January 5, 2017

Unlike the PGA Tour, which always believe that more is better and that the end of one Fed Ex Cup is simply an excuse to start another Fed Ex Cup race on its heels, I like the idea of a break in the action and miss the old so-called “silly season” of events that allowed everyone to take a breath and look forward to the start of a new season in Hawaii.

Which is why the idea of sticking the SBS Tournament of Champions (the latest in a series of sponsors if you can keep track of them as they pass by) at Kapalua smack dab in the middle of a season that’s already been underway since October seems silly to me. I like tradition, and the tradition of Kapalua kicking off the Tour’s season always seemed right to me since it reflected the past (the winners of the previous year’s tournaments) and the present (the start of a new year) so beautifully. After all, who could argue with the idea of watching golf’s “opening day” in tropical Hawaii when most of the country is in the middle of the winter doldrums? But that’s just me, the PGA Tour has made itself so far removed from reality when it comes to golf that few can even relate to all the privileged, spoiled brats who by and large look, act, and swing the same.

Nevertheless, since I’m in the middle of a sabbatical from the game that will likely last until at least March, I’ll still watch and enjoy the scenery.

Since it’s the start of a new year, here are my predictions:

* Rory McIlroy will be #1 in the world rankings by the end of the 2017 season
* Jordan Spieth will get his hot-as-sun burning revenge for what happened last year at the Masters by winning his second green jacket
* Rory McIlroy wins the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the Fed Ex Cup
* Dustin Johnson wins the PGA
* At least a dozen times during CBS’s golf coverage Gary McCord will say, sizing up a player’s downhill lie and needing to carry a bunker to a tight pin placement that, “he’ll be happy to get it within 30 feet”. Upon which said golfer will just miss holing it out and leave it within six feet
* Tiger Woods will play well and be in contention at a tournament or two before he re-injures his back and calls it sayonara

We’ll see what happens come October!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 23:01 | Comments (0)
January 2, 2017

With the start of the New Year there is no time to lose, for the calendar beckons. We’ve got a financial advisory firm we can trust, and the challenge we’ve been presented to increase our liquidity. In addition to hitching our financial wagon (two 401Ks and a 403(B)) to the Edelman folks, we’re re-financing and taking out some equity in our house to pay off all our credit cards and start pounding our savings account with the lofty goal of saving $50K by the end of 2017. We’re also reassessing all of our insurance options and need to complete the final documentation on our living trust. There’s a lot of paperwork involved and e-mails flying back and forth, but the goal is to have everything we need to have done for 2017 in terms of re-fi, trust, insurance and our investment portfolio in place by end of the month.

The clock is ticking on my sister-in-law’s divorce from the guy she was married to in Florida for a month or so ten years ago (don’t ask, it’s complicated), and the rules for out-of-state divorces is very strict. We’ve already got all the legal forms assembled and have the initial filing in place, now comes the next phase when the request for a no-fault hearing is requested. We need to schedule the notary public for next weekend so we can file with the municipal clerk on the 9th, so that the final documents can be filed exactly eleven days later as required by law on the same day as Donald Trump’s inauguration, January 20.

Next weekend is closet-cleaning weekend. We’ve been using our closets to store all the old computers and related peripherals and books; now we want to clean them out so we can figure out how much closet space we really have. Tracey has my mom’s cedar chest and wants to use that as part of her overall closet configuration. She also has a significant pile of clothes left over from before she lost all that weight. Lots of stuff to donate to good causes, and January is the perfect time for that!

In between that I have a visit back to Massachusetts planned from the 11th through the 18th to spend some time with my dad and to help him out with some remaining items still left over from my mom’s passing.

There’s some landscaping left to do in the backyard – now’s a good time to get the dwarf date palms planted and established before the heat arrives, and Carmelo’s crew will be handling that next Thursday. We’ve also got to figure out what to do with Cosmo’s area now that he’s gone. Our rabbit Peach shares my office space with me right now, but it would be nice to figure out an arrangement that retains the current amount of space he has along with giving our other rabbit Marlie a roommate. That’s gonna be hard.

