In 1993, Sub Pop, then probably the coolest record label on the planet, sent their mailing list a Christmas card with a CD inside. I’m guessing that had this CD contained material by one of Sub Pop’s alt-rock signings, most obviously Nirvana, but Sebadoh or Afghan Whigs would do at a pinch, this CD would probably change hands nowadays for a lot more money than it actually does. As it is, less than ten dollars will secure you a copy, probably with the card itself attached too. It seems lounge revivalists Combustible Edison just aren’t that collectible…
Anyway, here are the two tracks featured on that CD. Well, they were given away for free in the first place, after all. Apparently, “Christmas Time Is Here” is a seasonal standard in the USA, but I’d never heard of it, and until I looked into the story of Combustible Edison last year, I’d assumed it was an original song. How wrong I was… Wikipedia lists a whole heap of other versions, noticeably all by North Americans. We just don’t have that song in the UK. I think the Charlie Brown christmas special which introduced it in 1965, may have been shown here at nine in the morning once in 1991.
Anyway, “Christmas Time Is Here” is the less interesting of the two tracks. Much better is their inventive arrangement of “Sleigh Ride”. We in the UK do know “Sleigh Ride”, mainly through the Ronettes version, but Combustible Edison’s version is a pleasing contrast to Phil Spector‘s wall of sound. A surprisingly minimal arrangement (no strings or brass in this version) and seemingly delivered with a determination not to maintain the same combination of instruments for more than eight bars in a row, it fairly breezes along and even survives the uncharacteristic cheesiness of the brief vocal interjections (“Giddy up!”). Delightful.
Well, it looks like summer’s back for a bit, so let’s break out this one from 1992. A load of other acts have done dance versions of this song since, but this was the one they’re all copying. Indeed, Opus III vocalist Kirsty Hawkshaw has done at least two separate remakes herself, each with several trillion remixes, but back in 1992 Opus III were actually surprisingly restrained, offering just three mixes and a B-side for this one…
Opus III “It’s A Fine Day” (PWL CD single, 1992)
Link: Opus III – It’s A Fine Day (edit)
Link: Opus III – It’s A Fine Day (full length)
Link: Opus III – Evolution Rush
Link: Opus III – It’s A Fine Day (acappella)
The song is of course a cover version, the original being this fully acappella rendering credited simply to Jane on its original release (though at various times also to Jane and Barton or Barton and Jane, in recognition of songwriter and general mastermind of the project Ed Barton), issued on Cherry Red in 1983: