Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday 8-Track

It's Christmas time kids, so today's theme was yet another no-brainer. I only wish I could have come up with a Festivus-themed selection. I got all nostalgic with this week's installment and it came surprisingly easy. Enjoy.

Run DMC - "Christmas in Hollis" - A Vey Special Christmas

Hearing this song is always one of the more sublime holiday moments for me. Sampled from Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa" (itself a fantastic Xmas tune), Run, D, and Jam Master Jay add their own chapter to the Christmas Legend. An illin' reindeer indeed.

Mariah Carey - "All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Merry Christmas

I am seriously "gay" for this song. There are a number of reasons for this but even the pseudo-anonymity of the internet will not get me to go into detail. I think it is safe to say that this song is from the waning days of Mariah's pre-skank era which is a shame because she could have been a very classy performer. Honestly, this is a really well-written song. It's got the feel of a Phil Spector or Brian Wilson-produced classic and you can't beat those sleigh bells. Plus, who wouldn't want to hear that sentiment from a woman?

The Chipmunks - "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" - Christmas Wih The Chipmunks

Perhaps my favorite holiday tune, with enough booze in me I can do a pretty accurate take on this song. Maybe it's the "childish" timelessness of this song but everything about it always seems perfect. From the lilting syncopation of the piano, to the chattering in the intro ("Alvin? Alvin? ALVIN!?!?"), the simplicity of their Christmas wish list, and of course that minor chord turnaround at the end of the chorus, Ralph Bagdasarian hit this one out of the park.

Bruce Springsteen - "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" - Christmas of Hope

I'm pretty sure this recording well pre-dates the album it appeared on becasue it defintely has the sound of those live E Street glory years. I could probably do without the Boss's little talky parts that he is so fond of but if that is the price to pay, then so be it. I love those huge hits on the chorus and Max's big drum breaks on the "you better be good for goodness sake" part. This is a prime example, and sadly one of the few, of a rock version of a holiday classic done right.

Vince Guaraldi - "Christmas Time Is Here" - A Charlie Brown Christmas

Last weekend I went to the Kennedy Center to see a friend who performs with the Washington Master Chorale. They do a holiday concert each year and it is always enjoyable. This year's very pleasant surprise was Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here." It has become a cliche at this point, but this song is just so damn pretty. What I think is really brilliant about this song though is how Guaraldi very subtley captures some of the underlying sadness of the Peanuts cartoons within the melody. The way that first line drops a whole step and adds that 9-chord, it's very moving.

Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops - "Sleigh Ride" - Pops Christmas Party

This song will always be significant for me. I was very fortunate to have moved to the school district in Herndon where I spent my formative years because we had one of the finest high school band programs in the country. Some of the pieces we played over the years were absolutely incredible and rivaled anything most college symphonic bands were capable of. Anyway, every winter we did a holiday concert and this arrangement of the Leroy Anderson classic was one of the main features. When I hear those performances in my head they sound just like the Pops' classic recording -- perhaps it's a bit of revisionist history on my part. I met one of my best friends in 6th grade band and we are lucky enough to still be playing music together almost 18 years later. He is a drummer and I was always jealous that he got to play the wood slap part in this song. You know the part, just listen for the big "THWACK."

Nat King Cole - "The Christmas Song" - Nat King Cole Story

The moments when I actually think there might be some kind of Higher Power are often when I hear a voice that is seemingly handed down from on high. Neil Finn and Grant Lee Phillips are two people who come to mind and without a doubt, Nat King Cole. The man had a voice that was so honey smoothe you would swear it was otherworldly. I like this song because of the strong imagery and it is just so damn beautiful.

King's College Choir - "Gloria In Excelsis Deo" - King's Christmas Collection

Catholicism does weird things to you. This song will be forever burned into my mind during Christmas time because of all of those damn midnight masses. But that's cool because the Eccard composition of the Roman Catholic doxology is pretty badass. Not quite up there with the "Messiah" but powerful nonetheless. Yet another part of my youth that I will never shake.

Happy holidays!


At 12/22/2006 9:53 AM, Blogger The View from Dupont said...

OK, I love "All I want for Christmas is You" -- it makes being alone at the holidays a little more difficult, but it's just so much fun, I'm glad you put it on your list!


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