Once I’m back from Massachusetts it will time for my odd-year immersion into the Eades diet ahead of my physical and re-upping my life insurance policy. At which time Tracey and hope to start work on getting our Arizona concealed carry licenses and handgun permits.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:30 | Comments (0)
January 1, 2017

The one great thing about New Year’s Day is that you really feel as if you’re starting off with a clean slate. The gym is going to be more crowded, but after six weeks or so most of the “newbies” will disappear leaving all of us regulars with the way things were prior to their arrival. It’s so predictable.

That being said, count me among the many who are glad to see shit-awful 2016 in the rear-view mirror and a new year begun. Not that anything has really changed. I think I’ll cheer down.

Anyways, a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017 to all from all the Goodboys and from Goodboys Nation weblog!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:01 | Comments (0)
December 31, 2016

It is fitting that I use one of George Harrison’s best-known songs as the title of this post, for his music has been a great comfort to me, both in the past six months as we’ve struggled with everything that has gone down this past year, and over the past six weeks as we’ve wrestled with how we want to position ourselves for the next ten years and our respective, inevitable retirements and beyond.

There is not much to say for 2016 except that it sucked, and big time. I remember sitting out on the back patio last New Year’s Eve and steeling myself for the coming year, knowing that I would likely lose both my mom and our rabbit Cosmo in the coming year. It made me both fearful and sad. Looking back at that night and what has transpired over these past twelve months, I now know those fears were realized.

So what do I write for this year’s last Goodboys Nation blog post? Clearly things have changed. I’ve changed. And it’s not for the better or the worse. Everything is just different.

I guess I can only speak from where things stand now. My mom passed away in June, and the memories and emotions of that week following her passing are still just as strong as ever. Looking back, she was the glue that held our extended family together, and with her passing things will never be the same.

And losing our rabbit Cosmo has hurt more deeply than even I expected. Given that Cosmo was a part of our lives for the better part of a decade, his passing while we’re in the middle of this very intense time when we’re trying to decide how we want to position ourselves financially for the next ten or twenty years is just another reminder of the inevitable passage of time. I was only 52 and Tracey 44 when Cosmo came into our lives: at that age the moon seemed like a balloon and the future stretched out before us like some great painting yet to be started on some white-washed palette. Nine years later, our current activity is all about our time remaining – wills, trusts, planning for retirement, and the next phase of our lives. Time has become much shorter and much more precious, and life is reduced to the inevitable question of money vs. time, and making sure we don’t run out of one before we run out of the other.

There were so many hopes going into 2016 as far as my golf game was concerned. I’ll never forget that 87 I shot at Lone Tree, but after that events intervened and my game and commitment to it sort of disintegrated. My Goodboys Invitational weekend was a mess, and the rounds I’ve played since have left me at a point where I’m still waiting for the desire just to hit balls, never mind play, returns. The clubs are still in the same box they came back from Massachusetts two months ago, and when I pick them up again remains an open question at this point.

Of course, life goes on and on the plus side of the ledger I can safely write that both Tracey and I still have our health, a roof over our heads, clean water to drink and plenty of food to eat. And we’re still both gainfully employed – things we most definitely don’t take for granted. I get that and appreciate that. But like I say, it’s been a hard year. The hardest year I’ve ever known.

Before calling it another year, I would like to say to all who continue to make Goodboys Nation weblog a part of your daily Internet travels a big “thank you!” for your patronage and comments. We may not always agree politically, but it’s OK as long as we respect (or at least tolerate) one another’s views. To all I can only wish the happiest and healthiest of 2017s. We’ll see what the new year brings: at least as far as far as I’m concerned it can’t be a whole lot worse than 2016 was.

I’m ready for a flip of the calendar, aren’t you? As is custom every year at this time, and more this year than I can remember before, I’m pleased to say, take us outta here, George!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 09:33 | Comments (0)
December 28, 2016

A sad (and probably fitting) way to end an already bad year. Today we had to have our oldest rabbit Cosmo put down. He was 11+ years old – the near edge of the rabbit galaxy in terms of years – and I think he might have had a minor stroke that rendered him unable to use his front legs, so that was that. He’d been on a host of medications to ease his diminishing eyesight and his arthritis, so it’s not as if today came as a surprise. Still, it hurts to see his cage area empty; another hit in a year of hits.

