Eric Clapton Wastes His Talent on “Happy Xmas,” a Snoozefest that Fails to Bring the Christmas Spirit

Over the past 70 years, the world has been treated to Christmas songs recorded by Bing Crosby, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Nat “King” Cole, and many others. These classics evoke the wonderful feelings of the holiday season among listeners of all ages. Happy Xmas is Eric Clapton’s attempt to create his own seasonal classic. With a “slight blues tinge” to holiday favorites, he falls painfully short with an amazingly boring, emotionless, and by-the-numbers album.

The album starts with a rendition of “White Christmas,” which cements that Clapton is no Bing Crosby when it comes to bringing the Christmas spirit. It’s as sanitary as can be, and sounds as if it’s trying to be as bluesy as possible while still appealing to a younger pop audience. This is a common musical theme that repeats throughout the album, even on Clapton’s original composition “For Love on Christmas Day,” a song about longing to find lasting love during the holiday season. The song conveys emotion that doesn’t sound genuine due to the generic lyrics and vocal delivery.

The 2LP set’s second side starts off in a fairly pleasant way with “Christmas Tears” and “Home for the Holidays” (not the song made famous by Perry Como), but ends with an awful arrangement of “Jingle Bells,” dedicated to Avicii. (Avicii was the Swedish EDM producer who died at age 28 following years of alcohol issues, which Clapton himself struggled with throughout the 70’s and 80’s.) Save for the electronically manipulated vocals towards the middle of the song, it sounds nothing like “Jingle Bells” as we have previously known it. Heavily featuring club-ready drum programming and redundant guitar fills, it’s among the most un-Christmas-y “Christmas” songs ever made.

Sadly, the second LP of Happy Xmas is another 27 minutes of the same: more bland performances of Christmas standards that we all know, love, and hate because of pre-season shopping mall overexposure. “Merry Christmas Baby” drags on for four minutes with little in the way of emotion, and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” works better with the depth of Frank Sinatra’s voice on a “Christmas Crooners” CD (though Clapton’s rendition contains the original lyrics before they were jollied-up for Sinatra). Nothing on this album suggests the musical or sonic warmth that I associate with classic Christmas music. Perhaps the album cover’s Santa is smiling because he got thousands of fools to waste $25 putting this under the tree for their loved ones. If I found this under my tree, I would be infuriated that my family and/or friends forced such mediocrity onto my turntable. After the return to form that was I Still Do, this album is a tremendous disappointment.

The album’s sound is acceptable although clean and “digital,” but the 45rpm format’s smoothness only contributes to its sanitary character.. GZ’s 2LP colored vinyl pressings (red and green, respectively) have a slight “whooshing” sound, poorly-cut labels, and are warped because the Czech Republic-based company seems to have difficulty pressing flat records. The records are packaged in a gatefold sleeve with Clapton’s own illustrations, which are the highlight of this release.

Please excuse me while I go dig out my copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas to bring in some true Christmas spirit…

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rshak47's picture

on the Christmas season, my favorite is Blue Xmas by Bob Dorough with Miles Davis:

MalachiLui's picture

got the blue vinyl 7" from RSDBF 2014 for that one. it's great!

Tom L's picture

...colored vinyl LPs are almost always inferior to black ones. Poor pressings, more clicks and pops, and they wear out quickly. Really just collectors items for fans who want to support the artist and get something cool looking in return.

Michael Fremer's picture
Not true. It depends upon the vinyl formulation. The TRON soundtrack was pressed on translucent blue vinyl and sounds great. Bladerunner on red and it sounds equally good and equally quiet.
analogdw's picture

Tell it like you see and hear it Malach! I like your directness. Keep it up!

Michael Fremer's picture
I agree!
RCZero's picture

... haha, thanks, I always appreciate your reviews.

My copy of “I Still Do” doesn’t provide the sound I had expected. Wondering if it’s because of MPO USA pressing.

Michael Fremer's picture
is in France. They've pressed some bad records but are definitely getting better.
jokerman's picture

Still a better cover than the cover of "i still do". He has been a lazy musician since the mid 70s.

recordhead's picture

Sorry (and I'm not trying to be an a**) but should I take a review from a 12 year old serious? Better yet, why are reviews being farmed out to a kid? I'm not trying to be a grumpy old man but I come here to get an opinion from someone who has earned my trust and my dollars.


Old fart

volvic's picture

That his writing is years ahead of his age and this maturity translates very well to record reviews. History is full of 12 year old prodigies that excelled in different fields why should we knock his reviewing. I for one love his freshness.

audiof001's picture

I appreciate Malachi's voice here. Old farts killed the fun of Stephen Medias's reviews - as a fellow reviewer, his were the very first articles I read in the magazine when it arrived.

Michael Fremer's picture
You are being one! I find his opinions reliable and well-informed. Age is not an issue...
cgh's picture

I am guessing his hearing is far less rolled off than some people on this site! :-)

imbetterthenu's picture

what i find funny is this kid is criticizing one of the best musicians on the planet. i laughed at the entire review.

MF - it is strange you are exploiting this kid as you are.

Malachi - go be a kid. you have way to much interest in albums for a kid your age. go get a g/f!

Michael Fremer's picture
That you see giving him a platform as "exploitation". He's paid for his work and he loves doing it. As for what he wrote, even the best musicians on the planet sometimes release "stinkers". He's got many other interests including cross country running and he's a "foodie" too. I'd say he's betterthenu (though he'd spell it correctly as "betterthanu").
imbetterthenu's picture

it is so strange the interest you have in this young boy. someone should report you.

imbetterthenu's picture

you have officially been reported and the Dept of Labor notified to ensure you are following child labor laws! are you happy now MF?

Michael Fremer's picture
You are a very unhappy individual...all of this is done with his parents' involvement and he's paid fully the same amounts as adults are paid for writing on any of our platforms. I'm sure that's not made you any happier.
isaacrivera's picture

Really? MF is going to do child labor abuse in a public blog that belongs to Stereophile? Have you taken your medication? Do you really think anyone feels threatened by your emotional imbalance? Do you know you could get fined for baseless, frivolous reporting?

AnalogJ's picture

I think we have found our own Mr. Potter, a sad and twisted old man. Somehow encouraging a talented kid to follow his passion under the guises of his parents is child abuse.

I can only hope that you are either trolling or kidding. Your moniker makes me suspicious. But you are certainly better than nobody.

PaulG's picture

Malachi is certainly entitled to his opinion. Your patronizing "run along now, Sonny" tone gets in the way of a well written review. Just because Clapton had a stellar career doesn't give him an eternal free pass on dreck. Clapton is not God and maybe it takes someone who didn't grow up with some kind of received reverence to hear the record for what it is without the associated baggage of Clapton's discography.

PeterPani's picture

I like his reviews. Malachi go for the new Yoko Ono record! I would be very interested what a teenager has to tell on her new vinyl!!

cher143's picture

I think Clapton summed up his own opinion of the album when he used an X in Christmas. Nice and accurate review.

hi-fivinyljunkie's picture

Sounds like Clapton should have stayed retired!

alucas's picture

I really did. it was a good review! I would have said shitty Lp and that cover pic? what the hell was that? Was Eric back on the sauce? Lol.

latinaudio's picture

Sorry for the Old Fart, but Malachi is really up to the task.
His writing is insightful, deep and joyful.
I am in awe since Mickey discovered him and admire such talent in just a teenager. Please respect what the kid has to offer: knowledge, a new point of view, a fresh breeze in this hobby.
Malachi "has earned my trust and my dollars..."

williamgl's picture

As an "old fart" audiophile of 40 years or more I would like to applaud Malichi's entry into the world of reviewing stuff and I am amazed at how good he is at it. Mr. Fremer is paying it forward and I love every minute of it! The quality of his writing is amazing and we should support this effort wholeheartedly.

francisalbert's picture

I can appreciate the novelty of a 12 year old reviewer . It’s all very cute and clever . However I don’t find the reviews that brilliant or insightful . I certainly don’t appreciate MF jumping in to defend Malachi against every criticism of this young man’s reviewing abilities and lack of experience or the admonishment of those who happen to disagree with the “Novelty “ of it all .

Wimbo's picture

brilliant and don't need world knowledge and experience to impress their opinion or abilities.
Keep on rocking Malachi!!

Happy Will's picture

The problem with domed records - not warped- seems to afflict not only GZ but almost all pressing plants as far as my recent experience is concerned - e.g.I have just recived the Craft Joan Baez lp today - RTI pressed and it is domed. The only warped records I have recently had have been TMR Vault pressings that I think link back to the packaging.

dfsdave's picture

I vehemently disagree. Instead of a 4 this album rates a 1,and that only because there is nothing lower.

glenn824's picture

Want to hear a great new Christmas record? JD McPherson's "Socks". Funny, Rockin' & awfully clever. The cover and liner notes are also well done.


Hold on a second. Pump the brakes there kid. Go back and give it another listen. 1. Does it hold up to A Charlie Brown Christmas? No, but what does? 2. Does it hold up to the Nick Lowe Christmas album? No, but what does? If you compare it to the best stuff ever made it may come up short but go back and listen to "Away in a Manger". A heartfelt recording that was all analog and sounds great. Also, the extra track RSD picture disc is super cool and sounds analog also!!!!!!!