December 16, 2013

OK, fellow Goodboys Nation travelers, it’s time for The Great White Shank’s Top 30 Christmas Hits List, created because my original and intended top 20 simply couldn’t fit everything I wanted to include the first time around. Before I start, a few brief comments:

* As with any list like this it’s purely subject and a matter of taste (or lack thereof).
* My apologies in advance for YouTube selections that feature an advertisement. I don’t like ’em either, but everyone has to make a buck somehow.

So without further adieu, here we go:

30. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Tammy Wynette. A Christmas tune from one of my all-time favorite artists. Compared to interpretations by other artists this version might seem a little tame, but there was little Tammy Wynette couldn’t sing and sing well, and her voice does this traditional tune justice.

29. Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano. How can anyone not like this song? Incurably happy, festive, and cheerful. Makes me want to head for the closest Mexican restaurant for a margarita and some enchiladas.

28. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day – Bert Kaempfert. I love this rendition from a truly great and under-appreciated Christmas album. Like so many of the tunes on my list, it brings back fond memories of Christmases of my youth. Even back then I can remember being enchanted by that funky plucked bass throughout.

27. Deck The Halls – Mannheim Steamroller. It’s not overstating the fact that Mannheim Steamroller changed the way Christmas music was brought to the masses with all sorts of fun and quirky modern arrangements. Their first three Christmas CDs are still a must for anyone’s Christmas party background, and I can speak from experience that our wildly-successful “Your Christmas shopping better be done by now!” December 23rd Christmas parties back in our old Dracut, Mass. condo wouldn’t have been nearly as cool without Mannheim Steamroller in the CD mix.

26. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Frank Sinatra. The Chairman of the Board’s Christmas album is just one of those “gotta haves” if you want to celebrate the season properly. There’s really not a bad cut on it, and I guarantee you’ll be hearing more from Frank further down in my list.

25. In The Bleak Mid-Winter – Shawn Colvin. She’s become one of my favorite artists, her voice enchants me so in its quiet and pretty strength. Her rendition of this tune is the kind of lullaby you could play for a child on Christmas Eve.

24. Parade Of The Wooden Soldiers – The Crystals. From Phil Spector’s legendary A Christmas Gift For You album, a simply stunning track featuring Phil’s “Wall Of Sound” in full over-the-top mode. I especially love the strings that positively shimmer throughout.

23. Ding Dong, Ding Dong – George Harrison. I know, it’s not exactly a Christmas tune, but it’s definitely a holiday tune, and one I use every December 31st to ring out the year here at Goodboys Nation weblog. A happy tune that’s perfect for the season.

22. Snow – Loreena McKennitt. I like the version from her To Drive The Cold Winter Away over the remake she did on a Mid-Winter’s Night Dream album. Though either is good – when you’ve got such good material like this to work with, you can’t go wrong.

21. The Seasons – Loreena McKennitt. Also from To Drive The Cold Winter Away, this is not exactly a Christmas song, but its melancholy look at the seasons of the year while one is looking at a Christmas tree and remembering times and people long past strikes the right sense of sadness as another year is chalked up to antiquity. The lyrics alone are worth the listen:

Come all you lads and lasses, I’d have you give attention
To these few lines I’m about to write here
‘Tis of the four seasons of the year that I shall mention
The beauty of all things doth appear
And now you are young and all in your prosperity
Come cheer up your hearts and revive like the spring
Join off in pairs like the birds in February
That St. Valentine’s Day it forth do bring

Then cometh Spring, which all the land doth nourish
The fields are beginning to be decked with green
The trees put forth their buds and the blossoms they do flourish
And the tender blades of corn on the earth are seen
Don’t you see the little lambs by the dams a-playing?
The cuckoo is singing in the shady grove
The flowers they are springing, the maids they go a-Maying
In love all hearts seem now to move.

Next cometh Autumn with the sun so hot and piercing
The sportsman goes forth with his dog and his gun
To fetch down the woodcock, the partridge and the pheasant
For health and for profit as well as for fun
Behold, with loaded apple trees the farmer is befriended
They will full up his casks that have long laid dry
All nature seems to weary now, her task is nearly ended
And more of the seasons will come by and by.

When night comes on with song and tale we pass the wintry hours
By keeping up a cheerful heart we hope for better days
We tend the cattle, sow the seed, give work unto the ploughers
With patience wait till winter yields before the sun’s fair rays
And so the world goes round and round, and every time and season
With pleasure and with profit crowns the passage of the year
And so with every time of life, to him who acts with reason
The beauty of all things doth appear.

Doesn’t get a whole lot more lyrical than that, does it? Perfect for “the rolling of the year”.

Tomorrow, #s 20 – 11

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