The Wurzels Do Christmas

Tom Gore

The lights have been turned on, the German markets are up and the Christmas season is in full swing which can only mean one thing: The return of the Christmas cover album!  It seems everyone’s doing one these days, Carole King, Michael Bublé, Justin Bieber… Now even The Wurzels (two words: Combine and Harvester) have attempted to take their unique Scrumpy and Western sound and apply it to some classic Christmas tunes by releasing their very own Christmas album, their first in a career spanning almost fifty years. The band are also competing for the coveted Christmas number one slot this year, releasing the Double A-sided single Sleigh Ride and White Christmas on December 18th.

 As a standalone single release, these songs are fun takes on traditional yuletide favourites. An entire album of Wurzels Christmas songs, however, doesn’t work, and the novelty starts to wear thin quickly. The band’s limited range in terms of genre means that all the songs are done in exactly the same style, and the effect is the musical equivalent of being told knock-knock jokes for 41 minutes straight: Not even that funny to begin with and, by the end, extremely annoying and repetitive. Without exception, all the songs on the album are worse than the originals, the cardinal sin of any cover album, and only serve to emphasise the superiority of various other versions of the songs that have been ‘Wurzelised’ on this album.

 White Christmas gets things started off nicely enough and is without doubt the best track on the album for the sheer fact that it’s the first, and the listener hasn’t yet lost the will to live. Sleigh Ride sounds pleasant enough until the jarring vocals kick in, the song accompanied by the inevitable ‘ooo-arrr’ backing vocals that also feature on the band’s version of Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody.  Whilst this gets highly irritating after about a minute, in contrast, Let It Snow and When A Child Is Born are just plain boring. The absolute lowlight however comes in the form of Fairytale of New York, which sounds like an extremely poor karaoke version of The Pogues’ timeless ditty. It really is a truly awful rendition of a Christmas favourite, with Pete Budd attempting to outdo Shane McGowan in the ‘Who has the worst voice?’ stakes. The overall feeling the album leaves is that it has been put together very quickly in order to milk as much Christmas cash out of people as possible, and even the album cover looks like a hurried cut and paste job.

At the end of the day though, it must be remembered that the pleasure one gains from music is subjective. The Wurzels will forever hold a place in South-Western folklore if the on-going campaign to rename Bristol Airport after the group’s founder Adge Cutler is anything to go by, and this album is bound to be relatively successful considering the cult fan base the band has. But unless you have a thing for a strong West Country accent and a mug of hot scrumpy is your Christmas tipple of choice rather than a glass of mulled wine, then it would probably be best to stick with the versions of classic Christmas songs that we all know and love. At least this isn’t the worst Christmas album to be released this year… I’m looking at you, Bieber.




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