His full name was Mr. Cosmopolitan, named by Tracey for the fact that his pinkish-red eyes were the color of a perfectly-made cosmopolitan, but everyone called him Cosmo. A very cool rabbit name for an equally-cool rabbit. He came to us in 2007 via one of the last PetSmart rabbit adoptions sponsored by Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue. His original name was Cody and he had come to BHRR via Yuma, Arizona. We don’t know what his original circumstances were, but we’re guessing he was at least a year old by the time we adopted him.

Like most rabbits, Cosmo was full of piss and vinegar as a young buck – that’s the reason I chose to bring him home to begin with. There were about a dozen rabbits in cages at the PetSmart, and the majority of them seemed nice enough, content to veg out in the way rabbits like to do. Not Cosmo – he was up on his hind legs and raising a small ruckus as I walked around the cages. From the first moment I saw him I knew he was the rabbit for us.

Cosmo had a great life, he really caught the gold ring when it came to rabbit luck. He had big ears and long legs he loved to stretch out while sleeping. He loved being petted and always seemed like a happy beast. He was a gourmet snob when it came to timothy hay: if it wasn’t hay that was put down fresh that day, from the top of the bag, he’d ignore it. He loved his piece of banana in the morning and the Nibble Rings treats we’d hand out at breakfast and dinner time. He could tell when his breakfast was being prepared – those big ears would go up and the other rabbits in the room would take note.

He was a ladies man from the moment of his arrival. Peanut, who departed way too soon, was the love of his life. I really think that after Peanut left us two years ago Cosmo was never truly the same, but then again he was already starting to enter his elder years by that time.

I truly think Cosmo’s favorite period was when he shared the office with both Peanut and Marlie. There was always action to keep Cosmo entertained, and they made for quite a threesome:

Now all that’s left of the three is Marlie, who you can tell already senses Cosmo’s absence. Rabbits are like that, and it takes them time to adjust. Of course, we still have Peach in the other room, so we’ve got to do some thinking about how we want to set things up in the days ahead. Right now, however, the house feels a little emptier and our hearts are heavy. It’s a sad time, but then again this has been a sad year – one we won’t mind seeing in the rear-view mirror in just a few days’ time.

Rest in peace, Cosmo. You were one of the best rabbits ever. Here’s hoping in the hereafter your eyes are completely healed, you feel like a million bucks, and there’s Peanut over there waiting for you and munching on a field of clover.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:53 | Comments (3)
December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas to all from the Goodboys and Goodboys Nation weblog!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:08 | Comments (0)
December 24, 2016

It’s two days before Christmas and I drop into our traditional Friday night pizza joint and notice red and silver balloons on the second barstool over from where I usually plant my work week worn-out carcass. Radcliffe, a.k.a, “Rad”, the boyfriend of my favorite bartender/waitress Carlie (who always makes sure the kitchen doesn’t screw up my order) is in his usual spot three spots down from me.

“Yo, Rad. What’s up with the balloons?”

“Mike died two weeks ago. They’re having a party for him tonight.”

Now Mike was a true regular. Until he retired he sold very expensive cars in Scottsdale to the point where he could divorce his wife and give her all the dough-re-mi she could ever want, yet still have a boatload of it left for himself. Over the years I only spoke to him a couple of times over beers; he seemed like a nice guy. He was 78. As the story goes a few weeks ago he had a mild stroke that led to a major stroke and that, as they say, was that. So a tiny restaurant with a small, loyal clientele gathered together to bid a nice guy who probably didn’t have much of a footprint in the greater scheme of things farewell. A table with a dozen people, a collage of pictures featuring Mike and some of the other regulars, a toast and a meal together. Not sure what his family did in terms of arrangements, but knowing Mike as little as I did and from talking with him and the circle of so-called regulars who gathered to remember him, I think he’d have preferred the latter.

