Cool Yule Sounds

24 12 2013

Christmas Song Pics

Have I mentioned that I love, love, love Christmas music?

I also love lists, and I’ve been counting down my personal favorite holiday tunes for my loyal social media peeps for a few weeks.  Here’s my entire list with some elaboration. Some new, some old. Some world standards, some local Philly talent.

And all fun. All mine. Hope you enjoy…

20. “Merry Christmas from the Family” ~ Dixie Chicks – Country music, controversial band, and Rosie O’Donnell. Yeah… Even I’m shaking my head at this one!! But I like it. It’s funny, and it says more about America than any other holiday song. Love it.

19. “Christmas Wrapping” ~ The Waitresses – Some would say one-hit-wonder, but the Waitresses had some great songs in the eighties. The sharp, distinctive voice of Patty Donahue was silenced by cancer during the 1996 holiday season, but the song remains. It was always cool to me that a “new wave” song became such a holiday standard.

18. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” ~ Band Aid – Everyone knows the story of the Boomtown Rat’s Bob Geldof watching a news report in 1984 about the famine in Ethiopia, then phoning Ultravox’s Midge Ure about the idea for the this song and later the Live Aid concerts. Band Aid was a who’s who of British pop music at the time, and the song alone raised millions for African relief. It all worked because this is a really great song and recording. It was the first “cause song” and the process is repeated today.

17. “Step Into Christmas” ~ Elton John – One my earliest remembrances of a cool, rock and roll Christmas song, and it’s Elton at his campy best!  I was, and still am, a big fan. My first concert in 1976, he’s still bringing it…

16. “The Hanukkah Songs” ~ Adam Sandler – All three versions. Funny as hell, and you have to admire the rhyming of harmonica with Natalie Portmanica.

15. “Merry Christmas, Baby” ~ Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – There’s another, more popular Bruce choice, but I like this live recording for it’s bluesy feel, and because it really showcases the band at it’s subtle and powerful best.

14. “Blue Christmas” ~ Elvis Presley – This song was recorded as country western, first in 1948. But Elvis added the bluesy sound in 1957 and like many other songs, made it his own. The only better version belongs to Porky Pig… go find that nugget!

13. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” ~ Olivia Olsen – Co-written by Mariah Carey (seriously?), the seemingly endless cover versions of this song missed my radar until it showed up in the climactic ending of Love Actually, one of my favorite holiday movies. This version rocks, and its sung by an 11 year-old!! Incredible!!

12. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” ~ Leon Redbone and Zoey Dechanel – From the Elf soundtrack. Discounting the comparisons to date rape, the sweet voice of Zoey in sharp contrast to Leon’s ten-packs-a-day, throaty growl. “Gee, your lips look delicious!”

11. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) ~ John Lennon – No one in my generation preached more about peace on earth… he was a calm voice in tumultuous times. Of my favorites, and it is the simplest and most powerful.

10. “Christmas In America” – Melissa Etheridge – One of our country’s best kept secrets… Etheridge probably never gets her due because of her sexuality, and that’s a shame. This is easily the most powerful song about missing your loved one at the holidays.

9. “Christmas Time Is Here” ~ Vince Guaraldi Trio – Better know as the “Theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas”, it’s instantly recognizable as the soundtrack of a kids holiday experience. Can’t you see Snoopy dancing?

8. “The Chipmunk Song” ~ The Chipmunks – This song brings back more memories of growing up than any other. The Chipmunks were on every kids Christmas playlist back in the day. We had a record player with a detachable speaker lid that my Mom would put out on the front steps, playing Christmas music for the neighborhood. It had a very distinctive smell when the tubes got hot… I’ll never forget it. I’m a kid again…

7. “White Christmas” ~ Bing Crosby, and “The Christmas Song” ~ Nat King Cole – A tie because I wasn’t going to say that I liked one more than the other. Both songs define the word “standard” for holiday music. Everyone sings along. And… I want a white Christmas so badly!!

6. “Christmas Baby” ~ G Love & Special Sauce – I always like to give props to local artists, and these guys are one of my favorites. Some call it “sloppy” blues… but it’s Philly all the way. Give it a listen…

5. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” ~ The Whirling Dervishes – Never mess with a classic, unless you can make it better… and they do! I’m a big fan of cover songs, and this version is cleaner and a brings a lot more energy. It beats the Boris Karloff version we all know and love – and these guys are from NJ!! Enjoy!

4. “Christmas On The Block” – Alan Mann Band – Legend has it that rising Philadelphia rock star Alan Mann heard of a group house for the blind on a street in Upper Darby. Every Christmas, the residents would decorate a tree in front of their house, and neighbors would often say that it was the most beautifully decorated tree on the block. Although they could not see, the residents wanted to give an annual gift to those who could. The story inspired Mann to visit the house and record the song, with the moving chorus sung by second-grade students. This video got plenty of MTV play in 1986, and Mann seemed ready for stardom.

Tragically, Alan Mann died in a house fire in 1987, but his beautiful song lives on. For many of my Philly peeps who made their musical bones in the 80’s, this song IS Christmas.

3. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / Star of Wonder” ~ Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan – Smart, funny lyrics and snappy, inventive sounds have always been the trademark of BNL. They made this classic Christmas carol their own… and the sweet voice of Sarah McLachlan only adds to the brilliance.

2. “Fairytale of New York” ~ The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl – I often say that the Christmas season does not start until I hear “Fairytale of New York”. This is song is classic for me on so many levels… it’s an Irish American love story, with grit and optimism, sadness and joy. Raw power masked by simplicity, it may be the most beautiful, heartfelt song ever written…

“I’ve got a feeling this year’s for me and you. So Happy Christmas, I love you, baby. I can see a better time when all our dreams come true.”

Since 1987, it has been my favorite Christmas song, until…

1. “Great Big Sled” ~ The Killers with Toni Halliday – I’m a big kid. I long for simpler days, when life was not so complicated. As a parent, I watched helplessly as my boys lost their wonder and excitement for Christmas and the joy it brings. We all do, but it certainly happened more quickly for them than me.

This song wants to take me back to that time when I can “roll round like a kid in the snow”… And I really want to go!

To all of my friends… thank you for reading my silly little blog posts this year. Play lots of great music this holiday season, and sing along loudly!

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

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