by Anne Jones
“Shiny & Brite” is as true to Tater form as can be, offering up all the moods of the season and then some, and giving every Tater a chance to shine brite. The opening track is a Craig Evans and Gary Walker orginal “Last Lone Noel” and manages to be lonely and hopeful and pop all at the same time, kinda like the holidays. “I Can Hear Music”- the Beach Boys classic- with drummer Chris Mendez on lead vocals, showcases the tight Tater harmonies and clever wordsmithing; they’ve turned it into a beautiful Christmas song that would make Carl Wilson proud. Then there’s the Gene Autry hit “32 Feet and 8 Little Tails”, only the Taters pep it up a little with extra galloping it seems, and best of all -a genius Bonanza riff to top it off. That’s some standard Tateresque joy right there. Brad Tucker’s clear and pure vocals on “O Come All Ye Faithful” bring us back around to the meaning of Christmas, and when Craig and the rest join in for the harmonious rounds at the end it’s a beautiful and classic Christmas moment. Greg Marrs has come up with a slow, bluesy original “It’s Not Christmas” about a lost and joyless Christmas without your baby, along the lines of “Please Come Home for Christmas”, only smarter and with more depth and soul, and some cool guitar and sax parts.
Hold up. What’s Christmas without Elvis? And who does Elvis better than crooner Craig Evans? No one, especially on “Santa Bring my Baby Back”, more of the same babyless, spiritless Christmas theme but in kick-ass rockabilly style. “Christmas Dream” is one big emotional roller coaster, in the best possible way. It’s poignant and catchy, pleading for peace and an end to the dying and the shouting, does no one remember? And Craig’s voice does it justice. And yet there’s a slightly manic undertone, enhanced by the German chorus and by knowing that it was written by Andrew Loyd Webber for the film “The Odessa File”, about the hunt for a SS captain in post-war Germany. That the Taters end the song with a nod to Hogans Heroes is a bit of twisted brilliance. Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper” is just plain ole country pretty, and it’s nice to hear Roger Miller’s “Little Toy Trains”, not on everyone’s set list.