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Album of the Week: Christmas a Go-Go

One thing about Christmas songs, every single artist to ever pick up a guitar or drumstick seems to have recorded at least one, a company that apparently includes Joe Pesci, Soupy Sales (kids, ask your grandparents) and garage gods the Electric Prunes. Guaranteed, Christmas a Go-Go is the only place you'll hear Bob Seger and his pre-Silver Bullet band the Last Heard do a kick-ass James Brown on the Mitch Ryder-worthy "Sock It to Me Santa."

It's a Little Steven production all right. No Springsteen, but Keith Richards kicks things off with his appropriately ragged rendition of mentor Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run," followed quickly by the Ramones' leather-jacket Yuletide classic "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)" and Darlene Love's thrilling tower of Spectorian song "All Alone on Christmas."

Steven throws in a couple of ribald R&B numbers for pointers on what to do when the children are nestled all snug in their beds. Alabama soulman Clarence Carter advises "I ain't like old St. Nick, he only come once a year" on "Back Door Santa," while Memphis' Rufus Thomas, amid waist-deep bass and "Ball of Confusion" horns, warns "What I got for you mama, it ain't just a toy" on "I'll Be Your Santa."

The Fab Four deserves a tip of the stocking cap for its seamless adaptation of "Silent Night" to the tune of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," as do the Chesterfield Kings for spinning "Adeste Fideles" and "Pretty in Pink" into a tasty power-punk candy cane. The Cocktail Slippers' neo-Go-Go's "Santa's Coming Home" begins "Snow is falling from the sky..." - and it really was snowing when the song came on! - and ends in a gloriously Lush-like chorus. (Think "Ladykiller.")

The Kinks snarl on teddy-boy carol "Father Christmas" - "Give us some money/ We've got no time for your silly toys" - and then there's Pesci's "If It Doesn't Snow on Christmas": "Which one of you little creeps stole the candy canes?" Marone. Even so, to borrow a bit from the Underground Garage radio program, Christmas a Go-Go is definitely the coolest album in the world this week, and the very rare holiday album worth spinning all year long. - Chris Gray

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