Reviewed by Bradley Mason Hamlin
for MYSTERY ISLAND MUSIC
November 2008



The Archies are back!

All right—but what exactly does that mean?

Well, let’s explore a little Archie history to fully grasp the epic implications of such an historic event.

Archie Andrews, created/drawn by Bob Montana and written by Vic Bloom first appeared in Pep Comics No. 22, dated: December 22, 1941, published by MLJ Comics (later to be renamed Archie Comics). Pep actually began as a venue for superheroes such as: The Shield, The Comet, The Hangman, and Steel Sterling to compete with National Periodicals (DC Comics) and Timely (Atlas/Marvel Comics).

However, by the 22nd issue the publishers made the wise choice of introducing an average red-haired American teenage boy into the mix—and the world of popular comics has never been the same. Archie Andrews gained the type of fame that only the major characters of the competing companies could boast: Superman, Batman, Captain America or Captain Marvel … MLJ didn’t need a superhero to compete with those great heroes; they just needed an average Joe, or this case, an average “Archie” with a great supporting cast. Archie had a goofy pal in “Jughead” and a mean-spirited pal (haven’t we all known someone like that?) in Reggie, but the greatest addition to the Archie universe was Betty & Veronica. This gave the female audience two different types of teen girls to relate to and the guys—an all-American dream of having two beautiful ladies—one sugary good and wholesome, the other spoiled with a touch of spicy bad girl, both fighting over Archie for years as he lived in the timeless teenage haunt of Riverdale, USA.

But for us kids growing up in the 1960s and 70s, it was more than just comic books that caught our attention. We were all glued to Saturday morning TV, eating Kellogg’s cereal because The Monkees told us to and grooving to all the new ‘toons that had “feel good” music for our generation.

The Archie Show (1968), made by Filmation (creator of many of our favorite animated shows) is truly the standout Archie experience for us kids growing up during that time period, and by 1969 produced the biggest piece of bubblegum goodness anyone could ever hope for in the form a number one hit song: “Sugar, Sugar.”

When you envision the time period involved, The Archies creating music at the same time as The Monkees (in Saturday morning re-runs), the Scooby-Doo musical chase sequences, and the awesome Banana Splits—you’ll understand that having a new Archies album to listen to is like stepping into a bubblegum-powered time machine.

Okay, but the big question remains: Is this new Christmas offering from The Archies any good? Does it stand up to the fun of “Jingle, Jangle” and other Archies classics?

Here are some facts for you:

The Archies Christmas Album featuring Betty & Veronica is a totally legit new recording because first and foremost Ron Dante is back as Archie! The voice behind “Sugar, Sugar” and so many other fun songs (including the production of Barry Manilow’s best songs) has never sounded better. In addition, he has recruited the best two teenage singers I’ve heard in years: Danielle van Zyl as Betty Cooper and Kelly-Lynn as Veronica.

These girls aren’t just good and competent; they’re really great singers on the level of the best American Idol competitors.

In terms of the songs you get 10 Christmas classics and two Archie originals, all produced by Ron Dante.

Song list:

Here Comes Santa Claus
Up On the Housetop
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Holly Jolly Christmas
Jingle Bell Rock
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Run Rudolph Run
(Yes, the Chuck Berry song written by Johnny Marks and Marvin Brodie!)
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Sleigh Ride
Archies Christmas Party
Christmas in Riverdale

One of my favorite vocals on this collection is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Kelly-Lynn knocks it out of the park with that vocal, truly A+. However, when you hear Danielle van Zyl sing “Up on the Housetop” it’s a classic Betty vs. Veronica pillow fight as to who’s the best singer. Let’s just say they’re both great and when they harmonize with Dante—it’s a Beach Boys-quality blend.

All of the Mystery Island children enjoy this album and they’ve never even seen the cartoons, so that’s a pretty good indication that this collection is good Christmas fun. If you’re a pop culture enthusiast, a collector of 60s/70s pop, like bubblegum, or just want a good Christmas album this year: Here it is—straight from Riverdale to your Christmas stocking!

We would like to thank Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, and Hot Dog for bringing us this great gift of Christmas cheer!


Bradley Mason Hamlin
11.26.08



RON DANTE INTERVIEW :: THE ARCHIES MYSPACE :: THE OFFICIAL ARCHIE COMICS WEBSITE


“Archies Christmas Album Review" by Bradley Mason Hamlin.
Edited by Lucy Hell. © 2008 by Mystery Island Publications. Published: 11.21.08.
All rights reserved.

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