December 9, 2011

Thoughts after putting up our Christmas lights. I don’t know if these are my faves of all time, but you can be sure I’ve got them in my rotation for this Christmas season:

15. Sleigh Ride – The Ventures. Just goes to show you can make surf music out of any Christmas song you can think of.

14. Once In Royal David’s City. One of my all-time favorite Christmas carols. Done right, it never fails to send chills down my spine and tears to my eyes. Makes me glad to have been born, raised and bred as an Anglo-Catholic, as I always will be. Guarantee my Mom and my Auntie Marge are going to love the link. Enjoy!

13. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow – Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. I absolutely love the cleanness of the arrangement, the guitar (with an ever-so-slight echo) and trombone are featured here. The whole album is a must for our house every Christmas, it’s filled with a quiet joy and a touch of whimsy. Tracey likes Jingle Bell Rock for the tongue-firmly-in-cheek tag at the end.

12. All I Want For Christmas – Mariah Carey. Very (if you don’t mind me saying) Spector-esque, all that’s missing are the tenor and alto saxes played by Jay Migliori and Steve Douglas underscoring the intro. The driving bass and the stratospheric note she hits towards the end does it for me. Heard it the first time while driving from the Providence airport to my folks house. Didn’t know who did it, but I loved it immediately. The background vocals, however, are a disappointment; imagine what this would sound like if they were done by The Beach Boys?

11. Speaking of which, Little St. Nick – The Beach Boys. ‘Nuff said.

10. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – Plastic Ono Band. Sure, John and Yoko sing this classic tune from 1971, but this is really Phil Spector‘s bag. Multiple acoustic guitars, sleigh bells, percussion, shimmering strings (as only Phil could do). It’s Spector at the top of his game. The video is disturbing, just as Lennon would have wanted it.

9. Christmas Island – Jimmy Buffett. A happy reminder that once my back patio is repainted and restored to pre-house-painting state (this weekend?) that the sounds of Caribbean and Jimmy and others will once again be heard under happy pineapple lights. Fingers crossed.

8. The Most Wonderful Time Of the Year – Andy Williams. Because you know in your heart of hearts that it’s not really Christmas without Andy.

7. Child Of Winter – The Beach Boys. A 1974 cut that never really saw the light of day. It’s a great little rockin’ tune with Mike Love on the lead and Brian Wilson doing the little dopey narration at the end. Listen for the Moog synthesizer throughout but a little more prominent towards the end. A very cool cut.

6. The Christmas Waltz – Frank Siinatra. The whole Frank Christmas CD is as good as it gets. Not a bad track to be found. Christmas popular music as it should be if our American culture still knew what taste, class, and appreciation meant.

5. Morning Christmas – Dennis Wilson. Dense and moody (like the artist himself), the tag at the end is breathtaking in its beauty. No pop artist one before or after did music like Dennis Wilson did. Incredible.

4. In Praise Of Christmas – Loreena McKennitt. From To Drive The Dark Winter Away. The whole album is a classic and a must to all y’all folks who enjoy Celtic music.

3. “O Holy Night” – Ricky Lee Jones. Backed by The Chieftains on their Bells Of Dublin release. I know what you’re thinking – Rickie Lee Jones??? – but listen – she does a great job. Nothing fancy, stunning in a folksy way. I love the way she pronounces the word “hear”. When she goes high it’s very pretty.

2. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – The Ronettes. OK, I know what you’re thinking – there goes The Great White Shank again, off on another Ronettes / Phil Spector tangent. For the sake of brevity all I’ll say is this: y’all know what I think about The Ronettes and Phil’s Christmas album (my annual post to come in a few days). Let’s just leave it at that. It don’t get a whole lot better than this.

1. Blue Christmas. You know who does it. The absolute freakin’ best pop Christmas song ever recorded, hands down. Sparse piano, guitar, stand-up bass, the Jordanaires, all backing the King. How on God’s green earth do you improve on that? You don’t. Two minutes and nine seconds of perfection.

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