Tonight, we find three under the tree from members of The Q.
NRBQ — the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet — has been around since the late ’60s, cranking out good-natured, irreverent tunes in a variety of styles.
Having seen them two or three times, I assure you they’re better live than recorded. They’re best seen with an audience that gets them. They played to respectable, enthusiastic crowds at the old Headliners club in Madison, Wisconsin, in the mid-’80s. They played to a tiny, clueless crowd at a summer festival in Green Bay, Wisconsin, just a couple of years ago. I think there were eight of us in the audience at one point.
But let us return to the late ’80s, when I received NRBQ’s “Christmas Wish” as a Christmas gift from the lovely Janet.
When NRBQ recorded this, its lineup consisted of Terry Adams on keyboards, Al Anderson on guitar, Joey Spampinato on bass and Tom Ardolino on drums. These guys were together for 20 or so years, from the mid-’70s to the mid-’90s, and are considered the classic NRBQ lineup.
Though only Adams and Spampinato remain as regular members of NRBQ, it’s not clear whether the band remains a going concern. They’ve played on and off over the last couple of years, with the usual variety of side projects.
Regardless, we have “Christmas Wish.”
“Christmas Wish,” the single, was written by Spampinato. It came out first on a 45, backed with “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” and released in 1980 as Red Rooster/Rounder 1006.
Five years later, they rounded up those tunes, added some live bits and other assorted noodling and released it on a 12-inch 45. “Christmas Wish,” the EP, clocks in at a crisp 11 minutes. Typical irreverence from The Q.
“Christmas Wish” Side 1: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Christmas Wish,” “Electric Train” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.” It runs 5:26.
“Christmas Wish” Side 2: “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” “Jingle Bells,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “Christmas Wish (Reprise)” It runs 5:34.
All by NRBQ, from “Christmas Wish,” the original vinyl 12-inch 45 EP, 1985. It’s out of print, but was re-released on CD this year as “Christmas Wish: Deluxe Edition.” It’s expanded from eight short tunes to 19 short tunes and presumably is just more of the same silliness.
While doing some research for this post, I came across a couple more holiday downloads at NRBQ’s web site. Head over there for an instrumental version of “Christmas Wish” and a live, slightly less wild version of “Here Comes Santa Claus,” also featuring Evans on the keyboards.
But I digress.
Al Anderson spent 22 years in NRBQ, then left in 1993 to forge a career as one of Nashville’s best songwriters. He wrote tonight’s third tune, which is sung by one of my all-time faves, Carlene Carter. They also teamed up to write “Every Little Thing,” one of her biggest hits.
“Rockin’ Little Christmas,” Carlene Carter, from “A Giant Country Christmas, Vol. 1,” 1994.
In the mail the other day was a note from Brad, who oversees the fine Carlene Carter Fan Club web site. In that note, a little Christmas cheer: Carter, who rarely has played in the States in recent years, has a gig at B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York on Jan. 13. Here’s hoping she sees fit to play some more dates. Also, her new album, “Stronger,” is scheduled to be released on Yep Roc Records on March 8. A good match of artist and label.
Again, I digress.
Enjoy. More to come.