December 18, 2013

Ed. note: It occurred to me this morning while I was half-asleep that there is no version of “White Christmas (for all you left-wing loons and Obamabots out there, the most racist Charistmas song of all time, but I digress) on my list at all. And yet, isn’t “White Christmas” the ultimate Christmas song? Like, ever? The ultimate version, I suppose, is Bing’s version (his corny whistling notwithstanding), but even Frank, The Beach Boys, and Darlene Love all do great jobs on it as well. I mean, with a tune that good isn’t it hard to wreck it? So it’s not on my list, perhaps should be, but it’s too late now, anyways. Nat King Cole knew that (Ok, there’s another one that didn’t make the list – better luck next year, Nat!)

That disclaimer aside, cats and chicks, ladies and gentlemen, dudes and dudettes, may I present The Great White Shank’s top 10 Christmas tunes of all time.

10. The Most Wonderful Time Of the Year – Andy Williams. Because y’all know in your heart of hearts that it’s not really Christmas without Andy. May he rest in peace.

9. 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 towards the end. Listen for the Moog synthesizer throughout as it becomes a little more prominent towards the end. A very cool cut.

8. The Christmas Waltz – Frank Sinatra. 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 – too bad our culture doesn’t know what taste, class, and appreciation means anymore. Makes me want to raise a martini glass to Christmasses past.

7. All I Want For Christmas – Mariah Carey. You can not tell me Mariah wasn’t inspired by Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift To You in this rollicking piece of holiday cheer. The song’s intro tells you that – all that’s missing are the tenor and alto saxes. The piano and driving bass, and the postively stratospheric note she hits towards the end does it for me. Heard it the first time on some Christmas station and didn’t know who did it, but I fell in love with it immediately. The background vocals could be a little more interesting; imagine what this would sound like if they were done by The Beach Boys? In my mind, it gets better (and higher ranked!) every year.

6. 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 production from start to finish. Multiple acoustic guitars (played by Badfinger), sleigh bells, percussion, and those incredible shimmering strings (as only Phil could do). It’s Spector at the top of his form. The accompanying “official” video is disturbing, just as Lennon wanted it. What it tells me is that nothing has changed since this video was made more than twenty years ago, has it? Very sad.

5. Oh Holy Night – Mariah Carey. OK, I understand the big moment is when she hits that Memorex-shattering “divine” note the second time around (for those keeping score it’s a E5 sustained with vibrato to a F#5!) – that’s what the congregation is begging for – but I just love the way she presents the song. You see in her eyes and body movements a little “aw, shucks” humility that is quite charming, especially given the kind of aural onslaught she’s about to unleash. She looks great and sounds great, and the setting is awesome (it looks just like the Methodist church I used to attend back in Lowell, Mass.). Almost no one can match Mariah Carey’s version of this song. It’s totally mesmerizing.

4. In Praise Of Christmas – Loreena McKennitt. From her wonderful To Drive The Dark Winter Away. Not a bad track on the entire CD, it’s an absolute must have for everyone’s Christmas music collection. McKennitt’s lyrics are lovely and yearning – when I hear it all I want to do is be sitting with friends and loved ones drinking a hot mulled cider.

3. “O Holy Night” – Ricky Lee Jones. Consider this the anti-Mariah version. 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. Love the way she pronounces the word “hear”. I think she captures the true spirit of the song.

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: it really doesn’t get a whole lot better than this – and I’m not talkin’ Christmas music, I’m talking classic pop music in general. The way Ronnie Spector slurs her s’s in “seen”, “kissing”, and “Santa” just makes my heart melt.

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.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:44 | Comments (6)
6 Comments »
  1. Not having Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses on this list is a travestiy

    Comment by TFG — December 18, 2013 @ 5:20 am


  2. Michael Crawford’s O Holy Night is the BEST EVER….I have it on my Trans Siberian DVD….you need to hear this and then there is Jewel singing…you just need to get this dvd.

    three words…PGA…Valhalla…August

    Comment by Jana — December 18, 2013 @ 6:12 am


  3. Sorry, but ANY list of favorite Christmas songs that doesn’t include at least one version of White Christmas is bogus.

    And Andy Williams should be in the Top 5.

    Comment by Dave Richard — December 18, 2013 @ 11:16 am


  4. Heard it, it’s OK. Wouldn’t make my list, but that’s why Jana needs to send me her top 10. I’ll throw it up there! 🙂

    Comment by The Great White Shank — December 19, 2013 @ 11:26 pm


  5. TFG, I have to say that’s one of the %$#@! worst Christmas songs I’ve ever heard. But it would be perfect for a Goodboys Christmas gathering!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — December 19, 2013 @ 11:29 pm


  6. Very interesting blog post. Are you taking suggestions? What about this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx_9QvtoVuo

    Comment by Don Berger — December 19, 2013 @ 11:33 pm


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