I’m waiting for my pizzas and ask Rad what he’s getting Carlie for Christmas. Now Rad’s been dating Carlie for about four years, and it’s pretty clear they’re destined to spend the rest of their lives together. He looks up from his smart phone and casually replies, “a foot massager and a gun.”

“Wow!”, says I. “A gun. That is so cool!. What kind of gun are you getting her?”

Rad goes on to tell me that he’s not really getting her a gun, but guiding her through the whole concealed carry thing here in Arizona so she can get a gun. It means finding a place where you can take a 4- or 8-hour course in gun safety and use – Caswells is just up the street from us – and once you pass and are fingerprinted and approved you’re free to legally purchase and carry the stick of your dreams.

“So, what are you getting her?”, I ask. “I’ve been thinking of a Glock 19 9 mm myself. My wife and I are planning on going through the very same process together after the new year. I figure we might as well do it – hell, everyone else in Arizona will soon be concealed carry. And you never know what’s about to go down.”

“That’s a pretty damned fine firearm”, says Rad. We’re not quite sure yet, but I guarantee it’s a gift that she’ll cherish for a lifetime.”

The party for Mike is just getting started and I’m nursing the last of my Pinot Grigio while I’m waiting for my pizzas to come out. And I’m reminded once again just how different this place called Arizona is from my Massachusetts home in every way imaginable. My Goodboys friends couldn’t even imagine just how much: between the weather, the sun, the year-round golf, the lack of rootedness, the politics – we might as well be on another planet. I had a difficult time getting accustomed to this place after we moved here, and while I’ll never consider it home or the place I’d like to see the rest of my years lived out in, there is something about this place and the lack of ties and the freedom it brings that makes it tolerable.

There are any number of places I could imagine that are better than Arizona, but there are a whole lot of places that I could consider worse. The summers are brutal, for sure, but out here you don’t have to shovel sunshine, as they say. And there is something about a place where your entire wardrobe consists of a myriad of T-shirts and lounge pants, a dozen shorts, and two pairs of long pants. That’s it. Add to that a Tiki bar, swimming pool, and a bunch of palm trees for a backyard that on only two or three brief occasions a year see the thermometer dip slightly below freezing ain’t half bad.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:29 | Comments (0)
December 23, 2016

You know, I had every real intention of just turning the page and moving on with Donald Trump’s election in a true non-partisan fashion. I really did. After all, following Barack Obama’s election in 2008 you didn’t see a complete and utter meltdown on the conservative right. Oh sure, you had the likes of Rush Limbaugh saying that he hoped Obama’s presidency would be a failure, but what else would you expect from him? And, of course you had the birthers trying to delegitimize Obama’s presidency with the prospect that he might have actually been born in Kenya. But it wasn’t even close to the total, complete, utter meltdown that is happening on the Left – and I’m not just only talking about the loony, moonbat, batshit-crazy Progressive left. I’m talking about liberals and Democrats (some of which are Goodboys friends, sad to say) who think the Trump candidacy is something akin to the apocalypse.

And it’s everywhere: Trump is Hitler, Trump is going to repeal the 1st amendment to the Constitution. Trump is going to round up all Muslims and illegal immigrants and put them in internment camps. Trump is going to start a nuclear war with Russia, or China, or both. Trump is going to try and undo everything Barack Obama did during the eight years of his presidency (now that’s something I’m willing to believe!), the Trump family is going to turn the White House into their own personal money-making and money-laundering operation (not that something like that had ever happened before!), Trump is reckless, Trump is stupid, Trump wants dirty water and filthy air, Trump is the new head of the white supremacist movement – I mean, it’s everywhere and to an extent that even I – someone who thought he knew just how moronic, juvenile, and intolerant liberals can be – never thought possible. And the guy hasn’t even been sworn into office yet!!

