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a brief period of popularity as a power pop pioneer ("I'm On Fire," 1975),
Tulsa native Dwight
Twilley evolved into the very definition of the phrase coined by critic Robert
Christgau: semi-popular. That is, Twilley works in a popular idiom at a less-than-popular
level. His sort of brittle classicism and cool sincerity faded from the limelight
long ago. Despite a paucity of hits (his last one, "Girls," dropped
in 1984), Twilley has soldiered on, creating a long, unheralded string of semi-classics
for the pop faithful.
Back in 1992, Twilley recorded two Christmas songs, a big, reverb-drenched ballad called "Christmas Love" and a glam rocker called "Christmas
Night," which sounds like T. Rex never left. "Christmas Love" finally showed up in 1999 as the b-side to Twilley's "A Little Less Love" single (on French label Pop The Balloon) and on Between
The Cracks (Not Lame, 1999), a rarities compilation. "Christmas Night" was never been released at all.
So, the inclusion of the two songs on Dwight's 6-song holiday EP, Have
A Twilley Christmas (DMI, 2004), was big news for fans. And truth be told, nothing else on the EP quite measures up against those two early tracks. More than anything, the four new songs suffer from the claustrophobic feel of a guy who spends too much time alone in the studio. They sound, too clean, too compressed, too damn digital. All the same, Twilley hits more than he misses on Have
A Twilley Christmas, thanks to his solid, sentimental performance and his pointedly eclectic song selection.
Entertaining yet ephemeral, Have
A Twilley Christmas adds up to the sort of rarified gem that makes Christmas
music geeks (c'est moi) tingle all over! Mixing mournful, jangly ballads ("Christmas Stars") with souped-up
power pop ("Rockabilly Christmas Ball") and goofy novelties ("Christmas With The Martians"), Dwight Twilley revels in the sort of diverse yule that he probably grew up with in his native Tulsa, Oklahoma. His pleasure in palpable in the grooves (or bits, or bytes, or whatever).
Speaking of which, Have
A Twilley Christmas was originally released by Digital
Musicworks International as a download-only purchase from services like iTunes.
Soon, however, the company manufactured a limited run of compact discs for the pre-digital
generation - still available through Amazon as
of this writing - and they even issued a green vinyl, 45-rpm single of "Christmas Night" b/w "Rockabilly Christmas Ball." Then, they quickly
released another song, "Almost Christmas Time," exclusively in digital format. In 2005, DMI issued an expanded, remastered CD version of Have
A Twilley Christmas. Now running 10 tracks, this album-length version appended "Almost
Christmas Time" and added three new songs (most notably "Snowman Magic").
Then in 2009, the Gigatone label remastered and expanded the album yet again - this time to 16 tracks! This latest version adds just one new song (the plaintive "Help Me Jesus") plus five different mixes, live versions, demos, etc. - and the lyrics are no longer appear in already brief liner notes. So, it's not a big leap forward in value. The good news was that copies of the formerly hard-to-find of Have
A Twilley Christmas were back in circulation - including an MP3 download version. Whatever edition you prefer,
it's well worth the effort - and Twilley don't mind. [top of page]
- Almost Christmas Time (2005)
- Christmas Love (1992)
- Christmas Night (1992)
- Christmas Stars (2004)
- Rockabilly Christmas Ball (2004)
- Snowman Magic (2005)
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