... re-badged, re-packaged, re-labelled, re-recorded

(December 12, 2016)

Most folk know the old rhyme about 'fat geese and putting pennies in an old man's hat', unfortunately, over and above said goose, there’s another contender towards Christmas corpulence. And no ‘bankers and politicians’ are not the only people expanding their waistlines this Christmas ... although I’m sure they are ... along with every other season of the year. There’s another breed becoming portly through cashing in on Christmas ... and that’s record company executives. This particular avenue of avarice and obesity has few contenders from the folk world trotting along its gold-paved streets but everywhere else, publishers and record companies appear to be in ‘festive cash-in’ mode.

This is not to decry ‘Christmas’ albums as such. Oh no! Many are excellent, from inspiring originals that offer a fresh festive feel, nostalgic slices of tradition with ‘old favourites’, the results of searching through dusty tomes for long forgotten memories and dusting-off songs heard at no other time of year. No problem there. The problem for me is the re-badged, re-packaged, re-labelled, re-re-re-recorded output that masquerades as ‘new-for-Christmas’.

Certain phrases appear at Christmas that should sound warning bells: ‘from previously undiscovered tapes’ and ‘digitally re-mastered from unreleased’ are two frequently attached to so-called 'special Christmas issues’. These usually mean nothing more than a jolly new cover photograph or graphic and one extra, badly-recorded demo track enhanced to sound rather more pleasant than someone singing in a bathroom with their head in a bucket. Most of the year those phrases should still be taken with a sizeable pinch of sodium chloride but at Christmas time, festive marketing overtakes the brain. The result is that some unfortunate friend or relative receives a present that would make the most fervent Christmas addict exclaim ‘Bah, humbug!’

So long-live the Christmas album. Those albums filled with joy and cheer. Those albums that lift the festive heart and celebrate the season. Those that take long-lost Christmas songs and give them a seasonal airing. And down to the depths with the re-badged, re-packaged, re-labelled, re-re-re-recorded output reconstituted for no other reason than to line someone’s pocket with something dire that goes under the guise of ‘Now That’s What I Call Christmas 75’ ... with luck the last of the Three Spirits will pay their perpetrators a horrible visit.

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