Personnel: Pat Monahan (vocals); Luis Maldonado (guitar); Suzanne Ornstein (violin, strings); Victoria Parker (violin); Robert Rinehart (viola, strings); Alan Stepansky (cello, strings); Phillip A. Peterson (cello); Lisa Kim (strings); David Mann (alto saxophone, horns); Andy Snitzer (tenor saxophone, horns); Roger Rosenberg (baritone saxophone, horns); Jeff Kievit (trumpet, horns); Mike Davis (trombone, horns); Jerry Becker (keyboards); Drew Shoals (drums); Sakai, Nikila Houston (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Michael Brauer.
Recording information: Bear Creek Studio, Woodinville, WA; Sunken Forest Studios, Issaquah, WA; Water Studios, NYC.
Photographer: Casey Catelli.
Credit to Train for capturing a specific seasonal vibe on their 2015 holiday album Christmas in Tahoe and, furthermore, for making it plain right in the record's title. Where most Christmas albums focus on afternoons filled with snow and evenings by the fire, Train zero in on a Californian Christmas, one with plenty of sun and margaritas to share. Appropriately, the band isn't big on carols -- only one makes the cut and that's "O Holy Night," its presence vaguely bringing to mind the Letterman tradition of Paul Shaffer singing it as Cher every holiday -- choosing to cover popular favorites from the '50s through the 21st century, throwing in a couple of peppy (and pretty good) originals along the way. The oldest song here is the 1950 Hawaiian holiday tune "Mele Kalikimaka," a novelty popularized by Bing Crosby, and the group also sticks in the '50s for "Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me," which Pat Monahan hams up as a tribute to Elvis, but most of the tunes date from somewhere surrounding the '70s. Train cast their net wide, bringing in Donny Hathaway ("This Christmas"), the Band ("Christmas Must Be Tonight"), Joni Mitchell ("The River"), and Slade ("Merry Christmas Everybody") -- it's a wonder they didn't find room for Roy Wood's "I Wish It Was Christmas Everyday" -- and they also bring in Chrissie Hynde's "2000 Miles" and Tracey Thorn's recent "Tinsel and Lights," nods to good, varied taste one and all, but the real calling card for Christmas in Tahoe is its sunny, open feel. It, like Colbie Caillat's Christmas in the Sand before it, is an overdue holiday record for the West Coasters and there's an inherent charm to that sensibility that cannot be denied. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine