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The Twelfth (And Final) Day Of Mellowmas!

Well, friends, here we are.  You thought the day would never come.  I know.  It’s been rough, hasn’t it, listening to all this Mellow holiday music?  But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it shines brightly today, as we present The Most Mellow Holiday Record Of All.

Starland Vocal Band – Christmas At Home

Entire album (zip)

O Holy Night
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Away In A Manger
Angels We Have Heard On High
The First Noel
What Child Is This?
Joy To The World
Here Comes Santa Claus
The Two Days Of Christmas
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Deck The Halls
Jingle Bells
Silent Night
We Wish You A Merry Christmas

You didn’t even know this existed, did you?

We haven’t talked about Starland Vocal Band on Mellow Gold as of yet.  I’m sure we will at some point.  But it means that I haven’t told you my dirty little secret: I have a Starland Vocal Band bias.

You see, my parents were both big John Denver fans in the ’70s (be nice, people, they read my website).  They saw SVB open for Denver a number of times and really loved them.  They bought their first two albums, Starland Vocal Band and Rear View Mirror, and played them all the time.  And I mean all the time.  Every road trip we ever took involved Starland Vocal Band.  I know all 20 of those songs from the first two albums by heart.  I know the harmony lines.  I can play them on piano.  The whole thing.

So, for better or for worse, because they were such a part of my childhood and my musical memories with my parents, I really love those two albums.  I am actually amused by the repeated flak they get for "Afternoon Delight," because I can’t find anybody that’s ever actually listened to any of their other songs.  Some are actually quite good, and all feature their best quality: a pristine, four-part harmony blend.

Being a good son, I made it my goal in the late ’90s to get as much SVB stuff as possible for my dad (who, by the way, had moved on by then, but I didn’t know what else to get him for Christmas).  Eventually those first two records were released on CD, so that was an easy one.  Finding their last two original albums, Late Night Radio and 4×4, only came within my grasp once eBay came around.  Those two (mediocre) albums, lovingly transferred to CD, and maybe an SVB songbook, and I was pretty much out of ideas.

Then, one year, I came across Christmas At Home on eBay.  I had never heard of it.  Most sites that mention Starland Vocal Band don’t have any record of it, either.  In fact, I think the only place I’ve really found it documented is on founding member Bill Danoff’s website.  So I bought it, had it transferred to CD (as you’ll be able to tell, there are some clicks and pops I wasn’t able to remove), and proudly gifted it to my father for Christmas.

And we listened.

And we realized: this album sucks.

And that, my friends, is the story of how Jason ruined Christmas.

But the album IS mellow, and from the right time period as well.  I’ll argue that it’s not as Mellow Gold as Fogelberg, but it’s got the smooth acoustic guitars and the trademark SVB harmonies (oh, the harmonies!).  It’s as close to a full Mellowmas album as we’re ever going to get.

I hadn’t listened to it in about five years, and gave it a re-listen.  I sent it to Jeff, too.  We opted not to do song-by-song commentary, because, well, we didn’t want to kill you.  But here are some of my favorite Jefito comments:

Oh Jesus, is this ever square.
Bing Crosby would have laughed at this.
I think I’m going to throw up.
What fresh hell is this?
  (JH note: this one is my favorite.)
It isn’t as bad as REO or Medeiros, certainly.
Actually, it’s probably better than most of the shit we’ve been posting about.
But it’s still pretty awful.
It sounds like argyle.
  (JH note: second favorite.)
"What Child is This?" is an urgent plea for gang violence.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Funny guy, that Jefito.  (By the way, from the minute I informed him of this album’s existence, he claimed it was my moral imperative to share these songs with you, so he shares in the blame.)  Although I admit to being a bit ill-equipped for snarking on this band, I was able to recognize what songs were good and what songs sucked.  I do recommend listening to the whole thing – even with 14 songs, it clocks in at under 25 minutes.  However, if you want to pick n’ choose, here are my thoughts on a few:

Best Songs, Seriously:  "Angels We Have Heard On High"; "The First Noel"; "Silent Night"

Worst Songs, Seriously:  "Here Comes Santa Claus"; "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"

Most Mellow Gold, Mainly Because Of An Overactive Bass Drum:  "Deck The Halls"; "O Holy Night"

Worst Use Of Children’s Voices:  "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" "Rudolph"

Song That Would Have Been Proclaimed "Ironic Genius" Had Sufjan Stevens Recorded It:  "The Two Days Of Christmas"

Biggest Suckers/Best Sports This Mellowmas:  You guys.

