Sunday, December 12, 2010

Okay, you can play Christmas music now

Hello from Hawaii. Now that we're only two weeks away from Christmas instead of the day after Labor Day, I think it's finally appropriate to play Christmas songs. Here are some of my favorites and no-so-favorites. What are yours?

Personally, I get a warm feeling when I hear Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song”, which was written by Mel Torme. One Christmas night I saw him eating alone at Delores coffee shop. It was ironic but sad.

The Phil Spector Christmas album is still my favorite. Putting aside that he killed someone, we thank Phil for a real musical gift.

And Darlene Love's , "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" which is a recent parody of her own work on the album is maybe the funniest Christmas song ever.

I fancy the oldies. Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree”, Bobby Helm’s “Jingle Bell Rock”, and the Beach Boys’ “Little St. Nick”.

The Boss’s Xmas ditty is pretty catchy as are the King’s.

Re: “White Christmas”, give me the Drifters over Bing. (Interesting that so many classic Christmas songs were written by Jews.)

Some obscure holiday songs I recommend: “Run Run Rudolph” by Chuck Berry, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by the Four Seasons, “Monster Holiday” by Bobby Boris Pickett (that one always tears me up), and “Santa Claus is Watching You” by Ray Stevens. Super obscure but worth finding is “Lost Winter Dreams” by Lisa Mychols. And for the motherlode of bad taste fun, try to find Claudine Longet singing “Winter Wonderland”. Before she shot skier Spider Sabich in cold blood she and husband, Andy Williams, were the first couple of the season. Their annual family Christmas special was a must-see. They even have a kid named Noel.
Songs I can’t stand: “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, “Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney, and “the Little Drummer Boy” by anybody. Whey do stations overplay TO DEATH the songs that are the most repetitious? I seem to recall Paul Anka singing Christmas in Japan, which was like a drill to the head. Also, anything sung by kids usually makes me cringe.

I’m only sorry Kurt Cobain left us before he could give the world his Christmas album.

For a more vocal pop sound, you can’t beat Linda Eder’s holiday album. Her version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” would bring a tear to a glass eye. Listen for it the next time you’re in an elevator. Streisand is great but there’s more ornamentation than on the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Johnny Mathis is a little too sugar plum fairy for my tastes, and you can always count on “Mr. Peace and Goodwill to All Men”, Sinatra. The Carpenters have their fans too. And The Manhattan Transfer's acapella album is gorgeous.

But if I had to pick my all-time favorite Christmas song, the one that most expresses my feelings about the holiday season, it would have to be “The Christmas Song” by the Chipmunks. Sometimes the right song and the right performers just combine for sheer perfection.

Hopefully I can get the strolling Hawaiian minstrels to sing it tonight at the bar.

46 comments:

Sebastian said...

Every time I hear that Christmas song by "Wham" which shall not be named (!), I want to kill someone.

For instance the person who put it on the PA.

Anonymous said...

The one album I make sure to drag out every year is John Denver and the Muppets - I'm serious, it's the BEST.

Sumel said...

Amen on John Denver and the Muppets...

And the Chipmunks Christmas song IS my ringtone this month.

Nathan said...

Has Matisyahu done a Christmas album yet?

Can't wait!

Patrick said...

Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley

Christmastime in Hollis by Run-DMC

Anne Murray's Christmas album (my mom loooves Anne Murray so it's a genetic thing).

And welcome to Hawaii! Hope you and your family have a wonderful time in our islands

wolferiver said...

Father Christmas by the Kinks is my all time favorite. It's about what Christmas ought to be about, but doesn't whine or preach.

And it's got a great beat.

LouOCNY said...

Another MUST album is Leon Redbone's CHRISTMAS ISLAND - there is just something about Leon's voice that makes certain Christmas songs intoxicating - the title track....the best White Christmas outside of Bing's...an incredibly fun duet of Frosty with Dr. John of all people....

Michael said...

Bing gets one Christmas song in particular: Christmas in Killarney. It's just a fun song.

Tom Lehrer's Christmas song should be required listening.

I'm a country and bluegrass fan, and I highly recommend Christmastime's A-Comin', by Bill Monroe in particular. The Father of Bluegrass singing a Christmas song in bluegrass style can't be beat.

The Other Matt B said...

I have to third or fourth the John Denver and the Muppets album. That one takes me back. For modern classics, nothing beats The South Park "Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics". I think I'll go put that one on now.

Max Clarke said...

Joan Baez did a splendid Noel album decades ago. Back then, some people avoided Joan's music because of her anti-war work. A shame, because her two-record album of Bob Dylan songs and the album "Blessed Are" were great. These days, you can just enjoy her Noel music for itself.

Annie Lennox did a good job with "Winter Wonderland." Captures the Christmas spirit with her voice, while the production is Eurythmics.

Ref said...

On the more serious side, Annie Lennox's versions of "See Amid The Winter Snow" and "In The Bleak Midwinter" are not to be missed.

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm fond of about 75% of that first (red cover) a Very Special Christmas from 1987, though the albums diminish in pleasure from there.

Three Christmasy songs I like:
Hallelujah Chorus - the Roches
The Mistletoe and Me - Isaac Hayes
Winter Snow- Booker T& the MGs

Melissa said...

The best thing to come out of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" is the version of O Holy Night that was on the Christmas show, with Trombone Shorty of "Treme" fame. They had it available for download at the time, but it's on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ0RI_Iv4WM.

benson said...

It's not Christmas if I don't get to hear Blue Christmas by Seymour Swine.

Also of recent songs, Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is you is very much in the spirit of the Spector songs.

Matt said...

Andy Williams singing The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...that's always #1 on my Christmas playlist.

Blue Christmas by Elvis is highly underrated (even if my wife hates it).

Greg Ehrbar said...

• "The Happiest Christmas" by Petula Clark
• "Follow the Star" by Sally Field & The Bob Mitchell Choir
• "The Lord's Bright Blessing" from Magoo's Christmas Carol
• "The Heat Miser/Snow Miser Song" by George S. Irving & Dick Shawn
• "Christmastime is Here" by Vince Guaraldi
• "True Blue Miracle" by the Sesame Street Cast
• "I Believe in Santa Claus" from The Year Without a Santa Claus
• "An Old Fashioned Christmas" by Johnny Desmond
• "Somewhere in My Memory" from Home Alone

bevo said...

I could live my entire life without hearing another Christmas song, and be happy about it.

If I have to suffer through such treacly nonsense, then give me "Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" (only one time a year), Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (but only in the car during the commute) and "Do They Know Its Christmas" (the original version).

A thought about the last song. I know the song was designed as a fundraiser. Indeed, as a group sing a lot is absolutely destroys the American effort, which is terribly arranged. That written, the people who were to benefit are not, by large, Christian. Thus, they would not know nor care that Christmas was approaching.

In this sense, the song reminds me of British colonialism.


wv - matio: a welcome mat for the patio.
I do enjoy it though.

Jen said...

Seymour Swine's Blue Christmas kills me every time I listen to it. I just can't keep a straight face at whoever is laughing in the background.

kingvermin said...

The Vandals have a great christmas album, "Oi To The World."

But my favorite xmas song is "F*** Christmas, F*** Santa, F*** You" by Blood Sausage. Not sure of a release date, and I don't know why it's not on the radio all the time. And I mean all the time.

Anonymous said...

I like Ertha Kitt's version of "Santa Baby" and
Pink Martini's version of "Little Drummer Boy" ...really.

Pat Reeder said...

My favorite albums are Leon Redbone's "Christmas Island" and Nancy LaMott's "Just In Time For Christmas."

As for songs, maybe it's just for personal reasons, but my favorite is this heartwarming carol, recorded last year for our radio station clients by my wife, Laura Ainsworth, and jazz piano guru, Brian Piper.

It's called "Santa Baby (Help Me Through Recession Tonight)":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEsYterH8bo

Sunshine Vitamin said...

The one that says Christmas to me is "Santa Claus and his Old Lady" by Cheech and Chong. Call me sentimental.

Speaking of traditions, how did we get entirely through those 8 crazy nights of Hanukkah without once hearing Adam Sandler's song on the radio?!

YEKIMI said...

I would take a Christmas parody song over the real thing any day. So, here's to Bob Rivers and his "Twisted Christmas" CDs, Dr, Dirty [John Valby] and his obscene Christmas ditties and cannot forget Red Peter's "Holy shit, it's Christmas". Had an original 45 of The Chipmunks record till someone stole it and a few more of my priceless records when I was DJ'ing a Christmas Sock Hop party back in the 70s....note to self: go to bathroom BEFORE starting a gig; if can't wait, lock up the music.

YEKIMI said...

By the way, there is a website that plays Christmas music, 24/7 365 days a year. Mercifully, I have forgotten the URL of it. [Actually, after trying to Google it, I found there are several websites now playing Christmas music every day around the clock.....all I can do is quote Col. Kurtz from "Apocalypse Now"..."The horror...the horror."

Rob said...

Hey Ken... You sent me searching in vain for a "White Christmas" parody by Darlene Love

Did you maybe mean her "Christmastime for the Jews" from SNL a few years back?

lucifervandross said...

Sorry Sebastien, but I love "Last Christmas"...

But my favorite christmas song has to be "This Christmas" it's the one with the most soul.

Or "All I want For Christmas (is you)" the little girl version on Love Actually is amazingly cute.

Santa said...

Singing animals:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-0WVfj76bo

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Rob...

I think that's it. It destroyed me first time I saw it.

Here it is.

sally creeping down the alley said...

Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Favorites: O Holy Night by anyone with a strong voice; Blue Christmas, by Seymour Swine (I've been erroneously crediting this to Porky Pig for years); John Lennon's Xmas song.

Least Favorites: The 12 Days of Xmas; The Little Drummer Boy.

DwWashburn said...

