REVIEW: Michael Falzarano & Extended Family “A Kaleidoscope Christmas” is Foot-Stomper Swayin’ Filled With Cheer


Michael Falzarano & Extended Family – A Kaleidoscope Christmas

Joined by Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady & Pete Sears, this is an exceptional 12-cut Christmas original by Michael Falzarano (a 15-year member of the New Riders of the Purple Sage & 20-year vet of Hot Tuna).

The foot-stomper swayin’ music is arranged with expertise with illuminating performances. Nothing hokey-pokey – it’s well-done & engaging. Few Christmas songs today match the classics from the ’40s through the 60s but this is a worthy addition to that household.

Set for release Nov. 24th in time to be appreciated by aging hippies for the holidays Falzarano has assembled a stellar extended family to help realize his holiday gift to fans. With a touch of Americana, folk & roots the holiday tunes are filled with cheer & fun. Of course, this isn’t in the same English tradition of Dickens’ type Christmas melodies, but it does indeed hit the target.

Michael’s raspy vocal has an authenticity that miraculously creates songs that can be listened to throughout the year, not just when the holly & mistletoe is hung. “The Tree That Nobody Wanted,” is clever songwriting in the late John Prine tradition. The backup is sophisticated & the musicians are loose with the gracious holiday melodies Michael accurately managed to sculpt.

A Kaleidoscope Christmas (Hypnotation Records) features Long Island’s Jeff Mattson (Zen Tricksters, Donna Jean Godchaux of the Grateful Dead & Phil Lesh Band) on guitar; Jason Crosby (violinist with Assembly of Dust & Susan Tedeschi Band); Kerry Kearney (slide guitarist/guitar); Tom Circosta & Klyph Black (guitarists – Zen Tricksters); David Diamond (drums – Zen Tricksters); New York’s Clare Maloney (vocalist/guitarist); Nate DeBrine (guitar); Grammy-nominated blues musician Professor Louie. Also: Miss Marie (piano/percussion/vocalist); Rob Wolfson (guitarist); Waynard Scheller (keyboards) & Scott Guberman (keyboards – Phil Lesh Band).

This isn’t your grandma’s Bing Crosby or Johnny Mathis Christmas songbook except for maybe the lone cover “Jingle Bells,” decorated brilliantly in a Hot Tuna decor. Some of the instrumentals have a Grateful Dead/New Riders touch yet the holiday season trimmings shine through.

A little novelty-oriented with the rich economy of their individualistic styles each performs with gusto & it’s all beautifully rendered. As on “Psychedelic Christmas,” with excellent guitars & backup vocals. The musicians are fluent & expressive. But these are seasoned professionals who understand the value of textures with feelings.

The effort is admirable. While not all songs may strike everyone’s hearts as Christmas-oriented the spirit is alive in every track. I found it all delightful. There isn’t a slowdown in momentum anywhere. Play it through from beginning to end. Try it with Irish coffee, peppermint sticks & strawberry scones. “You’re Still Standing” is the final jewel.

Individual instrumentation on each song is detailed on the inside CD artwork. Produced by Michael Falzarano. The 59-minute CD proceeds will be donated to the U.S. Marines’ Toys for Tots Program. Available at &

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