CD Review: Nick Lowe’s Quality Street an Early Christmas Gift for Lowe fans
Quality Street chocolates (or Shetlands Sweets as some may know them) have been popular Christmas treats in England as long as anyone can remember. The familiar tins and colorfully wrapped individual candies make for a wonderful holiday gift, not unlike the new Nick Lowe Christmas album by the same name.
With a handful of new, original songs and some smartly selected covers, Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for the Whole Family moves fluidly from one genre to another without hitting a wrong note. As good as the covers are (written by Ron Sexsmith, Roger Miller, and Roy Wood just to name a few), its the original takes on the yuletide spirit that make this disc anything but your average holiday release.
“Christmas at the Airport” fits in well stylistically with That Old Magic or any of the more recent Lowe recordings. Complete with the Ray Coniff-esque vocal touches and airport terminal sound effects, its Christmas from the perspective of a frequent flyer, I suppose. Lowe’s cover of Roger Miller’s “Old Toy Train” is absolutely touching and the best cover on the disc.
“The North Pole Express” resurrects a bit of the rockabilly style Lowe that Rockpile fans will love. Ron Sexsmith’s “Hooves on the Roof” swings right into the Lowe original, “I Was Born in Bethlehem”. The most original take on the Christmas story that I’ve heard perhaps ever. Imagine you’re on a bus heading home for Christmas sitting next to Jesus Christ. You listen intently as he recounts the story of Christmas Day, sharing a few details and a bit of insightful commentary.
If you’ve ever lost your job during holiday layoffs, you’ll identify with Lowe and Ry Cooder’s “A Dollar Short of Happy”. It;s another unique take on the holidays and an example of why this Christmas record a special gift to Nick Lowe fans and all holiday music lovers.
The disc finishes with a cover of an all-time great song by an overlooked genius. Roy Wood (of Wizzard and The Move) had what is arguably his biggest hit many years ago with a holiday song called “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” and Lowe has re-recorded it with farfisa organ flourishes before a tempo change that brings the disc to an appropriate close.
Quality Street is clearly the top Christmas recording of the year thus far and the most entertaining I’ve heard since The Gripweeds’ 2011 powerpop holiday classic.
Lowe recorded Quality Street with his backing band: keyboardist Geraint Watkins, guitarist Johnny Scott, bassist Matt Radford and drummer Treherne.