Various Artists: Mad Men Christmas Album Review: Smell the Booze, Feel the Christmas Angst

The only question I had about the Mad Men Christmas collection was what took them so long? This 12-song compilation features ten early ‘60s Christmas classics, and two Mad Men classics. You can almost smell the booze, and feel the eternal Mad Men angst wafting off the cover art. The picture is of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) relaxing on the sofa with ever-present cigarette in hand, wearing a Santa hat. It is the perfect compliment to the DVD/Blu-ray release of the sixth season of the series on November 5.

We know this is a Mad Men Christmas with the opening track “A Beautiful Mine (Theme from Mad Men)” by Rjd2, the nom de plume of one Ramble John “RJ” Krohn, the man responsible for that wonderfully haunting theme. This is the full version, which is a bit longer than what we hear in the opening credits. It is a nice introduction to the collection.

Next up is “Zou Bisou Bisou (Scotch and Sofa Remix by IAMX)” by Jessica Pare. Mad Men fans will remember this song from the opening episode of the fifth season when Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) sang it for Don at his surprise 40th birthday party. I am not exactly sure about the remix; it does not sound different to these ears from the version she sang on the show. Then again, I was very distracted by the way she sang it to Don, as were all of the party guests, so maybe I should check again.

The folks at Concord Music Group who put this collection together had the right idea for the Christmas songs. Naturally, all are from the ‘60s, with an emphasis on the early part of the decade. The first actual Christmas song is “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love. This is a true classic, and one that I look forward to hearing every year. The song originally appeared on the Phil Spector Christmas album, which is another must for fans of seasonal music.

This has nothing to do with Mad Men, but Darlene Love re-recorded the song a few years back for a great “Saturday TV Funhouse” episode of Saturday Night Live. The new version was the hilarious “Christmas For the Jews.” It has become an SNL Christmas favorite, and is usually shown during their holiday shows each year.

I remember watching the first season of Mad Men before we found out just how messed up Don Draper was, and my initial attraction was simply to the Rat Pack ambiance of it. Who better to reflect that than Dean Martin? I have always loved his voice, and his “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is another fine addition to this compilation.

As the decade progresses, one of the more intriguing aspects of the show has been in watching Don’s utter bewilderment at the changes in music. There was a wonderful moment in the fifth season when he turned to Megan for some answers, and she gave him a copy of Revolver by The Beatles. The look on his face as “Tomorrow Never Knows” played was priceless. He had no idea. Rosemary Clooney’s “White Christmas,” and Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” are much more like it for Don, and are here, in all their easy-listening glory.

The closer is from the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Christmas Time is Here” by Vince Guaraldi. I love the special, the soundtrack, and this song in particular, and my hat is off to the CMG folks for including it. This is the shorter version of the song, with the children’s choir, as featured in the program. It is a marvelous capper to a very cool Christmas collection.

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Greg Barbrick

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