Well my two favorite Christmas songs are "If Every Day Were Like Christmas" by the King, and "Snoopy's Christmas" by the Royal Guardsmen. The ones that make me wretch are "Christmas Shoes" (don't know the singer) and "My Christmas Wish" I think from Mariah Carey.

And my two favorite albums recently have been the great novelties that the Fab Four released a couple of years ago. Each song starts with a Beatles intro, then goes into a traditional Christmas sone. And the tune of the traditional is not sacrificed. You've gotta hear "Jingle Bells" done with the intro of "Tomorrow Never Knows".

Tod Hunter said...

I hate hate hate the little drummer boy with a white-hot passion. I once had a cartoonist friend make up a card with a nativity scene with him walking away from the manger with his little drum broken over his head as everybody shakes their fists at him and his sticks go flying over his head.

The inside sentiment said "Peace on Earth" with a hand-written "AND QUIET" after "Peace."

I like Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas" because it's fun and casual and it isn't FIFTY YEARS OLD and performed by DEAD PEOPLE. ENOUGH ALREADY.

I also like Barenaked Ladies' Christmas album, which so far as I know has the only recording of the schoolyard lyrics for "Jingle Bells."

Happy Christmas, everybody.

--t

Peckle: There's a joke here involving vinegar and lube that I can't quite come up with now, but you get the idea.

YEKIMI said...

Damn! I forgot about "I Farted On Santa's Lap" by The Little Stinkers".

Carl Croom said...

Christmas in Jail by The Youngsters is a classic.

Rob P. said...

Perhaps you know Eddie Gorodetsky, who's been putting out private Christmas collections for friends for probably 25, 30 years.

He put out one CD in 1990 -- "Christmas Party with Eddie G." -- that ranks as an antidote to the choirs of angels and singing strings.

Troy said...

Just in time for the holidays...

...time to be a little sacrilegious:

1. "THE CHRISTMAS SONG": I prefer the version sung by the composer himself, Mel Torme.

2. "LITTLE SAINT NICK": I'm a big fan of The Beach Boys and holiday music, but have always been terribly disappointed that, IMO, The Beach Boys never - not once - recorded a good Christmas song.

3. "THE CHIPMUNK SONG": Mark and Brian recently read a Top 10 list of "The Worst Christmas Songs Of All Time". Your favorite was on the list.

Unless, of course, you were just being squirrely.

D. Sinatra said...

I agree about the Kinks Father Christmas, it's always been a favorite.

As far as the worst, if The Christmas Shoes just isn't sappy and ridiculous enough for you, you need to check out the late, great Red Sovine's gift to Christmas music. Faith in Santa. It is painful and sure to ruin any family gathering.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oemuxzi-C_0

thomas tucker said...

Hey, wait a minute- who was eating alone on Christmas, Nat King Cole or Mel Tomre?

gospel reggae said...

why not try reggae christmas music for a change.This time of year is still warm in the caribbean but with the album Reggae Christmas it will make you fill like you in the caribbean.

Phillip B said...

Late comment as I'm catching up on your posts after several 8 hour flights without WiFi -

I'm a sucker for "All I Want for Christmas is You" from the film "Love Actually." The song does seem to gain strength from the context of the movie, and the soundtrack also features a version "White Christmas" by Otis Redding - and the film has truly funny scenes of a wash-up rock star bastardizing his greatest hits to produce a novelty Christmas album. Sappy fun.

As for people who have been dead for 50 years, the old TV Christmas cartoon shows allow me to explain who Burl Ives, Fred Astaire and Jackie Vernon were - especially Jackie Vernon, whose very memory makes me laugh....

Matt Patton said...

Actually, any song by Red Sovine is guaranteed to ruin a family gathering.

Mike McCann said...

Most depressing Christmas song from my DJ days -- Frankie Lymon's "Christmas Once Again." A scintillating performance, a heartbreakingly beautiful vocal effort. This remarkable and emotive performance by from a gifted teenager with world class talent -- who in the next decade would flushed his career, and not much later his life, away under a torrent of drugs.

For the three minutes it plays, the words "wasted potential" drown out the record in my psyche.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Ken,,,If you heard Jim Morrison's version of "Little Drummer Boy", I think you would change your mind about the song.

Dan said...

The Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas. The arrangements of some of the traditional songs are fantastic. And the most of the original ones are great too. Auld Lang Syne, is a favorite.

Some favorites, Last Christmas-Wham, Happy Christmas-John Lennon, Do They Know It's Christmas-Band Aid, the classic Christmas With The Devil-Spinal Tap, and A Charlie Brown Christmas to keep it jazzy.

BOB said...

My all-time fave is and will always be Stan Freberg's "Green Christmas".

You'll find it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5IXlfJSEi4

Trip said...

Robert Earl Keene's "Merry Christmas from the Family" is aces.

A couple that are obscure -- Louis Armstrong's "Zat You Santa Claus" and "I'd Like to Hitch a Ride with Santa Claus" by the Andrews Sisters.