I Wanna Be Santa Claus

Ringo Starr

Mercury Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


At last! Now I know what I can buy for people I don't like this Christmas!

Each year around this time, there are a plethora of Christmas albums that make their way into the stores. Some of them prove to have some lasting power; others quietly fade into the background, along with the careers of those who recorded them. Consider this: New Kids On The Block recorded a Christmas album. 'Nuff said.

Then there are the albums that just should never have been recorded in the first place. Into this category falls Ringo Starr's ill-advised release I Wanna Be Santa Claus, a disc that gives you the same feeling as overdoing it on the eggnog and anise cookies each year. The end result isn't pretty. In fact, the only thing I can think of that would be more painful is an album featuring William Shatner singing Hannukah songs. ("Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel... [long dramatic pause]... I made you... out of... clay... SPOCK!")

Starr - who looks uncannily like Frank Zappa in the album artwork -- seems to want to recapture the production capabilities that Phil Spector utilized in magical ways. Unfortunately, while Spector made it sound hip, Starr bungles it with poor musical selections that sound 30 years out of date. From the opening track "Come On Christmas, Christmas Come On," you know that this isn't going to be an easy sledding day.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Oh, make no mistake, I got through every painful note of I Wanna Be Santa Claus - not that I didn't think about jumping in front of a speeding bus midway through the album. I mean, where do I begin playing Scrooge with this disc? Could it be at the calls of "Do it for Jesus! Jesus loves you!" in the middle of "Christmas Time Is Here Again" (well, at least someone remembered just what the holiday is supposed to be about)? The inclusion of bagpipes -- bagpipes?!? -- in "The Little Drummer Boy"? Or maybe it was the half-ass drum solos in the same song? Maybe it was the pointlessness of a song like "The Christmas Dance" that served absolutely no purpose in promoting the holiday? Or maybe it was hiding the exclamation "Oh, shit!" in the background just before "Christmas Time Is Here Again" -- yeah, Ringo, real friggin' appropriate for the season.

Don't even get me started on "White Christmas" -- cripes, with the inclusion of Carribean steel drums, it feels like Starr and crew recorded this one in Jamaica. Hey, guys, if you really want a white Christmas, get your asses back up here and freeze with the rest of us, okay? Hypocrites.

It's not even that Starr comes close to respectability on I Wanna Be Santa Claus. From the inclusion of pedal steel guitar on "Blue Christmas" to the weak attempt at humor on "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (or did he honestly screw up the lyrics?), this disc just falters on each step. And while I've always been willing to defend Starr to a point - hey, I actually liked the single "Weight Of The World" -- his vocals just are not strong enough to carry this album. Even on the one track that could have been something -- "Christmas Eve" -- Starr's vocals drag the song down to obscurity.

Same thing goes for "Dear Santa," which could be Starr's answer to the late John Lennon's "Merry Xmas (War Is Over)." Out of all the drivel that makes up this album, this actually has a message that could make you feel warm and fuzzy - if only there was a stronger vocal backing up the message.

There are certain things about Christmas that are forgettable, just like the fruitcake you got back in 1987 that somehow made its way back into your gift pile this year. (Whoops, sorry - didn't mean to give away what one of your gifts was... forget I said anything.) And as much as I hate to dump on a Christmas album, I Wanna Be Santa Claus is one of those things that's best left buried in the background. If Starr is sincere about his declaration, I'd advise Kris Kringle to get a restraining order.

Rating: F

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.