Chris Kamara - '… And A Happy New Year' Album Review
1. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday 2. I Believe In Father Christmas 3. In The Bleak Midwinter 4. Dear Mr Claus 5. White Christmas 6. The Christmas Song 7. Blue Christmas 8. O Come, All Ye Faithful 9. We Wish You A Merry Christmas 10. Happy New Year
Christmas is a time for traditions. There are good traditions, like making sure that we remember to leave mince pies and brandy out for Santa, or buying a Radio Times even though the guide on our telly is just as good. And there are bad traditions, like dad telling shit Christmas cracker jokes, or the drunk uncle making inappropriate comments about being a breast man when it comes to carving the turkey. Football pundit Chris Kamara seems to be in the mood to make a new tradition, given that this is the second year in a row that he has released a Christmas album, and having given it a listen I can confirm that this is not one of the good traditions.
Now I didn’t listen to ‘Here’s To Christmas’, the first Chris Kamara Christmas album (try saying that after a couple of dry sherries); I heard that he was doing one, had a slight chuckle, then got on with my day. It’s an amusing concept, one that wouldn’t have sounded out of place alongside Alan Partridge’s ‘Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank’, but that’s really as far as it should have gone - it should have been the punchline to a joke, and that would have been that. However people obviously found the joke funny enough to buy it, presumably gifting it to someone they really couldn’t think what to buy for, and if it hadn’t been this, it would have been a pair of novelty socks that they display at the tills to ensnare confused and panicked shoppers.
Now don’t for one second think that I don’t like a Christmas song, I love them. I own several Christmas albums, and crack them out with gay abandon from late autumn until the big day itself; Rat Pack compilations, Carols from Kings, Phil Spector and Dylan’s Christmas albums are all festive staples in our house. Part of the problem with ‘..And A Happy New Year’ is that Mr Kamara really went early with the track listing on last year’s effort, and this year’s is mainly filler and not much killer, with some frankly ill-conceived choices. One that really sticks out is his cover of Greg Lake’s bitter Yuletide ode, ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’. For those of you not familiar with the song, it’s a gritty and realist take on the seasonal festivities, mocking the rose tinted clichés that get knocked out at this time of year. Kamara belts it out with his faux crooner voice, and it doesn’t work at all. Crooner Christmas songs speak of love and eggnog by the fireside, of excited children and Santa Claus, not of grey and miserable midwinter festivals.
Another issue I have is Mr Kamara’s voice itself; he’s trying to sound like Frank Sinatra, but if I’m being honest, he sounds closer to Frank Spencer. There’s no richness in his delivery, no glorious baritone, instead he sounds like, well, Chris Kamara. It’s a serviceable voice, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve heard better pub and club singers, and last time I checked, they weren’t in the top ten Christmas album sales. There’s not much humour here either, for an album that is presumably bought as a joke, there’s no nods or winks as can be found in the festive work of Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, or even Robbie fucking Williams- it’s incredibly earnest. If there’d have been a bit more chat, a bit more self-awareness and deprecation, something to make me smile, then I might have been more forgiving; as it stands, I’d rather be spending my Christmas knee deep in reindeer shit, and having candy canes repeatedly poked into my eyes by Coronavirus infected elves.
So when you’re running around the shops this Christmas Eve, desperately searching for just anything that might be vaguely suitable for that impossible person to buy for, do yourself (and them) a favour, go for the socks instead.
Review - Jon Stokes