What you’re really seeing out there is the true face of liberalism in all of its ugly forms, unmasked and in bloom for everyone to see. I’ve always said that liberals worshipped at the triune God of tolerance, acceptance, and diversity in the most jaded kind of way, for liberals are the most intolerant, unaccepting, and non-diverse people you will ever meet. Tolerant? Sure, their tolerant of folks who think, believe, and act the same way they do. Accepting? Sure, but toe the line when it comes to acceptance or risk being cast out into the darkness as a pariah. Diverse? Diversity stops at the line of liberal and progressive thought. Otherwise, you’re a racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, monster whose thoughts, views and actions are not just to be condemned, but destroyed.

I guess yesterday and the news of that “the husband” of that gay couple berating Ivanka Trump on a JetBlue flight that was boarding while she and her kids sat in coach. I mean, how unhinged do you have to be to even think of doing such a thing? How warped must your world and world-view be to think that such behavior is acceptable? And while I recognize there are loons on both ends of the political spectrum, the fact that the actions of this moron were not only not condemned by the political left (an oxymoron, BTW, for with the left everything is political), it was actually applauded as some kind of brave, speaking truth to power kind of moment.

So I’ve had enough. Not to the point where, unlike many on the left, I refuse to even tolerate (there’s that word again) friendships, and family members who might have voted for Trump, I’m unwilling to keep as friends and family members those I know who either voted for Hillary or didn’t vote for Trump (and that would be the majority of them, I think). No, I have a life. I have the capability of accepting into my circle of family and friends those who don’t think or act as I do or vote as I did. And while I very rarely – if ever – agreed with anything Barack Obama or his parasitic wife ever did during his presidency, even if faced with, say, Moochelle Obama, sitting next to me in coach (not that that would ever happen!), I would treat her with respect, probably even offer to buy her a white wine and ask for a picture of us. ‘Cause that’s the kind of guy I am.

No, nothing like that. The only thing I will say to those, no matter who you are, unable to extract yourselves from the five stages of liberal denial (disbelief, shock, anger, grief, and meltdown) is this: your agony brings me tidings of great joy.

And I have one piece of advice for you all as well: get over it and grow up. Oh, and while you’re at it, get a life. Life is too short, too precious, and all too fleeting to allow yourselves to exist in such a pathetic bubble where you can’t even accept the fact that Donald Trump is, for better or for worse, your president. To disown family members and break friendships over a presidential election is stupid, but I’m guessing those folks weren’t very good friends or family members to begin with. You don’t have to like it. You don’t even have to accept him as your president. You can protest him (peacefully and in a way that doesn’t inconvenience others) all you want. But why not at least give the guy a chance? Chill out and decompress. Stop and smell the roses. Breathe deeply the fragrant air of God’s creation. Take a break. Sure, the last year and a half have been stressful, but the country survived eight years of Barack Obama and will survive Donald Trump. I guarantee it.

But if you insist on carrying on like you’ve been doing to date, blowing everything completely out of proportion to reality, don’t expect any space of comfort or sympathy here, for you have none and will find none.

Besides, if all you Democrats out there really had any desire to look at reality – and I’m not talking the kind of so-called “reality” being spewed out by the likes of NPR, CNN, MSNBC, or the Boston Globe, New York Times, or Washington Post – you’d find that Donald Trump’s presidency is the least of your concerns:

Your party leadership is geriatric, decades older than the average for their Republican counterparts. Years of steady losses at state level, masked by the personal popularity of Barack Obama, have left you without a bench to speak of – little young talent and basically no seasoned Presidential timber under retirement age. The fact that Joseph Biden, who will be 78 for the next Election Day, is being seriously mooted as the next Democratic candidate, speaks volumes – none of them good.

Your ideological lock on the elite media and show business has flipped from a powerful asset to a liability. Trump campaigned against that lock and won; his tactics can be and will be replicated. Worse, a self-created media bubble insulated you from grasping the actual concerns of the American public so completely that you didn’t realize the shit you were in until election night.

Your donor advantage didn’t help either. Clinton outspent Trump 2:1 and still lost.

