Christmas

Christmas was a Canadian post-psych band from Ontario. In 1970, they held an in-studio jam that appeared (unauthorized) on Paragon, followed by the Daffodil release Heritage. In 1974, they resurfaced as The Spirit of Christmas with the ambitious concept album Lies to Live By.

Members: Bob Bryden (vocals, guitar), Tyler Raizenne (bass), Rich Richter (drums), Robert Bulger (guitar)


Background

Christmas formed in 1970 from the remnants of Reign Ghost, an Oshawa psych-rock band with singer Lynda Squires, guitarist–singer Bob Bryden, and drummer Rich Richter. Reign’s volatile coarse (marked by two iterations in the span of a year) ended when Lynda joined the Toronto cast of Hair.

The newly free Bryden called a meeting at the local Sears coffee shop with Richter and four other musicians from his hand-picked cream of nearby talent, including guitarist Robert Bulger, bassist Tyler Raizenne, and Lynda’s brother, singer Gary Squires. Inspired by recent happenings on the US West Coast, they initially named their act The Society for the Year-Round Preservation of the Spirit of Christmas.

Reign Ghost producer Jack Boswell tapped Christmas for a hits-covers release on his newly formed budget label, Paragon, which focused on the Canadian country market. As they jammed in the studio, he rolled the tapes. Impressed with the results, he dispensed with the proposed covers album.


Christmas

The self-titled debut Christmas album appeared without the band’s knowledge in early 1970 on Paragon.

Christmas features three tracks credited to Bob Bryden (“Just Suppose,” “Your Humble Suitor,” “Sorry I Bore You Victoria”) and two group-written pieces, including the twenty-minute “Jungle Fabulous,” which consumes Side B.

A1. “Just Suppose” (4:24)
A2. “Your Humble Suitor” (4:15)
A3. “Sorry I Bore You Victoria” (2:57)
A4. “Oasis” (6:05)
B. “Jungle Fabulous” (20:39)

Christmas appeared in a plain white sleeve with a Picasso-style doodle by one Joe Gallant. The back cover features a studio pic with the members identified by their forenames: Bob, Rich, Tyler, Robert, Gary, and Wolf (second singer Wolfgang Hryciuk). They give thanks to members of their entourage, including Lynda.

With no international distribution, Paragon issued Christmas in a limited quantity that soon became rare on the collector’s circuit. (As of February 2024, the last copy sold on Discogs went for $1,481.48 in December 2019).


Lineup Change, Single

After their impromptu debut on the record-buying public, Christmas trimmed to its instrumental core of Bryden, Bulger, Raizenne, and Richter. They signed with the Toronto indie Daffodil Records, launched in June 1970 by British-born music entrepreneur (and Lynda’s future husband) Francis W. Davies.

In November 1970, Christmas released a non-album single: “Don’t Give It Away” backed with “Farewell Sweet Lovin!” Bryden composed and arranged both tracks, each labeled “A Production of Love.”

A. “Don’t Give It Away”
B. “Farewell Sweet Lovin!”


Heritage

Christmas released their second album, Heritage, in late 1970 on Daffodil (Canada, Australia). Given the unauthorized nature of its predecessor, this was their first proper release (and only album under the ‘Christmas’ moniker).

Bob Bryden takes sole credit on the album’s ten numbers, which include conjoined tracks (“Zenith”–”Rise Up”) and lengthy excursions (“Zephyr Song,” “April Mountain”). Heritage features Bryden on piano, organ, and electric harpsichord, in addition to guitar and vocals.

A1. “Zenith” (1:10)
A2. “Rise Up” (3:07)
A3. “Goin’ to Oklahoma” (4:00)
A4. “Something Borrowed” (2:57)
A5. “Point Blank (It Scares Me)” (2:22)
A6. “Zephyr Song” (13:20)
B1. “Bustin’ Out Tonight” (4:42)
B2. “Blues On an Iceberg” (5:59)
B3. “April Mountain” (10:52)
B4. “Heritage” (2:30)

Sessions took place in October 1970 at Toronto Sound Studios, where Francis Davies earned his first production credit on Heritage. The album lists four engineers, including future Rush soundman Terry Brown. Davies subsequently produced the Nucleus spinoff A Foot In Cold Water, a breakout act for Daffodil.

