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Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2001

HIGH NOTES

Asylum Street Spankers: Live in Europe 2001 & A Christmas Spanking


If you're one of those people who never buys Christmas albums because they're not cost-effective, then you're probably sick of the Como/Sinatra/Elvis collections. However, a trip to the record store in search of something new will likely result in disappointment. Destiny's Child? Kenny G? Michael Bolton?

But don't despair: I strongly recommend the new, limited-edition Asylum Street Spankers double-live album which, as it happens, is only available in Japan. You can't get more cost-effective: two CDs for the price of one; the first containing selections from concerts recorded last summer in Switzerland and Denmark, and the second a Christmas show recorded in Austin, Texas, the Spankers' home base.

A caveat: Though "A Christmas Spanking" does contain standards such as "Blue Christmas" and "We Three Kings," these are not the versions you are familiar with. "Silent Night," for example, is played on a musical saw -- and that's one of the more straightforward songs.

These are holiday tunes you're more likely to hear on Dr. Demento. As the name implies, the Spankers' approach is willfully eccentric. The seven-piece ensemble specializes in blues, jazz and country novelty songs, especially those having to do with sex or drugs. And their instrumentation is strictly acoustic -- they don't even use a P.A.

Among the chestnuts they roast are "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" (as composed by Muddy Waters) and a hilariously salacious "Trim Your Tree." The sole original is "12.25.61," in which lead singer Wammo tells us what it's like to celebrate a birthday on Christmas ("Everybody asks me, 'Do you mind getting ripped off on half the presents?' ").

And, of course, once Christmas is over you can enjoy "Live in Europe 2001," which includes such classics as "Got My Mojo Workin'," "Tight Like That," and what could be considered the group's unofficial anthem, "Winning the War on Drugs." Buy one for yourself and, while you're at it, pick up one for that difficult person on your Christmas list. It's the gift that keeps on spanking.



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