Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Random 10: Baby Please Come Home

Since I got my LastFM playlist box last spring, I haven't done a Friday Random 10, because I figure the playlist box gives you enough of a look at what I'm listening to. But before I get out of here for the weekend, I've put my Christmas music list on shuffle, just to see what comes out.

"Poor Mr. Santa"/Andre Williams. Williams' greatest claim to fame is having written "Shake Your Tailfeather," made famous by Ray Charles in The Blues Brothers. He was also a staff producer at Motown for a brief period in the early 60s. On his latest album, released earlier this year, he's backed by the Diplomats of Solid Sound, who hail from my much-missed former home of Iowa City. "Poor Mr. Santa" was posted earlier this month at Big Rock Candy Mountain, which has featured an extraordinary array of R&B and country Christmas tunes.

"The Christmas Song"/King Curtis. The list of musicians with whom King Curtis performed is lengthy. Eric Clapton and Duane Allman backed him; he backed Aretha Franklin--in fact, he led Aretha's backing band while serving as a producer at Atlantic Records--and he also played on John Lennon's Imagine. During a brief period in the early 90s when The Mrs. and I were DJing weddings and parties, we used to close our Christmas shows with this.

"White Christmas"/Bing Crosby. You think that rushing the season is a modern phenomenon? This record hit Number One on Halloween in 1942 and fell out of the top spot the week before Christmas. The song was everywhere that year--Crosby's recording shared the spotlight big-band versions by Freddy Martin, Charlie Spivak, and Gordon Jenkins, but only Crosby's version made Number One--three different times, topping the charts again at Christmas of 1945 and 1946.

"Silver Bells"/Earl Grant. Grant was a keyboard player who sounded a lot like Nat King Cole when he sang (most famously on "The End"). He sings on this track from his 1965 album Winter Wonderland. Vocals are few on the album though; it mostly features Grant on organ, creating a warm and old-fashioned vibe. (This album, along with an additional motherlode of holiday cheer, was posted earlier this month at PCL LinkDump.)

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"/Darlene Love. From A Christmas Gift to You From Phil Spector, which features some of the most familiar and enduring Christmas recordings of the rock era by Love, the Crystals (which she fronted), and the Ronettes. Desperation is not an emotion oft-associated with Christmas--desperately hoping Santa brings you a gift is not the same as desperately hoping your lover will come back to you--but Love is one desperate woman here.

"Christmastime Is Here (instrumental)"/Vince Guaraldi Trio. From the indispensable A Charlie Brown Christmas. I bought the newly remastered version released this year to get the five additional tracks, all but one of which are alternate takes of the versions on the original album. What they do, mostly, is make a good thing better by extending it for an extra 20 minutes. (I also bought the TV show for the third time this year, on DVD this time, to go with the two VHS copies I've owned over the years. It does not include this alternate ending to the show, which is probably a good thing.)

"Mary's Boy Child"/John D. Loudermilk.
"Mary's Boy Child" celebrates its 50th anniversary this year--it was first recorded by Harry Belafonte (still the best recording of it, I think) for Christmas 1956. A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Loudermilk's best-known hit is probably "Indian Reservation," taken to Number One by the Raiders in the summer of 1971. Others you may know include "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" and "Waterloo"--not the one by Abba, the one by country singer Stonewall Jackson. (There's more about Loudermilk at Record Robot.)

"Angels We Have Heard on High"/Ottmar Liebert.
Filed under "new age," Liebert has recorded two dozen albums since 1990. His Christmas album, Poets + Angels, was one of his first, featuring traditional carols and original songs, on Spanish guitar.

"Xmas Time (Sure Doesn't Feel Like It)"/Mighty Mighty Bosstones. A song that seems to have been recorded for a 2000 compilation called Sleighed: The Other Side of Christmas, which also features the legendary "Santa Doesn't Cop Out on Dope" by Sonic Youth and "Christmas With the Devil" by Spinal Tap. Contrary to what you might guess, "Xmas Time" is no headbanger, though. (Posted earlier this month at Heartache With Hard Work; don't know if the links are still live. If they are, listen to the Raveonettes, too.)

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen-We Three Kings"/Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan. I am hipper than you know--I actually knew about Barenaked Ladies five years they hit it big in the United States. My sister-in-law dated a Canadian in the early 90s, and he was a fan. They were massively successful up there, but it was 1996 before they broke huge in the States. From their 2004 album Barenaked for the Holidays, these old carols sound great, although McLachlan is extremely annoying.

And that ought to hold you through the holidays, as this blog is now going on hiatus until next Wednesday at the earliest. Instead of posting any tracks here today, I'll simply direct you to the Hype Machine. Search "Christmas," or just browse. That's how I found a lot of stuff I've been listening to this season, at the blogs linked above and at others I haven't had time to mention.

And now, a merry Christmas to all and to all a good weekend. . . .


At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Jason said...

Fascinating about the "White Christmas" rise to #1 in October! I had no idea.


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