Tiny Tim’s Christmas Album
1995, Rounder Records
Lesser singers, such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand and Michael Bubbles (or whatever his name is), have tried.
They’ve tried to conjure up a joyous holiday spirit while they wrap their pristine voices around some of the worst songs ever written. They’ve tried to make us feel good. They’ve tried to make us hold our loved ones a little closer. They’ve tried to make us think about Jesus while we’re on our fifth eggnog.
They’ve tried and failed. At least for dirtbags like me who only like Christmas because it’s a day off from work—and shouldn’t us assholes be the REAL judge of what makes great Christmas music?
I think so. And you can trust me. I’ve only had three martinis tonight.
And I say that this is the world’s greatest Christmas album. It’s the only one that I ever want to hear. It’s the only one that you need to play at your Christmas party.
Okay, sure, maybe it’s not for everyone. The exposed soul of trilling Tiny Tim might unnerve some people, but no Christmas album is more sincere. Here, Jesus lover Tiny Tim makes Christmas music like his life depends on it, like Christ himself is listening.
The first half runs through the kitsch standards about Santa, snow and presents. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (the world’s worst song?). Tiny sells that tripe like a brilliant marionette in a children’s puppet show. The highlight is “The Christmas Song”, a song that’s been annoying me since the day I first heard it. In Tiny’s hands though, it’s a truly happy and truly weird piece that starts with him channeling Bing Crosby before he begins the whole song all over again in the style of Elvis Presley’s ghost to bring the house down. It’s brilliant.
The best moments though come in the second half, in which Tiny flies into a religious frenzy that includes a testifying “Silent Night” and a thunderous eight-minute inspirational medley of “Come All Ye Faithful”, “O Lil’ Town of Bethlehem” and “Amazing Grace”. Busy arrangements sit next to simple arrangements while the beautifully weird Tiny Tim stands square in the spotlight where he belongs. His falsetto climbs up to the moon and his ukelele plink-a’-plinks into the winter night.
Toward the end are “Rainbow on the River” and “Mission Bell”, two songs that have fuck-all to do with Christmas, but are so lovely that you’d have to be ten times the jerk that I am to complain. The former is Tiny’s soaring revival of a forgotten hit from 1935 and the latter is a fresh take on a pop song previously recorded by a few 1960s teenyboppers. Earlier versions of “Mission Bell” are simple boy-to-girl love songs. For Tiny though, it’s a song about GOD. And he sings it like a man crazed. His voice is a thunderbolt. He inhabits the melody like he wrote it himself. His heart is as wide open as any singer I’ve ever heard.