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  • The Music of Christmas

    December 16th, 2008 by Russell Viers

    As a rule, I like Christmas music.

    I think it recycles itself well, coming around once a year, like an old friend dropping by to visit for awhile. Often, when hearing a certain tune, I’ll flashback to great Christmas memories with family or friends.

    Some songs, however, are more like that annoying uncle who you wish would forget where you live. Twelve Days of Christmas, for example, is just 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall for Christmas, as far as I’m concerned. Other songs are so over played, that I’ll skip them this year, if I can.

    Here is my short list of what’s been playing on my iPod this Christmas:

    Jingle All The Way by the Crash Test Dummies is a nice retreat from the typical seasonal music. Their version of Jingle Bells makes the record, as it’s done in a dark, Russian music style with lead singer Brad Roberts going deeper than usual. My younger boys said it sounds like he’s “farting” the vocals. On a second listen, I almost have to agree…but it’s a great tune, flatulence or not. Their version of The Little Drummer Boy is a treat, as well.

    For the Space Age Pop lovers in the room, you can’t go wrong with Esquivel’s Merry X-Mas from the Space Age Bachelor Pad. The opening number, Jingle Bells, with his welcome is great and the CD is fun. If there is a negative, it’s that he didn’t go crazy enough. I like his style and I like it especially when he pushes the envelope a little, like you hear on his other albums. A little vanilla at times, but it’s still a lot of fun.

    The prize for best version of The Little Drummer Boy goes, of course, to Ringo. How cool is it that a real drummer sings The Little Drummer Boy…and really drums along…and I mean REALLY drums along. This isn’t just perump-a-pum-pum. Ringo goes crazy on the skins and makes this one of the top songs I’ve listened to this year. And it’s Ringo. I grabbed this CD off iTunes.

    If you are a Warren Zevon fan, and were sad at his passing, try to get hold of his covers of Ave Maria and The Christmas Song. I grabbed them off eMusic from an album named Christmas Moods by Michael Wolff. You’ll see the title of the song, then feat. Warren Zevon in parenthesis. Great find.

    I’ve been giving the Jethro Tull Christmas Album a lot of action, too. I just love it. Listening to Ian Anderson tear up the flute on God Rest Ye Merry Gentemen and others…great stuff.

    One CD that has stayed fresh with me for many years is Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas. A nice mix of standards and original material, I’ve played this every year for, oh I don’t know, maybe 15 plus years…and I still rank it high among my favorites.

    Another hard find that I enjoy every year, but it drives my family crazy, is Tom Waits’ cover of Silent Night. Very dark, but very Tom. I’m a big Tom Waits fan, so maybe I’m not objective on this one. I’ve got all of his CDs, seen all of his movies, have a large collection of covers of his music…so I’ll give you this as a warning. You may just hate it…but I love it every year.

    Other oft-spun CDs this year include Leon Redbone’s Christmas Island, with a great cover of Frosty the Snow Man with Leon and Dr. John, Barenaked Ladies’ Barenaked for the Holidays and Shirim’s Klezmer Nutcracker.

    Notable singles include Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews’ version of Baby It’s Cold Outside, Gesu Bamino by Joan Osborne and Luciano Pavarotti and Steve Earl’s Nothing But a Child with Emmylou Harris (who, by the way, has a very good Christmas Album of her own titled Light of the Stable).

    So what are the most listened to song on my iPod this season? I Believe in Father Christmas, by Greg Lake from his Live album, Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy by David Bowie and Bing Crosby and, the most listened to…El NiƱo, by Willie Nelson from his Christmas With Willie Nelson CD (and his sister backing him up on piano).

    After Christmas, I religiously pack away the holiday tunes until the next year…I don’t want them to wear on my like old friends who come to visit and stay on too long.

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