Your “coalition of the ascendant” is sinking. Tell all the just-so stories you like, but the brute fact is that it failed to turn out to defeat the Republican candidate with the highest negatives in history. You thought all you had to do was wait for the old white men to die, but anybody who has studied the history of immigration in the U.S. could have told you that the political identities of immigrant ethnic groups do not remain stable as they assimilate. You weren’t going to own the Hispanics forever any more than you owned the Irish and the Italians forever. African-Americans, trained by decades of identity politics, simply failed to show up for a white candidate in the numbers you needed. The sexism card didn’t play either, as a bare majority of married women who actually went to the polls seem to have voted for Trump.

But your worst problem is less tangible. Trump has popped the preference-falsification bubble. The conservative majority in most of the U.S. (coastal enclaves excepted) now knows it’s a conservative majority. Before the election every pundit in sight pooh-poohed the idea that discouraged conservative voters, believing themselves isolated and powerless, had been sitting out several election cycles. But it turned out to be true, not least where I live in the swing state of Pennsylvania, where mid-state voters nobody knew were there put Trump over the top. Pretty much the same thing happened all through the Rust Belt.

That genie isn’t going to be stuffed back in the bottle. Those voters now know they can deliver the media and the coastal elites a gigantic fuck-you, and Republicans know the populist techniques to mobilize them to do that. Trump’s playbook was not exactly complicated.

As they say, read the whole thing. (Hat tip: Instapundit)

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 10:33 | Comments (0)
December 20, 2016

A few thoughts on today’s Electoral College whumping given Hillary Clinton. Hopefully this will serve as the final nail in the political coffin of this vile, nasty, elitist, corrupt and undeniably incompetent woman.

Oh yeah, because it can’t be that the reason Hillary lost was that she was just a lousy and lazy candidate without any kind of redeeming message to turn voters out except that she was a woman and that it was her turn. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

It’s taking a little longer than I thought, but it’s not going to be long before Democrats take the knives to the Clintons. I guarantee you the Obamas have already sent a signal that they’re the power-brokers in the Democratic Party going forward, not the Clintons.

Why can’t we see heart-warming stories like this by the mainstream media? His story is the story of America’s greatness.

…These people, instead, are the ones that somehow get all the attention. All I can say is (besides “Grow up!”), their agony is my joy.

But what else would you expect from an impeached president and a habitual cheater?

“You know, I watched her work for two years, I watched her battle through that bogus email deal,” Clinton said. “She fought through everything and she prevailed against it all.”

Uh….no she didn’t, Bubba. And she actually lost more Electoral College votes than Trump did.

…and while we’re on the subject of Bill. I hope this is exactly what the Democrats think. Last time I checked, it wasn’t James Comey who ordered Hillary to run her State Department on an unsecured server or told her to avoid campaigning in Wisconsin.

And finally, this is the gift that just keeps on giving. And to think, she almost became President of the United States, Commander-in-Chief, and so-called “leader of the free world”. Another double vodka and tonic, ma’am?

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:14 | Comments (0)
December 19, 2016

[Ed. note: It doesn't feel much like Christmas in my heart this year, but some traditions you just can't let go of, can you? If the National Enquirer, or Us, or The Worldly World News, or whatever the heck that supermarket tabloid had on its cover is correct, this might be the last "Holiday Ode" post that will post while Phil Spector is alive. Supposedly, he's only got six weeks to live. Doesn't matter, maybe some people can't separate the talent and legacy from the person who inhabits it, but I can. So Merry Christmas, Phil - you're still a musical hero of mine, and you changed the way pop music commemorated the season.]

That’s right, cats and chicks of all ages, it’s that time of year again. I know the guy’s still sitting in a prison cell, whacked out, burned out, and for all intents and purposes checked out of society and the rock n’ roll world he was once such an iconic part of. But heck, it is the Christmas season and I know it’s not REALLY Christmas until I slap into my CD player the best damned rock n’ roll Christmas record of all time. Which is (for those of you cats and chicks who may not be hip to these kinds of grooves), Phil Spector’s magnificent “A Christmas Gift For You”.

