Arena Venus | Yuletide Swank

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Holiday: Easy Listening Jazz: Jazz Vocals Moods: Mood: Christmas
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Yuletide Swank

by Arena Venus

Arena Venus delves into lounge, jazz, and rockabilly on this swanky Christmas disc. Upright bass, vibraphone, guitar, organ, and sultry female vocals make this Christmas CD both retro and fresh. Featured in the hit series "Chad Vader."
Genre: Holiday: Easy Listening
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Santa Baby
3:21 album only
2. Sleigh Ride
3:07 album only
3. Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
1:58 album only
4. I'd Like You For Christmas
2:32 album only
5. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
2:34 album only
6. The Man With The Bag
2:44 album only
7. Winter Wonderland
2:04 album only
8. Jingle Bell Rock
2:07 album only
9. Baby, It's Cold Outside -featuring Ryan Smith of the Melismatics
2:45 album only
10. Riu Chiu
1:23 album only
11. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
2:13 album only
12. Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me
2:00 album only
13. Jingle Bells
2:09 album only
14. Christmas Waltz
2:26 album only
15. Good King Wenceslas
3:52 album only
16. Happy Holiday
2:02 album only
17. Auld Lang Syne
1:12 album only


Album Notes
"Let's get this out of the way straight off - this is the best Christmas album I've ever heard - anywhere. Brilliant arrangements and sublime musicianship...with a pristine recording and mix, delivering one of the best albums of the year." - Rick's Cafe, South Central Wisconsin's Regional Music News

" ...Yuletide Swank is pure pop pleasure. It's a fun ride for a broad audience of holiday music lovers. Take a seat in the lounge, and enjoy!" - Carol Swanson,

"The band candy-coats its usual guitar rock edge and gives yuletide favorites an 'indie lounge' feel that goes down as smooth as spiked eggnog at your holiday party." - Rob Thomas, The Capital Times

"Arena Venus could likely succeed in any genre, the elements from each of the individual players are that in tune and that cohesive." - Christine Holm, The Badger Herald

After colliding at a favorite neighborhood watering hole in Madison, Wisconsin one summer evening, guitarist Dan Hicks and vocalist Courtney Collins instantly bonded over their mutual love of old-school power pop. They closed the evening with a pact to start a band that would pay homage to the bands that inspired them during their formative years, and then set about finding the rhythm section that would complement their music, which they dub "arena pop." Drummer Dave Ross entered the scene and wholeheartedly agreed to join the expedition. The lineup was completed with the addition of bassist Andrew Yonda.

Hicks' roaring power chords and classic arrangements are augmented by Yonda's melodic bass lines. Ross's precise but big beat provides the foundation for the playground that is Arena Venus. Collins ties it together with her bright melodies, contralto vocals, and multi-entendre lyrics which are usually delivered with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

The band's debut EP, "Plucked," was released in July 2003. "Plucked" has been reviewed as a "smart, catchy disc," with "gritty guitars" and "sultry, dreamy legato" vocals. Over the summer of 2004, Arena Venus took a temporary departure from power pop to record a Christmas CD. "Yuletide Swank" combines lounge, rockabilly, and traditional stylings - upright bass, vibraphone, Christmas bells, rocking guitar, organ, and smooth female vocals that make the recording both retro and fresh.

To purchase WELCOME TO CHRISTMASTOWN by Courtney Collins and Jeremy Ylviskaker, go to:

To purchase other ARENA VENUS CDs go to:

To purchase COURTNEY COLLINS'S solo CD, Violet Night, go to:

And also visit and for more music from members of Arena Venus.

*Update! Two tracks from Yuletide Swank are featured in the online "CHAD VADER" Holiday Video Card. Chad Vader is the comedy series that's become an internet hit with over 150 million downloads to date.



to write a review

Christine Holm, the Badger Herald

fabulous new spins on the old classics
Arena Venus puts some fabulous new spins on the old classics and spices it up with a few new tunes.

Yuletide Swank’s opening tune, “Santa Baby,” offers up a prime example of Venus Arena’s deft ability to reinvent the conventional in a fascinating way. Refusing to conceal the song’s innate sensuality, Collin’s uses her alto register and crystal clear elocution to really tell the song’s story.

“I’d Like You For Christmas” is one such zesty addition. Collins’ vocals, sweltering in the jazzy prolongation of her notes, will get her just about anything she wants underneath the tree. The backing doo-wop harmonies give the perfect aura of a chill lounge act, a mood that is prevalent throughout the record.

