The Eagles are back with another Christmas album, complete with an extra gift to fans: Unlike last year, when vinyl copies were limited to a lucky handful, this year there should be plenty to go around.
That’s according to Connor Barwin, the former Eagle and current team director of player development who is the record’s executive producer.
“The big thing I’ve learned this year is trying to get the record out earlier, which I’ve learned from having numerous conversations with people in the music industry since last Christmas,” Barwin told Billy Penn. “Our timeline is all about a month ahead of where it was last year.”
Preorders open this Friday, and will stay available through the end of November, Barwin said, which will give time for organizers to order another vinyl pressing if there’s a lot of demand. Everyone who wants a physical copy should hopefully be able to get one, he added.
Offensive linemen Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata, and Lane Johnson have returned for the sequel, along with audio engineer Nick Krill and producer Charlie Hall, drummer for Philly-based band The War on Drugs. Even more folks have jumped on board, including Patti LaBelle and Kelce’s brother Travis.
Hall called the effort “more ambitious” than the first edition, when the football players were essentially music-making newbies. Now there’s a different level of comfort and familiarity with the recording studio and process, he said.
The result, dubbed “A Philly Special Christmas Special,” is themed around a holiday variety show.
“Christmas is this time where everybody remembers claymations, and The Muppet Show, and all these Christmas shows — and they’re usually cartoons,” Barwin said. “So let’s make a Christmas special. And let’s set it in Philadelphia.”
There’s a plan to put out some content leaning into that concept, and one piece has already dropped: an Italian Market-set claymation clip with Kelce’s rendition of “Dominick the Donkey.” Update: During the last week of November, a full 8-minute short premiered on YouTube.
The full album will be available to stream Dec. 1. The first single — a cover of Mariah Carey’s modern classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You” — is dropping Friday, the same day online preorders begin.
Proceeds this year will support holiday gift drives at the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Billy Penn got to take an early listen through the album, which is an eclectic, 11-track mix of heartfelt classics, quirky holiday tracks, and well-loved pop tunes — plus a Jason Kelce original. There are a handful of surprise appearances we’re still not supposed to mention, but here’s a sneak peek of what to expect.
‘The Christmas Song’
The classic image of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” makes for a serene, lowkey opening, and this group number does a solid job of getting the listener into the holiday mood.
Halfway through, Mailata chimes in with an angelic top-line harmony to complement lead vocals by Philly singer-songwriter Amos Lee. (Per Hall, Mailata grew up singing with his family and has proven to be a “master harmonizer.” It’s hard to disagree.)
This one gives a taste of the upbeat tracks to follow. Local and nationwide icon Patti LaBelle duets with Mailata for a fun, jazzy 1970s holiday track that’s nothing short of a bop.
‘Dominick the Donkey’
It’s silly. It’s jaunty. It’s kind of weird. And it’s SO much fun.
Of course, the material offered by the original Lou Monte version is pretty entertaining in and of itself. But Kelce’s cover — featuring an audio effect that makes it sound almost like he’s singing through an old console television — manages to do a great job of putting his personality on display.
This is the Kelce original, and honestly… you might’ve not known that if someone hadn’t told you.
It’s a sadboi Santa ballad with a rock instrumental accompaniment that helps build sonic intrigue, but the tune is simple enough that it has potential as a future Christmas classic.
The lyrics, sung from the perspective of Santa on Christmas Eve, originated as a poem Kelce had written when he was trying to get his newborn to sleep, according to Barwin, who thinks parents will find the song particularly touching. The rest came together as part of a collaborative process with the musicians working on the album.
“He’s one of those guys who are like, oh, of course, he can write like a crushingly beautiful song,” Hall said. “Jason has just such an elevated level of empathy and emotional intelligence.”
‘Christmas Time Is Here’
Featuring a choir of children from around the city — which Hall said includes some Eagles’ family members and kids from Beyond the Bars, a local anti-violence music nonprofit — this track is a soothing, beautiful conclusion to the album’s A-side.
‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’
This Mariah Carey song is THE modern Christmas classic, hands down. If you haven’t heard it before, you probably have never listened to a music radio station in December. And that’s what makes it a pretty ambitious cover to tackle.
That said, the Eagles trio’s execution is *chef’s kiss*. Mailata takes on lead vocals, and obviously the key is lowered from the original, but he pushes his range just enough for his vocals to shine without sounding strained. Great B-side opener.
Lane Johnson gets his shining moment. Last year’s cover of “Blue Christmas” made it clear he has country singing chops, and this Willie Nelson cover solidifies that. His deep register is smooth and soulful, and backing vocals from indie-folk group Waxahatchee make the number soar.
‘The Dreidel Song’
This group number brings a spike in energy level. The drums are strong, and the crew singing all in unison brings a fun, dancy vibe shift in between two slower songs.
‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’
If forced to choose just one, this would be *the* Eagles Christmas album track. Not because it captures the overall vibe of the album — it doesn’t really — but because it’s a beautiful rendition of a song that works especially well when sung by a group. Eagles defensive tackle Jordan Davis joins his teammates for this one, and listening to the collaboration is nothing short of delightful.
‘Fairytale of Philadelphia’
Liberties were certainly taken with this cover of The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” and it ends up as a pretty entertaining love letter to the city. Listen closely to the lyrics — who knew what this song always needed was references to “crumb bums” and “jabronies.”
‘Auld Lang Syne’
Philly a cappella group The Silver Ages leads beautifully as a bunch of other Eagles join in. It’s a nice reminder that the driving force of this project was simply a group of teammates who wanted to work together to do something special and fun. It’s an appropriate way to wrap things up with a nice bow on top.