I know what you’re thinking – that’s just The Great White Shank spoutin’ his “yeah-i-know-he’s-in-jail-for-murder-but-believe-me-Phil-Spector-really-was-a-genius” bull$hit, but in this case you need to give me a break. ‘Cause it’s not just me, it’s a whole range of critics across the media spectrum, from Rolling Stone (who rated it #142 in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time), to bloggers like Hip Christmas and BlogCritics. BC’s praise of the album and its greatness is especially spot-on:

A Christmas Gift For You contains thirteen performances, all captured during that incredible early sixties period when Spector was producing these amazing records. You already know all of the songs, as they have all become tried and true radio staples at Christmas time over the years. Song for song, the wall of sound production — with all of its bells, whistles, and strings — captures all the magic and wonder of Christmas like very little music I can think of. When you hear these songs, it’s like being instantly transported to a kinder, simpler time. It really does feel like Christmas.

In addition to the Ronettes and Crystals classics already mentioned, the standouts here include Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and a version of “White Christmas” so gorgeous you’ll be checking your window for snowflakes. On Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans’ “The Bells of Saint Mary,” the bells and the castanets ring gloriously amid a swirl of gospel-charged backing vocals.

So the thing is, Phil Spector’s recent legal troubles aside, this record just doesn’t sound any different to me. For my money, it’s still the single greatest Christmas record ever made. And tougher sell that it may be these days, it will definitely be on my CD player when the guys and I get together for some Christmas cheer next weekend.

For me, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it.

The album, considered by many to be Spector’s finest piece of collective work (The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”, The Righteous Brothers’ “(You’ve Lost That) Lovin’ Feelin’”, and, of course, Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” being singular achievements), had a bumpy ride on the road to becoming a much-loved and respected holiday pop classic. Originally recorded during the summer and fall of 1963, it was understandably overlooked in those tragic weeks following the assassination of JFK and then virtually forgotten. It was only until its re-introduction to the public on the Beatles’ Apple Records label in 1971 – at the urging of John Lennon and George Harrison (both of whom utilized Spector on their first post-Beatles’ solo albums following his work on Let It Be) – that the album got radio play and finally earned its long-deserved place in pop music history.

So what exactly is it about A Christmas Gift For You that makes it both a holiday pop classic and a piece of work sufficient enough to warrant recognition among rock’s all-time greatest works? David Sprague, in his Amazon.com review, puts it simply: “[Spector's] “wall-of-sound” technique is perfectly suited to the music of the season, as he proves with layer upon layer of piano, sleigh bells, buoyant percussion, and, of course, those legendary Spectorsound harmonies.”

True enough, but it’s only after you buy it and crank it up VERY loud that you start to appreciate not just the massive sound Spector lovingly and painstakingly crafted, but the way his session players and musical artists make the most out of the material given them. Here, Spector’s artists The Crystals, The Ronettes, Darlene Love, and Bobby Sheen are simply vocal instruments in the overall mix, working within the material and the arrangements, not overpowering them. Listen closely, and you begin to see how the subtleties within each arrangement illustrate Spector’s respect for both the material and the genre that brought him such fame and respect in his day:

* On “White Christmas”, Darlene Love’s lead is beautifully understated (something virtually unheard of in this post-Whitney armageddon of Britneys and Christinas who sound like wailing alleycats in heat). And listen to how the pianos, basses, and saxes (alto and tenor) underscore the rhythm, and how beautifully they finish the song’s fade-out. Magical.

* On “Frosty The Snowman”, Ronnie Spector takes a harmless children’s tune and turns it into a holiday pop masterpiece. Her earnest vocal is the showpiece here – think ‘Frosty’ meets ‘Be My Baby’, with enough warmth and sweetness to turn ‘the Frostster’ into a puddle of lukewarm H2O. Loved hearing it in that iconic scene in GoodFellas where Jimmy goes nuts with everyone buying expensive stuff after the Lufthansa heist.

* On “The The Bells of St. Mary’s“, Bobby Sheen’s lead is sweet and soulful out in front of a driving rhythm highlighted by chimes and Hal Blaine‘s amazing drumwork on the fade-out. Oh, and that’s Darlene Love doing the “yeah, yeah”‘s towards the end.

