Thursday, December 10, 2009

meet my christmas albums: the elvis christmas album

I am mildly obsessed with Christmas music.  I try to confine it to the appropriate seasonal duration because some days it just seems easier to keep the crazy at a manageable level.

So during the season, Christmas music is in my heart and on my mind and my go-to topic for conversational lulls.  And what is this mostly undeveloped blog but a giant conversational lull?

So I'm going to introduce you to some of my favorite Christmas albums and share the stories of why they're in my heart and give you intelligent, unbiased critiques of various versions of various songs.  You're welcome.

Because there's a story for everything (get used to this idea), let's start with my moma (get used to her too--she's pretty dang awesome, and I don't mind telling you).  My moma loves Elvis--without getting too off topic, I'll tell you that my moma's musical taste continues to be a strong influence in my life because I'm just that crazy about her.  So besides just growing up thinking that Elvis, Journey, and Lionel Richie, among others, were the bee's knees, Christmas-time means Elvis.

My moma had the Elvis Christmas Album on record, yep . . . a record.  So when we started to decorate the tree or smear a little Christmas around the house, she would bust it out.  Now in this modern age, you can get any number of Elvis Christmas compilations on cd, but I only accept a version that begins with "Blue Christmas" and ends with "Mama Liked the Roses" with eight songs in between.  The Elvis Christmas Album is Christmas.  And it's one important Christmas tradition upon which I shall not compromise in my own home.  Earlier this week, as soon as I had braved the frigidly cold and often spidery storage closet to bring in the Christmas boxes, I had to go and find my personal version, which is actually called It's Christmas Time.  And fluffing out every single branch on that tree by yourself because, dang it, you're a big girl and your moma lives 300 miles away is only bearable when you've got that piece of your childhood crooning away in your own living room.  And once I get to "Mama Liked the Roses" and contemplate the oddity of its inclusion on the album, I can go on to whatever Christmas tradition best suits me.  Typically I watch a Christmas movie, and as this year is the first time that Jess has ever had a Christmas tree (sad, heartfelt sighs here) I let her pick which movie from three possible choices.  She overlooked the more traditional offerings of White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life for Love Actually.  This is definitely a Christmas tradition that wouldn't stand in my moma's house--as I was painfully embarrassed the first time I watched that movie because I was watching it with the olds.

Anyway, we're not talking about movies, we're talking about Elvis . . .

So here's a track-by-track analysis of the most important piece of the Christmas soundtrack of my life:

1.  "Blue Christmas" Two minutes and five seconds of magic.  The instantly recognizable "I'll uh have uh," the background "woo WOO wa-woo-oo"s--every happy, wintry thing from my childhood is wrapped up in these syllables . . . there aren't words for how songs like that make you feel.  It is the stories of all my Christmas ornaments; it is Shane decorating only the back of the tree;  it is the image of my moma making Josh & Shane dance with her in the kitchen; it is my precious sister finding the right cd version of it for me five years ago; it is seeing that Elvis-love being passed down to the Handful; it is Christmas morning.  It is home.  And it's just a stinkin' fun song to boot.

2.  "Silent Night" One of my least favorite Christmas songs (please consider the environment by sending hate e-mails rather than actual letters), but Elvis does a slow and soulful rendition that makes it all okay.

3.  "White Christmas"  Well, I'm not going to pretend that Bing isn't better because it's too early in my blogging life to throw credibility out the window.  "White Christmas" belongs to Bing, but since I'm pretty sure that version exists elsewhere on my Christmas soundtrack, I'll just say that Elvis does it a bit more upbeat and with a charming disregard for enunciation, and I like it that way, just fine.

4.  "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" It should be illegal for anyone in the world to sing this song besides the King.  I feel strongly about this.  Also, my moma dances to this one, and it's awesome in every conceivable way.  She got the dancing gene, you know.

5.  "I'll Be Home for Christmas" This used to be just another Christmas song, but in the past twelve years that I've been a pseudo-grown-up who doesn't live with her moma, this song, and this rendition of it, has brought me to tears.  And no, I've never had to be home for Christmas only in my dreams, but I'm a baby like that.

