The Brian Setzer Orchestra take their loud, rocking big band formula and apply it to some classic holiday music, revitalize it, and make it totally their own. If you missed this album upon its initial release in 2002 you must open your wallet and lay down your holiday green so you can start your Christmas party immediately.
Setzer’s flaming, frantic, greaser rock guitar dominates many of the hard rocking tunes while always meshing perfectly with the brass and reed sections on such seasonal standards as "Sleigh Ride," "Winter Wonderland" and "Jingle Bells." Setzer welds his leather jacket and tattoo persona perfectly into the lyrics of the latter track by changing the closing line to "Oh what fun it is to ride in a '57 Chevrolet." These songs are always overplayed every Christmas but the fresh arrangements Setzer offers up are a welcome adventure.
Not every track roars at breakneck speed. The pace slows down a bit for guest Ann-Margaret who can still act like a sultry vixen while singing a sexy counterpoint with Setzer on "Baby, It’s Cold Outside."
Another highlight is the most eclectic piece the orchestra has ever recorded, a seven minute, jazz-influenced arrangement of "The Nutcracker Suite" originally written for the Les Brown big band in the 1950s. Setzer’s version is more jazzy than classical and it even rocks a little too.
So They Say It’s Christmas" is Setzer’s only original contribution on the set and it's a welcome ballad after all the bombast, and never in his entire career has he sounded as genuine and serious as he does on an emotional take of "O Holy Night" recorded with a thirty voice choir. You could play this version in church!
This is a great CD from start to finish. Mostly it is fun but it is also frequently very moving.