Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Time's a-Comin'

Some people hate holiday music and won't listen to it. I'm not one of them. In fact, listening to holiday music has in many ways expanded my tastes and introduced to styles and artists I would never have heard of otherwise. For instance, I had never heard of the Boston Camerata until I picked up one of their Christmas CDs; now, I'll listen to just about anything they perform. So, read on with an open mind:

Christmas Soul Special, Wilson Pickett, Martha Reeves, Ben E. King, Mary Wells, Sam Moore, Shirley Alston.
The Wicked Pickett is in especially fine form, but none of them concede a thing to middle age. Great cover, too.

An American Christmas, Boston Camerata.
Gorgeous classical arrangements of American folk holiday songs supported by period instruments. One of my favorites.

Light of the Stable, Emmylou Harris.
A traditional album of country and mountain music arrangements sung by The Voice. She brings to it her usual integrity and impeccable taste.

Go Tell It On the Mountain, The Blind Boys of Alabama.
Download Tip: The title track with guest Tom Waits

Santa's Got A Brand New Bag, James Brown.
Huh! Santa! Good God! Collects singles and highlights of no less than three Christmas albums. You get the full Godfather of Soul treatment, too.

Handel's Messiah Highlights, Sir Neville Marriner.
The version of "Hallelujah Chorus" that we played on Election Day

O Holy Night, Luciano Pavarotti.
Even though it's more sentimental than It's A Wonderful Life, I've never been able to resist LP's version of "Gesu Bambino."

Joy, Melissa Manchester.
Christmas favorites arranged and performed as Fifties cocktail music. MOR, but MOR at its most broadly accessible.

Christmas Carols, Choir of Westminster Abbey.
The Spirit of Christmas, St Paul's Choir
Candlelight Carols, The Choir of Trinity Church
Alike in the beauty of their voices, each choir puts its own stamp on traditional carols.

The Last Month of the Year, The Kingston Trio.
I've been listening to this one as long as I can remember!

Christmas, Bruce Cockburn.
My late wife didn't like this one when I came home with it in 1993, but our boys and I sang along with it so infectiously (and insistently) in the car that she eventually came around.

A Christmas Gift for You, from Phil Spector.
The guy may be a twisted creep, but that didn't keep him from producing the greatest Christmas album ever. Heck, it's one of the great albums ever, never mind Christmas. All they owe us is their art.

The Wonderful World of Christmas, Elvis.
"I can sing anything," he told the secretary at Sun Records. Here's proof.

An Austin Rhythm and Blues Christmas.
Like everyone else at the signing party at Waterloo Records, it never occurred to me that this would become a holiday classic played over mall sound systems everywhere. I still have the vinyl edition autographed by then neighbors Marcia Ball, Jimmy Vaughn, and Paul Ray.

New England Christmastide.
Bought on a whim, this has become a perennial favorite. Acoustic instrumental versions of tradition carols played on period instruments. A real treat.

Christmas, Jorma Kaukonen.
I liked this so much that I checked out the rest of his catalog, dug out my old Hot Tuna LPs, and went on a Jefferson Airplane jag. A 20-year valet parked my car in the middle of the "Holiday Marmalade" jam (get it?) and told me it was the best Christmas music he had ever heard. Anything that makes you cool in the eyes of a 20-year old...

Christmas, Chris Isaak.
A typically excellent Chris Isaak album that happens to feature Christmas songs.

Cool Christmas Blues, Charles Brown.
Late night holiday music in the hands and voice of a master.

A Boston Rock Christmas, Del Fuegos, Native Tongue, Jeff & Jane, Christmas, SSD.
Good luck finding this gem of an EP. I found it for 99 cents way back when in the remainders bin. SSD's punk version of "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" has given me my money's worth and then some.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi Trio.
A phenomenon, really: An album of original jazz material that became a holiday classic. Good enough to listen to year round, special enough to hold back for the last month of the year. (Thanks to RFB for reminding me of this one.)

Merry Christmas, Bing Crosby.
But of course.

This holiday season, the newlyweds went out together and came home with

Little Steven's Underground Garage Presents Christmas A Go Go.
Hey, where else are you going to find Christmas rock and soul from Keith Richard, Darlene Love, Joe Pesci, and Soupy Sales? Nowhere, is my guess.

A Swingin' Christmas, Tony Bennett and the Count Basie Band.
He sounds as good as ever at age 83. You go Tony!

What are your favorites?

Hype and Glory Dept: Premium T. and I received very gracious plugs from a blog called Robert Frost's Banjo:
Citizen K.: An extremely well-written & thoughtful blog about (per the masthead) “Politics. Music. Movies. Books. Travel. Outrage.” The posts cover this blogger’s interests as advertised. Some interesting videos—most recently the Treme Brass Band performing “Down By the Riverside” in support of a protest to save “the oldest black Catholic parish in the nation”; a righteous cause, & some righteous music: love the trombone solo, & really love the sousaphone. Anyone who says blogging is killing the quality of writing should read Citizen K. Listed under Blog Gumbo
Premium T.: Another very well-written blog, this time by a poet. A lot of musings on daily life—all the ones I’ve read being extremely compelling; to me, the best part of blogging is the overt subjectivity; the latest entry is just one example of a well-told story—completely personal, but in a way that should be of interest to anyone. Also entries on food, poetry (including posts of her own work), travel, & some truly gorgeous photographs. A blog by someone with diverse interests who’s able to articulate her fascinations with each. Listed under Blog Gumbo

RFB writes about poetry, food, movies, and life in rural Idaho. I especially like the interviews with musicians who have become family friends. Here's one about a guitarist and songwriter who made his own drum kit...

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has released the schedule for its 2009 40th Anniversary jamboree...

Last Wednesday marked the anniversary of my first blog entry. I wrote in part of a house T. and I were considering. We eventually rejected it because of a parking issue (there wasn't any); thus the absence of a driveway prevented us from buying near the Seattle market's peak. We eventually decided to keep the places we had and not buy at all, essentially because of sticker shock. While not buying frustrated us at the time, it turned out to be one of the best decisions we never made...

Whatever you do this holiday season, don't bogart love:


John Hayes said...

nice list of Xmas albums-- Der Bingle is a must have for this season, & you're right, the Phil Spector album is really great, as is Charles Brown-- speaking of his almost namesake, the re-issue of Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown's Christmas" on Fantasy is pretty darned nice, too.

Thanks for the RF Banjo mention-- a pleasure to plug this blog & Premium T.

J Hayes

K. said...

How could I forget A Charlie Brown Christmas? I just added it...

Molly The Dog said...

I think you know as much as I complain about Christmas music, I love really good Christmas music. Not bad for a Jew. Too bad the good ones you listed don't play in department stores.

How fun to see Willie look so absolutely silly.

Congrats on the review of your blog. I totally agree.

rgg said...

I was half-expecting Willie to snarl "Where's your Messiah now, Moses?"

For Christmas music fun, try to find Brave Combo's "It's Christmas, Man!". It's all over the place musically in typical Brave Combo fashion (sambas, cumbias, waltzes, and polkas of course)and even includes a Hanukkah carol.

K. said...

According to the DJ on WWOZ New Orleans (which is playing great Christmas music right at this minute), It's Christmas, Man! is Matt Groening's favorite holiday CD. Matt and rgg's say-so are good enough for me!