Those CATS in SPACE have really pushed the boat out for the holiday season this year, with a specially-recorded Christmas single released on multiple formats. You could have had a 7-inch satsuma-coloured vinyl (very clever, CATS!), a 12-inch picture disc featuring the new artwork created for the season by the band’s regular artist Andrew Kitson, or a CD which contains the song plus additional new tracks with reworked versions of older songs. Alongside all of that fans could also buy a limited edition print of the cover artwork, or for the well-heeled CAT fan, a ‘Catmas Tin’ box set containing the CD, two 7-inch vinyl records, plus various CAT-branded items such as a Christmas decoration and even some candy (!) all presented in an aluminium tin with the now-familiar CATS in SPACE logo on the lid. If like me, you’re short on both house room and readies especially at this time of year, the best bet is that CD since it features a lot of material for your tenner, so that was what I plumped for. At the time of writing, there are still various formats available for the CAT completist to indulge themselves with however.
The band are also pushing for a Christmas chart hit with this single, having launched a campaign on their fan group. They’re up against strong competition as you might expect, but after having held off playing this disc until the calendar finally reached December, it’s time to give this seasonal offering an appraisal. Starting off with the Christmas song itself, as you’d expect by now there are numerous nods to their many influences. They’ve chucked the kitchen sink at the production; it’s all there – sleigh bells, lyrics touching on everything from ‘mini-skirts at the office party’ (are we hoping for a mild December, lads?) to ‘Eric and Ernie on the box’, vol-au-vents and ‘flat warm beer’. (They stopped doing Watney’s Red Barrel years ago, guys!). They have gone full Wizzard with a children’s choir on the last chorus too, although the over-arching message is to urge us all to have this mindset all year round (‘don’t wait for the snow to fall, to wish peace and love for all‘) set to a song which evokes memories of classic 1970s Christmas chart-toppers. The melody in the chorus did make your correspondent think of Petula Clark’s hit ‘Don’t Sleep In The Subway’ though, and I bet that was not entirely unintended!
Track 2 on the CD (‘This Is London’), written by ‘7th Cat’ Mick Wilson, is a paean to the capital city, praising London as ‘the jewel in the crown’, set to a melodic rock song not a million miles from the sort of thing Cutting Crew did in the 80s, all harmonised vocals and gently soothing guitar backing. Another new one from Wilson follows, ‘If I Were You’ is a mid-paced acoustic track showcasing new vocalist Mark Pascall’s voice as well as those trademark harmonies.
‘Hollywood’ is the last of the new material; bassist Jeff Brown picks up the writing credit as well as taking lead vocal on this one, a not-quite-so complimentary view of Tinseltown (‘land of the greedy, home of the vain‘) where ‘the faces may change but the dreams stay the same‘. All these tracks are in a rather gentler style than perhaps we’ve come to expect from the albums; that’s not to suggest the new album will be all like this but it does offer further proof that the band aren’t all bombast, they can rock you gently as well as heavily.
The remainder of the tracks on the CD are reworkings; there’s a new, acoustic version of ‘Chasing Diamonds’ as well as the new version of ‘September Rain’ which they issued separately in, September! The trilogy of Pascall reworkings concludes with ‘Yesterday’s News’; this is flagged on the cover as the ‘audition tape’. All of these new versions of older songs are to establish Pascall as the CATS singer now, having taken over from Paul Manzi who sang on the first three albums he is now putting his own stamp on the back CATalogue. The last track on the CD closes with a karaoke (or ‘kataoke’ as they would have it’) version of ‘My Kind of Christmas’ for you to sing along to. (The lyric is provided in the CD booklet, helpfully!)
As is the case with everything CATS in SPACE do, a lot of thought, time and effort has gone into the production and presentation of this release. I’d have liked this CD to be a little more lively, maybe with a cover of a party classic just for fun, but as it is, it is another quality product. I do hope the next album has a little more dirt under the claws however!
The band have today (as of the time of this post) just issued a promo video for ‘My Kind of Christmas’ – at the time of writing it is only available on their own Facebook page. Directed by none other than Toby Jepson, they have themed the video on ‘A Christmas Carol’ interspersed with the band playing on a stage set just like you saw on ‘Top of the Pops’, complete with audience attempting to dance!