Whenever the holiday season rolls around, it’s always nice to take a look back at a rock ‘n’ roll Christmas album or two, but with the recent passing of Michael Nesmith, we must look a little wistfully back at this particular holiday LP, one which – despite celebrating the season with songs of comfort and joy – also serves as the swan song for one of the most memorable music acts of the ‘60s and onward.
Produced predominantly by Adam Schlesinger (with two exceptions, which we’ll discuss in short order), Christmas Party was the follow-up to the Monkees’ 2016 album Good Times! Given the success of the album, it’s no surprise that people started asking about whether there’d be a follow-up, but as Micky Dolenz told Rolling Stone, “I remember people asking about a Good Times! 2, but that didn’t fire me up. It felt too risky to try doing that again.”
That said, when the band’s label, Rhino Records, pitched the concept of a Monkees Christmas album, Schlesinger – who’d produced the band’s previous LP – agreed to produce, after which R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge of XTC, and novelist Michael Chabon(!) signed on to write songs for the record. It was then that Dolenz decided it was a project worth pursuing.
As with Good Times! before it, all of the other Monkees were represented on the album as well. The late Davy Jones can be heard singing “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Silver Bells,” both of which he’d recorded for his own Christmas album (although Schlesinger added new instrumentation to Jones’s existing vocal tracks), and Peter Tork – who passed away only a few months after the album’s release – delivers a banjo-powered take on “Angels We Have Heard on High.” As for Nesmith, his two tracks are the two non-Schlesinger-produced numbers on the album, with his sons Christian and Jason twiddling the knobs for their dad’s versions of Claude Thornhill’s “Snowfall” and Mel Tormé’s immortal “Christmas Song.”
In truth, Christmas Party is mostly Dolenz’s show, with our man Micky turning in versions of Big Star’s “Jesus Christ,” Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day,” Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” and the classic “Merry Christmas, Baby” along with those aforementioned original tunes penned for the album. But given the various vocal performances, it’s still very much a Monkees album, and while closing things out with a Christmas LP might not be the perfect way to say goodbye to the band, at least it’s a farewell filled with good cheer.
And with that, we’ll let Mike have the last word...