Say what you like about Elvis—culture thief; sad, boozy drug addict; cheese sandwich—but the man had a voice that could soothe volcanoes, particularly the volcano that is my head during the 29 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is a time when every single store in the country, from Nordstrom to 7-Eleven, feels obligated to play Christmas music. And it’s not even the good stuff. As far as I can tell, no one except little kids enjoys hearing syrupy, cutesy “Jingle Bell Rock” played ad nauseam. Last year I made an obnoxious and totally doomed pledge to not shop anywhere Christmas music was playing. I should have stocked up on groceries in October.
I don’t want to be that grouchy old lady, petting her cat and humbugging all things holiday. I love the way our city flickers magically when strings of lights and luminarias start going up. Drinking hot mulled wine and wrapping carefully chosen presents for my friends are two of my favorite activities. And I don’t have a cat. I do need something to listen to when I get home from standing in line, gnawing at my wrists, getting jostled by shoppers’ bags of crap. Elvis Presley’s It’s Christmas Time is perfect.
Why I’m so enamored with Elvis’ holiday offering is a bit of a mystery, but I listen to it every year. There are several songs on the album that I normally despise, including a cover of the unsalvageable “Here Comes Santa Claus.” But the anchor track, the one that obscures the grosser songs, is “Blue Christmas.” Like his other hits, Presley didn’t write it (Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson did), but was made to sing it. His hot-buttered voice crooning about how lonely he’s going to be, puts me in the holiday mood. What can I say, I like sad things. The melancholia of “Blue Christmas” helps tip the scales away from the saccharine cheer of the holiday tunes assaulting me in public.
“Santa Claus Is Back in Town” is also an excellent track. It begins with back-up singers repeatedly droning the word “Christmas,” which is good for a laugh. Then the drums kick in, Elvis starts wailing about a black Cadillac and the whole thing turns into sultry blues. I’m pretty sure that the line “Santa Claus is coming down your chimney tonight” is not about his want of milk and cookies. Seven of the 10 tracks are pretty rockin', and Elvis’ voice carries them all. During the holidays, look to The King. It’s Christmas Time is one part holiday, one part rock, one part cheese and all parts wonderful.