Monday, December 21, 2009
meet my christmas album: christmas remembered
I like to call this cd "every Christmas song you want to hear by the people you want to hear singing them." That's going to turn out to be a slight exaggeration, but seriously, good things are in store.
Here's what all the hype is about:
1. "A Holly Jolly Christmas" Burl Ives: Burl Ives has the voice of Christmas . . . seriously, he's the snowman narrator in the Rudolph Christmas special. I never felt my Christmas music was incomplete without this song, but it was only because I didn't know any better. It's essential to my Christmas happiness.
2. "Sleigh Ride" The Andrews Sisters: I have a relationship with this song that mostly stems from Holiday Band chapel while I was at Harding. For the uninformed, during the playing of "Sleigh Ride" the audience jingles their keys and slams their songbooks closed at the appropriate moments to be the whip-crack-type sound. It's such fun, and it is the crowning glory of Holiday Band chapel, which is the best recurring chapel program. So I love this song, but I didn't have an active relationship with it outside of Holiday Band. But this version is also awesome. One of my favorites.
3. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" Gene Autrey & the Pinafores: For some reason, I thought Gene Autrey wrote this song. According to the liner notes and Wikipedia, I was wrong. He did do the first formal recording of it, so maybe that's why I think he owns this song. Anyway, Gene Autrey does the definitive version, and I have it here on this perfect cd, just as it should be.
4. "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" Mel Torme: So my official policy on this song is that it should be sung by Nat King Cole. That's just how I feel, but since Mel Torme co-wrote it, I suppose he can have joint custody of it. This is actually a really good version.
5. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" Bing Crosby: Clearly if Bing only gets one song on this cd, in a perfect world it would be "White Christmas," but I can't even be mad about that because this song completes my life. Much like "Holly Jolly," I had no idea what I was missing by not listening to this song over and over prior to owning the perfect Christmas cd. But now I know, and my life before was a pathetic shadow of what it is now. Rob has this song done by the Chipmunks, and that's pretty awesome too, actually.
6. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" Johnny Mercer: This is a fairly jazzy little rendition of the song, but I actually prefer my Santa rockin'. Still the back-up singer girls sing "fat man's a comin'" at the beginning which is funny and charming. Plus there's a piano solo that makes me pretty happy. Plus there may or may not be a verse in this one that I've never heard in other versions. So it earns its keep.
7. "Dig That Crazy Santa Claus" Ralph Marterie: Let's talk about the name of this cd for a second, just because I haven't. I'm pretty sure that the remembered Christmas to which the title refers isn't one I'm capable of remembering. All of these songs are from well before my time. I don't have a time in my memory where anyone would have said (with a straight face, anyway) dig that crazy anyone. And perhaps for this reason, I think this song is just about as sweet and precious as can be. The term "hep-cat" is also used, which practically makes me swoon. The song is jazzy and horn-heavy, and the lead singer is a lady, clearly not someone named Ralph. My journalistic integrity wouldn't allow me to leave that mystery unsolved, so I can now report that Ralph Marterie was a band-leader and trumpet player. But don't ask me who that is singing, because I don't know, and all my journalistic integrity was used up on solving the mystery of Ralph.
8. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" Brenda Lee: I didn't know this song before it showed up in my level 2 piano book all those years ago. But I learned to play it, and I must say, I played it well. A couple years later I would hear Brenda Lee's version in Home Alone and fall in love with it even deeper. It's maybe my favorite upbeat Christmas song. Yummy.
9. "It's Christmas Time Again" Peggy Lee: Let's bring things down for a minute, because this song is soft and slow and quite a change from the previous track. This was a song I didn't know prior to owning this album, and I like it fine, but it's not a stand-out favorite. It is a sweet little song, though it comes off sounding depressing even though the words aren't.
10. "Caroling, Caroling" Nat King Cole: So I will now officially forgive the makers of this album for letting Mel Torme sing "The Christmas Song" instead of Nat King Cole because now I get to have this little treasure of a song. Love it, not for any special, expressible reason, just because it's lovely.
11. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" Ella Fitzgerald: So on this cd where all my Christmas song dreams are coming true, you would expect the ultimate version of this song, one of my all-time favorites. But to show that I don't need perfection, I love this cd despite the fact that Judy Garland doesn't sing this song here. The Judy Garland version (from the movie Meet Me in St. Louis, which you really must see) is slow and melancholy and beautiful and achingly perfect. This Ella Fitzgerald version is a bit more upbeat and quite nice in its own way, but it doesn't make me want to cry, which in this case, is actually a failing.
12. "Cool Yule" Louis Armstrong with The Commanders: Is there anyone in the world who doesn't love Louie Armstrong's voice? I didn't know this song before, so I have no idea if it's been recorded elsewhere by other folks, but I'll go ahead and declare this the ultimate version. Here's a sample lyric to fill up your soul with Christmas song joy: "you're gonna flip when ol' St. Nick plays a lick on a peppermint stick . . ." Seriously, how am I supposed to have defenses against a song with that line?
13. "Mistletoe and Holly" Jack Jones: So a lot of the songs on this album have a jazzy, full-band thing going, and it helps them all to fit together nicely, as well as being a bit of a change of pace for me listening to them 40-60 years after they were recorded. This one makes me think of a lounge lizard though. I like it, but it's hard to take it seriously, because though I don't know Jack Jones or what he looks like, I'm picturing him wearing a smoking jacket and singing accompanied by the tinkling of ice in his highball. After I typed that sentence, I got curious about what he looked like, so I googled him, and I learned that he sang the theme to The Love Boat. Awesome.
14. "Winter Wonderland" Connie Francis: As upbeat as most of the songs on this album are, it's surprising to have this mellow rendition. It's fine. And frankly, I don't have any words to spare on it because a brilliant closing song is coming up, and I'm too amped about it to waste time here.
15. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" Andy Williams: Amen, Andy. It certainly is. Also my friend Josh is spending Christmas in Branson, and I'm strongly encouraging him to go see Andy Williams. What a great end to the perfect Christmas cd. This song is just awesome. And you should listen to it at least once a day during the whole month of December. It would make you a better person. Seriously.
I'm starting to feel concerned that I'm not going to get all my music reviewed before Friday. It seems while I've been blogging away, my presents haven't wrapped themselves and my suitcases didn't magically fill with clean, folded laundry. I guess I have to do everything around here. But bringing you the joy of my Christmas soundtrack is still a priority, so I'll manage to get the cds done this week, and I'll tackle the digital collection next week, if I must.