So there you have it.  Enjoy, or don’t enjoy, this final Mellowmas offering.  Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy holiday – and from both Jeff and I, thanks for indulging us as we reviewed The 12 Days Of Mellowmas!  Now let us never speak of it again.

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  • As a listener it was pretty painful to listen to these songs, but as a reader some of the commentary was pretty fucking funny! 
    Happy Mellowmas to you guys! 

  • Speaking as a Sufjan Stevens adorer, any indie pundit who thinks Stevens is being ironic has drowned in their own attitude.

  • el bandito

    Thank you!!!!! Love the SVB!!!

  • David

    For the wit, the songs, and the work you and Jeff poured into this Mellowmas … may God bless you.

    With syphillis or something.

  • I cannot wait to listen to this album….next year.  I am relatively certain I shouldn’t attempt it this sober Christmas.

  • I remember a long summer Sunday in the old blue station wagon. Mom and Dad in front, me and sis in the back… fighting. We were headed to Valley Forge, via Amish Lancaster county, from east central New Jersey, so it was a pretty long ride.To kill the tedium, we listened to the radio (strictly AM radio – and yeah, that Everclear song sucks too, BTW). It seemed like only three songs played all day long: "You Are The Woman" by Firefall, "Moonlight Feels Right" by whomever did "Moonlight Feels Right", and "Afternoon Delight". You will have to forgive us all for not getting better acquainted with the SVB; a couple hours of that song alone is like microwaves on a pacemaker.Clear!! Thunk!! No, damn it. We lost him.I will in fact listen to this recording and steel myself for the experience, probably Clockwork Orange-style with toothpicks shoved in my ears to keep the holes from closing themselves down in an act of self-preservation.But you know what would have made this thing work? A song about Santa and The Mrs. taking the Nooner and doin’ it Rudolph style.That would have been sure fire.DwD

  • Michael

    Absolutely priceless.  Thank you!!!

  • Ann

    I love SVB and got to meet them after John Denver died, at a tribute concert.  Taffy Danoff is every bit as funny as you might imagine.  Any idea where to find a digital version of SVB’s single "Loving You With My Eyes" ?

  • Billy K

    Um…thanks guys for this very special Mellowmas. The songs were teh suck. The commentary was teh LOL. I lost ya at the Seventh day or so (out of town with no internet access), but I’m sure it was…mellow.

    P.S. Speaking as a Sufjan Stevens Adorer Hater, lighten the hell up, Scraps. Sticking up for the oh-so opressed Sufjan is not going to make him love you back.

  • "Moonlight Feels Right" was by Starbuck — no, really — and I’ve always maintained that it features the smarmiest vocal delivery of the 1970s, rivaled only by Paul Nicholas’s "Heaven on the Seventh Floor".  The clincher for "Moonlight Feels Right" is the heh-heh at the end of the last verse.  It would make a great Mellow Gold entry.

  • Billy K Dude, I assure you that I will lighten up just as soon as I get a life. I wasn’t "defending" Stevens, you knucklehead, I was pointing out that far from being an ironist, he is agonizingly sincere.  In case it wasn’t clear, I wasn’t snapping at Jason, but sneering at the theoretical indie wally who would have proclaimed a lame recording to be "ironic genius" if Stevens had recorded it.  Okay? Sheesh.

  • Guys!  Guys!  Stop the fusssin’-and-a-fightin’!  This is not what Mellowmas is about, dammit!  It’s about loving each other, wearing velvet, and not having sex.

    (For what it’s worth, I like Sufjan Stevens but I hate the hype surrounding him.  I think he’s very talented but I don’t think he’s the Second Coming Of Robbie Dupree.)

  • tres

    I come for the mellow tunes. I stay for the mellow comment-fights. Soo mellow-punk.

  • Jason, Jefito, may your Christmas be mellow and mild. You have sprinkled our yule with some moronic, bathetic, dizzy, sappy and schoolgirlish lyrics from oldish men, as well as cascades of fluffy, maudlin and nauseating synth-infused mush music. You’ve shown us what we’re left with when you remove the "Classic" and the "Rock" from Classic Rock. Thanks ever so much. It’s a worthy finale, but on the whole, REO really took the cake for me. A toast!