Heritage appeared in a gatefold with a white outer-spread that with ‘Christmas’ in red type above an incongruous image of the band on a tank. The inner-gate shows their backs to the camera in a hold-up situation. Daffodil released the album in time for the 1970 Christmas season, which caused clueless retailers to file the band in the Christmas music section. In the new year, Daffodil lifted “Point Blank” as a single (b/w “Goin’ to Oklahoma”).


Release Gap

In 1971, Christmas released their second non-album single: “I’m a Song (Sing Me),” a Neil Sedaka cover backed with “A Part of Our Heritage,” a Bryden original.

A. “I’m a Song (Sing Me)”
B. “A Part of Our Heritage”

In September, Christmas appeared with multiple acts (Lighthouse, Dr. Music) at Toronto’s historic Massey Hall, where Daffodil label-mates Crowbar (the headliner) recorded their live double-album Larger than Life (and Live’r Than You’ve Ever Been). The event, dubbed “An Evening of Love with Daffodil Records,” was sponsored by CHUM-FM, a then-progressive Toronto station at 104.5 FM.

Two years passed with no new Christmas output. In 1972, Daffodil included their two recent a-sides (“Point Blank,” “I’m a Song (Sing Me)”) on Proven Blooms, a sixteen-track sampler with Crowbar, A Foot In Cold Water, Fludd, King Biscuit Boy, and Argentine composer Waldo De Los Rios, plus select English acts (Humble Pie, The Nice, Small Faces).

Christmas added a fifth member: singer Preston Wynn, who cut the 1966 single “Happy Man” (b/w “Every Plan, Every Man”) on one-press Wyntex. To mark the expansion (and possibly avoid market confusion) they named their act The Spirit of Christmas (the suffix of their original twelve-word name).


The Spirit of Christmas – Lies to Live By

As The Spirit of Christmas, they released their third album, Lies to Live By, in 1974 on Daffodil (Canada only).

Lies to Live By features two songs and four suites, all Bryden compositions apart from the Wynn passage “Where the People Are Made” and the joint-written sequences “Requiem – War’s Peace” and “Everything’s Under Control.”

A1. “All the Wrong Roads” (3:19)
A2. “Stay Dead Lazarus” (4:06)
A3. “Voice In the Wilderness (4:19)
      a. “Graveyard Face”
      b. “All Is Light”
A4. “War Story” (8:53)
      a. “Ballad of Jack Boot”
      b. “Requiem – War’s Peace”
B1. “The Factory” (8:33)
      a. “Where the People Are Made”
      b. “Everything’s Under Control”
B2. “Beyond the Fields We Know” (11:26)
      a. “Prelude (I Don’t Know Where I Am)”
      b. “Thermopylae”
      c. “Heaven’s Lost”
      d. “In Closing”

Sessions took place at Toronto’s Manta Sound Studio with Francis Davies and staff engineers Lee De Carlo and Rick Capreol, who both worked on recent Manta recordings by Funkadelic, Michael Quatro, and Space Opera. The credits formalize the names of Bob (Robert Bryden) and Rich (Helge Richter).

Lies to Live By appeared in a gatefold designed by one Gary Gatti, whose visuals depict an outer space cluttered with characters, critters, confetti, wires, and disembodied human parts. The inner-gate features monochrome studio pics around an image of a molten lava stream, plus a four-page lyric booklet.

Daffodil lifted “Graveyard Face” as a single (b/w “Stay Dead Lazarus”).


Discography:

  • Christmas (1970)
  • Heritage (1970)
  • Lies to Live By (1974)

Sources:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *