Today’s POP RESCUE from a festive fire, is 1997’s Snowed In Christmas album by sibling trio Hanson, but would this album be a winter warmer, or leave you cold? Read on…
This 11 track album contains a range of familiar songs all given the Hanson brothers’ treatment, and three original tracks written by the group. The album was released just 6 months after their debut album Middle Of Nowhere.
A needle lands on vinyl as the crackle starts off Merry Christmas Baby, a cover of Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers 1947 track. This vintage sound is soon joined by a beat and gentle sleigh bells, which along with piano help the song bounce along – somewhat faster than the plodding original. The vocals here feel a little high and weak, but even so, it’s a nice start.
What Christmas Means To Me follows this – sticking relatively loyal to the Stevie Wonder version from 1967. This song feels much slicker than the previous song, with more stable vocals. The brass and tinkling pianos really help the song to build nicely before the bass returns to dance you through the verse.
Classic track Little Saint Nick follows this, and now Hanson take a much more rock approach, and actually this works fairly well. Again, not a million miles from the original, but undeniably Hanson – there’s plenty of growling guitars, some funky brass, and a big hand-clapping segment. There’s some really nice backing vocals that give a respectful wink to the Beach Boys. Despite its 3m 34s, it does feel a little long.
Pianos and acoustic guitars usher in Hanson original track At Christmas. Lyrics feel like their oozing Christmas, and the vocals seem to be channeling Cliff Richard at times. Cello joins in, really helping to weave the whole song together. The result is simply a really nice little Christmas ballad.
Up next is Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – a song that regardless of who covers it, ends up being such a cheery, bouncy song (including Mariah Carey’s version). Of course, this is Hanson, so there’s a plenty of thumping drums, roaring guitars, but these step aside for a wall-of-sound style that’s synonymous with this song, although it gets a bit of a rubbish and abrupt ending. Sugary.
The Brenda Lee classic Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree is covered next, although this is the hardest version of it that i’ve ever heard with it’s rock guitars and drums. I’m not sure that this really works as well as Brenda’s little hip-swinging MOR version, or even Mel Smith and Kim Wilde’s 80s hit version.
Another Hanson original is up next – Christmas Time. This is more up-beat than At Christmas, but it’s a bit of a weaker song, although it does build up nicely around the 2m 10s mark with lots of backing vocals.
The tempo picks up with lots of drums and funky guitars for Everybody Knows The Claus – another Hanson original. Again, this song is a pretty catchy little rock-pop song. The lyrics are quite fun – ‘Don’t you smell the cookies he’s bakin’, Can’t you see that belly, it’s shaken” they sing, essentially making Santa out to be a bit of a mean hard dude not to be messed with. This song is very stylistically Hanson – think MmmBop catchiness re-made for Christmas.
This is followed by Run Rudolph Run – a cover of the 1958 Chuck Berry song (I didn’t know this song). This version aims for 50’s rock n roll, and achieves it, and doesn’t really sound much like Hanson. There’s a great beat and bass here, with piano dancing perfectly on top. The backing vocals really help to lift the chorus.
Penultimate track is a carol medley O Holy Night/Silent Night/O Come All Ye Faithful and it surprisingly works quite well, with the boys putting in a pretty good turn for O Holy Night. This merges seamlessly into Silent Night, even if the beats and bass manage to plod through without even flinching. Even O Come All Ye Faithful kind of works with the belting out of the higher pitched vocals that this carol demands.
The vinyl crackle returns for a cover of White Christmas. It starts off a bit shaky but for it’s short run, the song grows stronger. Whilst the vocals end, the crackle continues before a toddler asks a man ‘what’s this?’ before grabbing the record arm and scratching it across the record – ending the album.
Where are Hanson now?
Snowed In became the best-selling Christmas album in the US in 1997, but flopped in the UK – scraping into the charts at #87. There were no singles released in the UK for this album, despite it having been recorded in London.
Since then, they’ve struggled to place an album inside the UK top 40 (achieving it in 1998 and 2000). Their most recently charting UK album was in 2007.
They returned to the UK singles Top 10 with track Penny & Me in 2005, but haven’t charted there since 2007.
They streamed a Hanson Christmas Special in 2010 – 13 years after this album’s release, and included some of their Christmas songs from this album.
Hanson have continued to find moderate success in their native USA, where they have continued to record and release albums and singles.
In 2013 they ingeniously launched MmmHops – their own beer marking their 21st year in music. They’ve also appeared on numerous TV shows, including American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. They were also guest judges on Cupcake Wars.
POP RESCUE RATING
Over all, this album turned out to not be as grating as I’d expected it to be. There’s some pretty strong – although faithful and unoriginal – covers of some Christmas songs that I wasn’t familiar with.
Hanson take these songs in their stride, and even most of the original tracks are pretty good.
Whoever came up with the idea to swiftly put these guys in the studio on the back of their debut success, made a pretty smart move.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5 (but only just)
- 1997 UK CHART POSITION: #87
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.51 from an eBay seller.