6.  "If Every Day Was Like Christmas"  Since I became obsessed with Christmas music, one of the things I've come to love about this album is that a solid portion of the songs on it aren't just the same carols you hear everywhere else.  I don't think I've ever heard anyone else sing this song, which is fine by me.  "If every day could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world that would be."  Indeed, sir.
7.  "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)"  My moma dances to this one too.  Did I mention earlier that Elvis has a charming disregard for enunciation . . . because it's charming.  And adorable.  This song is so Elvis-y.  It just fills my heart.

8.  "O Little Town of Bethlehem" So I have a story about the way that I most enjoy this song that I'll tell another day, but this Elvis version is a bit of a punchline in our family.  Thanks to the aforementioned enunciation problems, it sounds like "lattle" town instead of little, which is how we all sing it.  It's a bit difficult to seriously contemplate the birth of our Lord or the "hopes and fears of all the years" when you're mockingly mispronouncing words.  Too bad . . . but still very fun.

9.  "Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)"  Remember those dancing/Elvis-exclusive/fun songs I've talked about?  Times ten.  If I was ever going to be an Elvis impersonator, I think I'd have to perform this song, and I think I could totally pull it off.

10.  "Mama Liked the Roses" First off, this isn't even a Christmas song, doesn't even pretend to be.  But there it is stuck on the end of the ultimate Christmas album.  It's kind of mournful and depressing, and it has this bit in the middle where he talks instead of sings.  Weird.  But it's Elvis, so it can't be all bad.  And speaking as someone who's really crazy about her own moma, I can't begrudge him for singing a song about his moma at Christmas-time.  Just sayin'.

Thus concludes my first installment of "Meet my Christmas Albums."  Tune in soon for the rest of the collection.


  1. Check it out. I am your first respondant. Unfortunately I have not listened to Elvis yet this season, but I will correct that mistake tonight. I know you consider this blasphemy, but I own a different album, "If Every Day Was Like Christmas." There is no "Mama Liked the Roses" or "Silent Night," but I get to hear 12 other Elvis tunes. But those differences aside, Elvis is Christmas, and I love your Moma.

  2. I have a thousand different comments I could make to this post, but I'll narrow it down for the sake of those who I might want to read my own blog someday.

    1. Once upon a time, when I was a wee child in the 4th grade, I choreographed my own tap dance for the Beebe Elementary Christmas Talent Show. I wore a green velvet leotard and a red sequined skirt and danced as cute as two cute things to the song that is #7 on your list.

    2. I love to hear members of your family talk about Christmas. The love in your hearts, especially at this time of year, is the way the whole world should see people. It's beautiful. And I'll stop there so that nobody except Mac-Mac has to cry.

    3. I am so glad that you decided to start a blog. I love to be able to keep up with what's going on with you, and you know how much I shamelessly enjoy your witty banter. I've been meaning to start another blog of my own since the recession took my Harding blog away. I might just have to get on the bandwagon.

  3. Ellen, heartfelt and told with a lot of love. The blog is like listening to you talk.


  4. Oh, Ellen, I'm going to love that when I don't have time to talk to you on the phone, I can come to this blog and "hear" many, many words from you. Indeed, the first sign that Christmas is coming is hearing Elvis sing Blue Christmas. I'll agree with Shane... Elvis is Christmas, and I love your Moma! She IS pretty dang awesome! As are you!

  5. I love Elvis's Blue Christmas because it's not really that blue of a song. All those Woo Woos make it so fun that you forget that his baby's left him at the holidays and that decorations of red don't mean a thang to him.
    Do you think that your moma makes Uncle Butch dance with her while she plays Elvis at Christmas these days? I figure that Uncle Butch is either the world's best or world's worst dancer. You never know with those strong silent types.

    Jenni and I watched most of Love Actually the other night before she got sleepy and had to go to bed. Maybe some time before the season is over you can blog about Christmas movies, and I'll rank the stories from Love Actually for you from best to worst. It's an entertaining exercise.
    Also on the topic of Christmas movies, I did my Jimmy Stewart impression for some of the Bible faculty yesterday, and it brought the house down.


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