll Be Home for Christmas that grew on me after a few listenings. It wasn't my favorite at first but Dee and Lita show they can both sing. Good musicianship backing them here. Geoff Tate and Queensryche do an admirable version of White Christmas. It's good but it didn't give Tate the chance to let his voice soar like he can. He could give Josh Groban a run for his money on Oh Holy Night if you ask me! For pure rock 'n roll fun you can't miss Firehouse belting out Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree. You'll bang your head! I think Brenda Lee would be proud of them.
Tom Keifer (from Cinderella) contributes a great blues version of Blue Christmas. This really shouldn't be too shocking for those who remember Cinderella. This may be one of the under appreciated tracks on this CD. Stryper obliges our craving for live music with a really very good version of Winter Wonderland. Sure it's kind of corny with the normal concert interaction between band and audience with Michael Sweet asking three times if the crowd was ready for Christmas. That's OK because it leads to his singing a really powerful version "Stryper style" as he puts it. Good guitar and drum work. The album closes out with Billy Idol who really is out of place here. He never would have been considered metal let alone hair metal. That said his original tune Christmas Love is surprisingly good and as he says "if everybody gives then everybody receives".
There were a couple of middle of the road tracks for me. Dokken does a serviceable job on Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I grew up with MTV so it's hard to beat Bruce Springsteen on this tune. While Nelson always seemed pretty corny the brothers did a pretty good job here with Jingle Bell Rock.
I really liked L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat when they were at their best. The Guns version of Run Rudolph Run didn't do it and the Trent Reznor/Marilyn Manson inspired version of Silent Night from Faster Pussycat left me a bit disappointed. I kept waiting for it to explode and it never did. Danger Danger and Enuff Z'Nuff both performed what appear to be original songs that I don't think we'll be hearing too much of in the future. Poor Jani Lane from Warrant though may have laid the biggest egg on this one though. I have yet to get through Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. My biggest non music complaint about this is the lack of liner notes. All you get is a song/band listing with song publisher information and in some cases what record label a band is on.
Despite these being Christmas themed songs the bands really did a fine job overall. While pretty well sticking to the original versions there was enough new and creative on these songs to satisfy. The guitar and drum work reminded me of how good some of these bands were musically and overall the vocals were strong.
If you were a hair metal fan in the 1980's you really should pick this CD up. It'll bring back some great memories. If you are having a Christmas party and want some great rock music playing in the background this could be your best bet. If nothing else it'll keep the guests guessing as to who the bands are.