Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas Tunes

Well, it's that time of the year, and since I'm one of those mixtape guys, that means it's time to collect all of the Christmas music I have and make myself a Christmas collection to listen to while wrapping and unwrapping presents this year. And, since I have nothing better to talk about today, I thought I'd share with everyone the music I've decided to put on this year.

My theory of Christmas mixes is the following: no comedy songs (I used to say novelty songs, but the very nature of holiday music being so specific kind of makes ALL Christmas songs novelty songs, I guess) and nothing too modern (98% of recent original Christmas music sucks). I goddamn despise "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," and a funny Christmas comedy song like anything from South Park or Weird Al's classic "Christmas At Ground Zero" would break the mood I want to set, and something by N'Sync or Britney would just be kind of silly--although, as you will see, there are two exceptions to this rule.

1. White Christmas (Bing Crosby)
You have to start with this one, you just have to. Not only is it traditional, not only is it really a great song, but the opening strains are kind of like the opening of The Wizard of Oz. I like to open with the feeling that you're entering another world.

2. Sleigh Ride (Leroy Anderson)
The instrumental one with the great trumpets.

3. Winter Wonderland (Louis Armstrong)
Burl Ives's version is good, too, but Satchmo has more personality. Plus, not much beats Armstrong's voice on a dark, cold night.

4. Christmas Time Is Here (Vince Guaraldi Trio)
Yes, from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Man, remember when jazz used to be good? Kind of dark, kind of soft, very nice and comforting. Then again, my favorite jazz album of all time is Dave Brubeck's Dave Digs Disney, so what do I know?

5. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Andy Williams)
This reminds me of being a kid on Christmas, though I'm not especially sure why. Kind of comforting.

6. Little Saint Nick (The Beach Boys)
Christmas-themed rock music was good in the sixties. Not so much these days, though the new Brian Wilson album, All I Want for Christmas, is really, really good.

7. Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt)
Specifically this version. There are others out there, most notably by Madonna and Kylie Minogue, but they're just doing bad faux-vampy impersonations of Eartha.

8. The Chipmunk Song (Dave Seville and the Chipmunks)
I don't qualify this one as a comedy song by this point; it's made the leap to traditional.

9. Here Comes Santa Claus (Gene Autry)
He just sounds so laid back.

10. Run Rudolph Run (Chuck Berry)
11. Sleigh Ride (The Ventures)
Man, they could play guitar in those days.

12. Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth (Bing Crosby & David Bowie)
I do think this song's very pretty, but hey, was I not going to put a David Bowie song on something?

13. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (John Denver & the Muppets)
Specifically Rowlf the Dog; I find Jim Henson's voice comforting, and this is a nice quiet moment after some rockers and an appearance by Bowie and huge orchestrations.

14. Frosty the Snowman (The Ronettes)
But I do like to punctuate the quiet moments, too. Ronnie Spector's voice does strange things to me inside.

15. Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley)
A must.

16. All I Want for Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey)
This is the only new Christmas song that I really love. It's the most perfect pastiche of the classic Phil Spector "Wall of Sound" style that I've ever heard, and it doesn't go overblown--at least, not in a tasteless manner. This is the only Mariah Carey song I've ever liked, too.

17. O Holy Night (Nat "King" Cole)
My favorite version of my favorite Christmas song.

18. Good King Wenceslas (The Ames Brothers)
My favorite version of my second favorite Christmas song. "Good King Wenceslas" has kind of gotten itself lost from contemporary times, hasn't it?

19. Do You Hear What I Hear? (Bing Crosby)
Good old Christmas drama; no one uses the orchestra anymore in popular music... At least, not well.

20. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love)
I think this is because it's the song used on the title sequence of Gremlins, but this has always been firmly identified with Christmas for me. The only thing that could make this Phil Spector song more perfect is if Ronnie Spector had sung it.

21. What Child Is This (Vince Guaraldi Trio)
More jazzy calm.

22. The Christmas Waltz (Frank Sinatra)
A perfect version of a perfect song; I almost cry when I hear this one.

23. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Dean Martin)
Boy, everyone's into Dino this Christmas, it seems. But if you're a guy my age, I think this song says the same thing to you as it does to me: the end credits of Die Hard. You know, just for a second. Otherwise, a great song.

24. A Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives)
Unassailable Christmas classic.

25. Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano)
This year, all I can think of is Taco John's, who are using it on a commercial. I love that monkey!

26. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (John Lennon & Yoko Ono)
The Christian Children's Fund or whoever it was nearly ruined this song in the 1980s and 1990s with their commercials, but it really is a beautiful sentiment. Probably Lennon's most touching song after "Imagine" and "Beautiful Boy."

27. Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Jessica Simpson & Nick Lachey)
The other modern exception; Jessica's Christmas album ReJoyce was more of a tribute to her grandmother (the Joyce of the title) than a Christmas pop album, so she hits a more traditional note than others have. And it's the only album so far on which she's been able to work her voice out in that jazzy way she likes to sing in (and which Columbia Records tried for three albums to stamp out). Her version of the classic Christmas come-on with her husband Nick (one of the few white men who can actually sing in a jazz/R&B style) is sexy, breathy, and kind of erotic.

28. Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band)
How can you not?

29. The Christmas Song (Nat "King" Cole)
I opened traditionally, I ended traditionally. This song more than any other says Christmas to me, and it would be horrible not to hear it this year.

Well, that's all of that, although I need to edit a bit because I think I'm over the time limit on this one. Still, this is my Christmas, and I thought I'd share it.

Anyone else have any suggestions?

UPDATE 12/17: As for practical application, I can't locate two of my favorites: "Sleigh Ride" by the Ventures and "Good King Wenceslas" by the Ames Brothers. So those two will have to wait for my Christmas 2006 mix, assuming this becomes a yearly thing. But, as fate would have it, if you cut off those two songs, the CD runs an hour and sixteen minutes, so it all works out pretty perfectly, actually.