Just in time for Halloween it’s… Christmas? It might sound odd, but the Goo Goo Dolls make it work on It’s Christmas All Over, which arrives on Friday, October 30, 2020, via Warner Records.
If you don’t know Alt/Pop Rockers the Goo Goo Dolls, where have you been? Formed in Buffalo, New York in 1986, the Grammy-nominated duo of Vocalist/Guitarist Johnny Rzeznik and Bassist/Vocalist Robby Takac has 19 top singles and has sold over 12 million albums worldwide. Surely you’ve heard some of their biggest hits—1995’s “Name,” 1998’s “Iris,” “Slide,” and “Black Balloon,” 2006’s “Give a Little Bit,” and much, much more—frequently infiltrating radio and our hearts. Over the course of 12 LPs and the past three decades, the pair has consistently delivered infectious sincerity as they’ve toured the world.
When you’re a band that music fans can rely on for quality, why not wrap your talents up with a velvety red ribbon and deliver a Christmas LP? Thanks to their touring schedule in support of 2019’s Miracle Pill being wiped clean by the global pandemic, the Goo Goo Dolls found themselves inspired to use their sudden time off to record an uplifting collection—because what the world needs now is definitely love! Produced by long-time collaborators Brad Fernquist and Jimmy McGorman, the band’s touring guitarist and keyboardist, along with Rzeznik, the 10-song collection contains two original new tracks, a precious reimagining of their own “Better Days,” and tons of Christmas cheer. (No partridges, however.)
Appropriately, the album begins with “Christmas All Over Again,” originally recorded by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The Goo Goo Dolls take the nostalgia inspired by the 1995 track, adorn it with a dash of their vibrant spirit, and gift their listeners a fun little rocker. This segues into some delicious stand-up bass on the Jazz Pop “Shake Hands With Santa Claus,” which was first performed by Louis Prima in 1951. A bit surprisingly, this sets the tone for what’s to follow, which is a record that is heavily weighted toward Jazz Pop and not standard Goo fare.
In fact, the true strength of It’s Christmas All Over Again lies in the Goo Goo Dolls’ two new originals, the first of which is “This Is Christmas.” Breaking out the acoustics and switching to a more minimalist approach, Rzeznik and Takac sit down for an intimate offering wherein they emanate a glowing warmth, one that delivers the love of the season in a musical package. Simply put, this moment blows away it’s two predecessors, and leaves one to wonder why there are not more originals throughout the album.
But it’s back to covers for their odd rendition of “Christmas Don’t Be Late” (a.k.a “The Chipmunk Song”) that sees Takac taking over vocals for the one and only time on this disc. Interestingly, the pair chooses to alter the lyrics of the beloved 1958 track, taking away all mentions of hula hoops. Alvin would not be happy! Fortunately, they make up for this with a truly precious rendition of their own 2005 offering “Better Days,” one that offers up a young child singing with piano accompaniment. (Rzeznik’s daughter, perhaps?)
And then the very best of the album kicks into full gear with “You Ain’t Getting Nothin’,” the LP’s second original track. This time, they put their acoustics away and go for a Grinchy little Jazz Pop slink with this witty ode to a beer-drinking, chaos-inspiring eight-year-old who should expect coal this December 25th. Then it’s a straight shot into one of the best-known holiday classics, “Let It Snow.” Always a welcome tune to fill you with holiday cheer and thoughts of cocoa, the 1945 Sammy Cohn and Jule Styne offering suits Rzeznik’s comforting voice perfectly as the piano twinkles like sunshine on the new fallen snow.
From here on out it’s smooth sledding with beloved classics like the calming “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” heartwarming 18th century carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and the grand finale, “The Christmas Party.” Featuring The Union Square 5, the Jazz instrumental blends a bunch of classics—including “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Winter Wonderland,” “The Christmas Song,” “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”—to create a fun conclusion to a solid Christmas album.
Sure, It’s Christmas All Over gets off to a bit of a slow start, but if you’re willing to hang in there’s a big pay off in the album’s second half. For inside these more traditional sonic morsels, there’s an enthusiasm that comes with their familiarity, not to mention, they fit Rzeznik’s vocal range better, as well. Still, fans should go into the experience understanding that this is largely a Jazz Pop record, one that is more appropriate for sitting beside the tree and relaxing with your feet up—and a glass of vino, if that’s your thing—while your precious devils are sleeping soundly, dreaming of the Man With the Bag. But that’s okay: adults need Christmastime too. For this, Cryptic Rock gives the Goo Goo Dolls’ Christmas LP 4 of 5 stars.