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(Credit: Bent Rej / Far Out)


Revisiting Jimi Hendrix's forgotten Christmas album 'Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year'

The list of musical legends releasing Christmas albums or songs is endless. Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash and even James Brown have all tried their hands at muscling into the market that is resoundingly Daniel O’Donnel’s every year. You have to say fair play to the aforementioned artists, as their efforts were surprisingly good. 

Often Christmas releases are critically panned because they’re just downright dreadful and, often, tasteless. If you quickly think of how many Christmas songs you’ve heard over your lifetime, I’d wager that the majority of them would have been forgettable nonsense. Let’s be honest, no one remembers Justin Bieber’s 2011 release, Under the Mistletoe, do they? 

It seems to be a prerequisite of anybody who’s a huge musical star, come Christmas time, you should be getting in on the game, and cash in on the highly Americanised craze of a Christmas album. After all, it never did Mariah Carey any harm, and it certainly didn’t negate Bob Dylan‘s hallowed legacy. 

Another act, who got in on the Christmas craze, albeit posthumously, was Jimi Hendrix. That’s right, in 1974, the guitarist-extraordinaire released a yuletide EP entitled Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year. It doesn’t disappoint either. It was re-released in 1999 but seems to have lost amongst all his more iconic work, and mountains of posthumous releases his label have put out in the five decades since his passing. 

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The first track is a mashup of classic carols, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Silent Night’ and traditional standard ‘Auld Lang Syne’. It’s four minutes of Hendrix strutting his stuff on the guitar, amped up and fuzzy. The way he segues into his solo of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is genius. Much like with his reinvention of the guitar, he managed to reinvent Robert Burns’ poem for the modern world. 

The second track, ‘Three Little Bears’, is without a doubt the highlight. Funky, plinky and featuring Hendrix’s warm vocals, we don’t really know its relation to Christmas, but it’s still brilliant. It’s one of the most pleasantly surprising moments in the entirety of Hendrix’s mammoth back catalogue. It happens to be one of his funkier licks, and the guitars dovetail and harmonise, preceding the sort of style that Thin Lizzy would make their own across the ’70s. 

There really was nothing that Hendrix couldn’t do. We hope that unearthing this gem will bring joy to many. So, on Christmas day, amongst all The Pogues, Mariah Carey and Slade, don’t forget to stick on Hendrix’s Christmas effort, as it’s an absolute joy.