The choice of this musical expression for sharing the holiday spirit is indeed the real kicker. Arena Venus could likely succeed in any genre, the elements from each of the individual players are that in tune and that cohesive. The shuffle of the bass lines, the soft and steady beats are encapsulating. This album steps it up with some characteristic power-popiness on one number, then slows it down for another. But the underlying chill is always predominant. With such a hectic season, it is as if Arena Venus is offering listeners a little gift of their own: a reminder to relax just a little and enjoy all the holiday loveliness swirling around.

Rob Thomas, Capital Times, Madison, WI

Why be merely cold on Chrismtas Eve when you can be cool?
Arena Venus, "Christmas Swank."

No squares need apply for "Christmas Swank," the deeply cool CD by Madison's power popsters Arena Venus. The band candy-coats its usual guitar rock edge and gives yuletide favorites an "indie lounge" feel that goes down as smooth as spiked eggnog at your holiday party.

Vocalist Courtney Collins' brassy, sultry voice is perfectly suited to classics like "Winter Wonderland" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." The band adds a little rockabilly flair to several tunes, including the surf guitar laid down on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Why be merely cold on Christmas Eve when you can be cool?


still my favorite cd for 6 mo out of the year
what's even better than this cd? i used to work at 324 in LaX, WI, we had them there for a live holiday show that year, it was great!
great music for holiday parties, i take it with me every time i go to one!

Carol Swanson,

Yuletide Swank is a lovely lounge affair!
Yuletide Swank is a lovely lounge affair. Just imagine yourself on a cold December night, slipping into a comfortable gin joint in Madison, Wisconsin. There, performing on the corner stage, is Arena Venus (a truly inspired name!). The foursome (Courtney Collins--vocals; Dan Hicks--guitar; Dave Ross--drums); and Andrew Yonda--upright bass) is well-known for its "power pop," but the group's holiday album is something else. Collins herself describes it as a "unique Christmas cocktail," and this is a drink you can nurse all through the holiday season.

The album has a 1960s feel with contemporary updates. Collins' sultry voice steals the show. She occupies the lower registers with sensual flair, sometimes exuding a jazzy, torch singer approach, and other times presenting a more mellow, low-key sensibility. The band is fantastic; it provides a relatively minimal, but perfectly appropriate, backdrop for Collins' vocals. The songs are peppered with some superb guitar riffs, and the vibraphone adds just the right touch.

The 17 tracks are largely well-known favorites with a few surprises ("I'd Like You For Christmas" and "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me" come to mind). The first track, "Santa Baby," is terrific. Although most versions feature a female vocal that is all high-pitched, breathy cutie pie, Collins provides an impressive contrast; her sexy alto adds a much richer dimension. "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" has an unexpected surfer mentality--the guitar chord progressions and drums have a "Beach Boys" imprint. There is one a cappella piece on the CD, the gorgeous "Riu Chiu." Here, Collins puts down multiple vocal tracks with reverb, providing a hauntingly beautiful ambiance. "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me" has a marvelous throw-back appeal; the musical stylings and fun backing vocals provoke images of Elvis. "Good King Wenceslas" offers a great Collins/Yonda duet; the other terrific duo is Collins with guest singer Ryan Smith on "Baby, It's Cold Outside." The album ends with a classic "Auld Lang Syne," an abbreviated version that features an impressive rocker bass line.

Yuletide Swank is pure pop pleasure. It's a fun ride for a broad audience of holiday music lovers. Take a seat in the lounge, and enjoy!

--Carol Swanson

Kenneth Burns, Isthmus

Pass the eggnog!
Arena Venus usually plays driving rock, but for Yuletide Swank the band has dispensed with that in favor of a swinging lounge sound typified by the marvelous vibraphone present on several tracks. There also are hints of rockabilly — Elvis Presley’s “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me” is present and accounted for — and bits of electric guitar and lap steel add a touch of twang. But Arena Venus’ signature instrument is Courtney Collins’ silky voice, which sounds especially good when she is singing a cappella (“Riu Chiu”) or when she is harmonizing with the Melismatics’ Ryan Smith on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

Christmas music is the rare genre that produces few new songs, but the band keeps things interesting with playful arrangements (“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” sounds a bit like a Wild West anthem) and a handful of rarities. There’s a Sammy Cahn tune that’s new to me (“Christmas Waltz”), and it’s as pretty a Christmas song as I’ve heard. Pass the eggnog.

Linda H

Wonderful gift...
I mailed one of these CD's to each of my 11 long distance friends. This is such a wonderful CD. The the smooth, silky, smokey vocals add spice to the holiday season. Arena Venus is one very talented band.