December 17, 2013

Ed. Note: Yesterday we started with numbers 30-21, and the pressure is already starting to build and the second doubts start creeping in. Will that insipid Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet make the list, as my brother Dave hopes? No. Will Mariah Carey make the list, as my lovely wife Tracey asked? Yes. Should Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree have made the cut? I dunno. And what about Burl Ives? Possibly and no, since Burl positively ripped off Bobby Helms). But it is what it is, and I’m sticking to it.

Here, then, are #s 20-11, and if you don’t like them, well there’s always 2014, right?

20. White Is The Winter Night – Enya. Just a pretty and joyful seasonal song from one of my favorite artists. The mileage she gets out of echoed, clipped synth strings never ceases to amaze me. The lyrics are positively delightful: “Green is in the mistletoe and red is in the holly, silver in the stars above that shine on everybody. Gold is in the candlelight and crimson in the embers, white is in the winter night that everyone remembers.” So simple even a caveman could sing it.

19. Merry Christmas, Darling – Carpenters. OK, I know – believe me, I know, but think about it – how many truly unique Christmas tunes can you name that have become somewhat of a pop standard over the past few decades? The Beach Boys’ Little Saint Nick, for sure, but not too many others, right? There aren’t too many Carpenters songs I like, but on this one Karen’s voice is its typical soothing best and tolerable, and the background vocals are pretty. A sweet confection perfect for the season.

18. Christmas Time Is Here – Shawn Colvin. Happy lyrics backed by a sad, bluesy melody. I love the fact that Colvin doesn’t try to do any more with this “Charlie Brown Christmas” tune than needed. It’s jazzy and sad at the same time, mimicing, I think, the way most people think of the holidays. The song demonstrates the mix of anticipation and melancholy that comes with the season: you want to be excited, but there’s a sadness in knowing the wonder you experienced as a child and the joy you felt as families got together by the Christmas tree can never be experienced the same way again. It sends some people to drink and despair – for me, it just means putting a Carpenters song in my Top 20.

17. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love. From Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You the sonic awesomeness of this tune grabs you right from the start: shimmering strings, bass, piano, and sleigh bells are but a hint of what is coming. Love’s voice is earnest and pleading throughout, and the tension built during her pleas at the very end is released only by Don Randi’s (or is it Leon Russell’s?) arpeggios and Hal Blaine’s drums. A truly unique and inspired performance.

16. Morning Christmas – Dennis Wilson. Haunting and moody – like the artist himself. This is a dense production with piano and lots of buzzing synthesizer; the tag at the end is breathtaking in its beauty. No pop artist before or after created music like the drummer for the Beach Boys did. Brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. Probably should be in my top 10, but that’s OK. Just a riveting and incredible performance.

15. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Jimmy Buffett. I dunno, I just like this version. I’m sure plenty of others have done a better version, but with a glass of Pinot Grigio under happy glowing pineapple lights on the back patio beside a shimmering blue aluminum Christmas tree on a chilly December night? It works for me – as it should.

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. Want to know what Midnight Mass ought to sound like? It’s this. Guaranteed my Mom and my Auntie Marge will love this. 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 a lovely echo) and trombone are featured here. The whole album is a must for our house every Christmas with its quiet joy and not a little touch of whimsy.

12. Little St. Nick – The Beach Boys. A pop classic by Brian Wilson. Amazing to hear an alternate version recorded at the very same session that ended up becoming “Drive In”. Talk about your interchangeable lyrics!

11. Please Come Home For Christmas – Eagles. The song is great, but what really made this song for me was seeing the wicked cool 45 RPM sleeve for this song. Swimming pool. Cocktails. Sunglasses. Phony Christmas tree. How could I have known that in just a couple of decades I’d be living the same kind of existence?

(Next: My top 10)

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:20 | Comments (2)
    is Mariah Carey



    Comment by Ron "Cubby" Myerow — December 17, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

  2. Seriously!?!?!

    Herb Alpert ??????

    That rendition stinks on ice!

    Just sayin’

    Comment by Dave Richard — December 17, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

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