  • glaeser

    Any chance of putting all twelve days in a zip file together? Or are you worried about the possible lawsuits involved with computer hard drives simply just refusing to work with this saved on it? (Could the “12 days of Mellowmas” be the dreaded Y2K bug in a disguise? Or a sign of the coming apocolypse?)

  • woofpop

    Yii-eee! Glad that I clicked on this before I started eating lunch. This truly is the myrrh of Mellowmas; hell, it’s the new puppy! I had no idea that this even existed. I thought they disappeared after ‘Loving You With My Eyes’ (and I thought that was on the second album – so wrong was I). This truly is worth an eggnog (or four) while listening.

  • Elaine

    LOL!  What is the fricken point of the Two Days of Christmas!?  That’s hysterical.  A 28-second version of the longest Christmas carol, with no apologies or new lyrics.  Just trunkation.  Props to you, Starland Vocal Band.  Maybe it was intended as a demo track, and, in the end, they needed to rush this baby to production.  Oh, Lord have mercy, Angels We Have Heard just began.  Intricate vocals or not, some of these ladies are FLAT.  How many people is this?  Were they like ABBA?  So many questions.  Anyway,  thank you, Jason and Jeff.  And Merry Christmas.

  • Bob

    Jason and Jeff,

    Thank you so much for sharing Mellowmas with us. All those “great” songs brought back memories of simpler, smoother times (along with a case of hysterical deafness).

    May your days be mellow and bright…

  • EightE1

    I have but one thing to say to you, Jason:  "She’s a war surplus baby / From salvation’s army / She plays tambourine and wants to be a star …"  Bwah-hahahahahahaha!!  Merry Mellowmas,  Rob (EightE1)

  • Sing it, brother!  Finally, somebody knows an SVB song other than "Afternoon Delight!"

    You’re not going to be surprised, but I can totally play this one on piano.

  • Rebecca

    Jesus! Where the hell do those kids come from on Rudolph?? They just pop out shrieking from hell’s depths. Not cool, SVB! That is NOT mellow. Clearly recorded in the days before Ritalin.

    The sad thing is, most of the “good” tracks are ripped from standard arrangements. With the female flatness and the occasional papa-oom-mow-mow from the bass guy, any local choir can pull this stuff out (and do) every year. But they would’ve had the sense to leave the ocarina at home.

    Er, thanks for sharing, guys. It was fun. Hope you have the energy to do it again next year!

  • piperh

    I was a bill and taffy fan back in 69,bought the fat city albums,and continued to buy as they evolved,joke all you want but these 4 people(talented people)even if you dont like john denver and i suppose a lot of you wont admit it….these 4 people in some way were responsible for getting him on the music map…Bill and Taffy had written Take Me Home,Country Roads for Johnny Cash originally,Denver just happened to wreck his car in the right place at the right time,they are talented songwriters who never let themselves get short changed on the quality of the music they wrote to become commercialized freaks,kudos to them for not selling out…..Taffy Nivert sent me a copy of christmas at home back in 79 autographed by all 4 members,may not sound like much now but i remember being thrilled as a 19 year old die hard fan…i am not afraid to admit that i am a lifelong fan,jon carroll is responsible for some of the greatest current music artists of today,look up his bio…stop making fun,svb music wasnt meant to cure cancer,they just wanted to make good music and they did,

  • is everyone too afraid to admit it

  • svb had a few albums…reincarnation….welcome to fat city….pass it on…aces…starland vocal band…..rear view mirror….late nite radio….4×4….and christmas at home…and the dvd the old cellar door gang

  • Technically, a few of those aren’t SVB albums but just albums by Bill and Taffy when they were a duo..

    BTW Piper, I appreciate your comments and your fandom – as I think I mentioned in my original post, I’m a fan as well.  But "making fun" is what we do around here – we snark on stuff whether we like it or hate it.  Take it with a grain of salt, we’re just a bunch of idiots on the Internet anyway. :)

  • I think I am afraid to admit it, whatever it is.

  • Elaine

    Too afraid to admit what, piper?  They are talented songwriters?  Done.  No one has a problem saying that "Country Roads" is a good song.  "Afternoon Delight," however, was not! "Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up a’ appetite?"  The grammar alone is worthy of snark, not to mention the content being a product of the times they were a’ livin’ and a’ writin’ in.  Lighten up, bebeh.

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