* The Crystals’ version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” rejuvenated the classic so much so that the artists as varied as the Jackson 5 (ugh!) and Bruce Springsteen, among others, felt it necessary to pay it homage with their own versions. Listen for how the bells tinkle out Brahms’s Lullaby behind La La Brooks’ spoken intro – talk about attention to detail!

* On “Sleigh Ride” The Ronettes give a big fat wet kiss to Leroy Anderson’s classic arrangement; their now-classic “ring-a-ling-a-ling-a-ding-dong-ding” back-up is pure icing on this sweet holiday confection.

* “Marshmallow World” is a fun piece – dig the opening piano with an absolute ton of echo on it. And listen to how the saxes underscore the piano/guitar rhythm – you’re talkin’ Wall of Sound here, baby! The mix has always sounded a little muddy to me, but I think that’s just the sheer number of musicians playing at the same time – Phil always did his mixing live while the entire ensemble was playing. Darlene Love’s vocal is energetic and playful, a great performance.

* “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. You don’t get the #2 slot on my Top 10 Christmas list for nothing. Simply put, there is nothing wanting in this recording – the performances are top-notch throughout. Ronnie Spector’s lead is both devilish and sexy, and the arrangement rocks. Listen for the piano fills and the sleighbells workin’ behind the saxes. It almost sounds as if Ronnie is slurring her s’s here (‘kishing’ Santa Claus); I think she’s doing it deliberately so I fall in love with her voice all over again every year at this time.

* On “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, listen for the guitar riff (Tommy Tedesco? Barney Kessel?) that frames the song throughout, a style similar to what Brian Wilson would later employ on The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” a couple of years later. There’s also a piano (and guitar?) doing something funky from the instrumental break onward, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it is.

* “Winter Wonderland” is a faithful and fun rendition. Listen for those trademark shimmering strings featured throughout – they sound kinda funky to me – and how drummer Hal Blaine absolutely beats the daylights out of his toms on every fill. Darlene Love’s vocal is both soulful and fun. A magnificent arrangement.

* “Parade of The Wooden Soldiers”. OK, listen to how the strings behind The Crystals’ rollicking performance absolutely shimmer like glistening snow, especially behind the trumpet solo in the middle. No one – and I mean NO ONE – could make Christmas pop music like Phil Spector. (If you doubt me, just listen to John & Yoko’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”) Again, Hal Blaine’s drum fills on the fade-out are pretty intense.

* “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)”. Arguably the showpiece of the album. If you want a true holiday audio feast, come inside Mr. Spector’s kitchen where everything – including the kitchen sink – has been tossed in here. Shimmering strings and double acoustic bass (how does he get that sound?) create the necessary tension, then horns introduce a TOTALLY PUMPED and unleashed Darlene Love vocal that leaves nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – in the tank. The grand build-up to close the song is classic Spector: layers and layers of guitar, piano, strings, and percussion back the call-and-answer vocals between Love and the backup singers (a seventeen-year-old Cher‘s voice can be clearly heard) until the tension is finally released in a tidal wave of vocal calisthenics, soaring strings, drum fills, and piano arpeggios. Simply put, one of the great pop vocal performances of all time.

* “Here Comes Santa Claus” is anticlimactic following Love’s tour de force, but it’s to Bobby Sheen’s credit that his straight, if understated, reading becomes the showpiece on this song. The trumpet solo in the middle has a ringing, jazzy touch to it which compliments Sheen’s soulful vocal.

What truly makes A Christmas Gift For You such a remarkable achievement is the success Spector achieved in fusing together what was then a radical way of interpreting familiar holiday songs without, as he would write in the album’s liner notes, “losing for a second the feeling of Christmas and without destroying or invading the sensitivity and the beauty that surrounds all of the great Christmas music.” More than anything else, Spector respected the music he was trying to interpret as his own. In the end, this is what makes this work an enduring classic for the ages.Geez.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:00 | Comments (0)


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