I was going to start this post by saying it’s hard to believe Christmas Eve is but two weeks from today. Except people are always saying things like that at Christmastime, and why should we feel that way? It’s as if we can understand the passage of time for the other 11 months of the year, but in December it becomes a surprise to us. So I’ll move right on to this week’s list of random tracks from the Christmas archive.
“White Christmas”/Bing Crosby. About which there is little more that can be said, except that the Crosby version everybody knows is apparently not the one that first became a hit in 1942—it’s actually a 1947 re-recording that was done after the 1942 master was irrevocably damaged.
“Christmas Time Is Here” (alternate vocal) /Vince Guaraldi Trio/A Charlie Brown Christmas. Last year’s newly remastered edition of this most marvelous of Christmas albums didn’t add much—this track runs less than 90 seconds—but for those of us long irrational in our love for it, even a little was plenty.
“Christmas Comes But Once a Year”/Albert King/It’s Christmas Time Again. What I like about blues renditions of Christmas songs in general is that they’re less about mistletoe and holly and more like, “Damn, we’re lucky we made it through another year.” Which is how I feel in a lot of years myself. This collection assembles tracks by various Stax artists, both big names (Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes) and lesser lights (Rance Allen Group, the Temprees).
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”/Harmony Grits/A Doo-Wop Christmas. This Rhino compilation collects some obscure tracks, some great, some not. This track got deleted from my hard drive after it finished.
“1st Nowell”/Ottmar Liebert/Poets and Angels. Great holiday atmosphere on this album, which was one of the first for Liebert, whose career as a guitarist of wildly differing styles is approaching the end of its second decade now. This track gains extra points for the old-style spelling of “noel.”
“The Beatles Christmas Record”/The Beatles. From 1963 to 1969, the Beatles released special holiday recordings each year to members of their international fan club. I’ve got a post in the can about them, so stay tuned.
“Christmas Wrapping”/The Waitresses. The protagonist in this song is the kind of person who says “I can’t believe it’s only two weeks until Christmas Eve” and means it. But her tale of harried holidays and unexpected romance has a goofy charm that has made it an unlikely standard. More here.
“Ringing the Bells of Christmas”/Larry Carlton/Christmas at My House. Carlton, a guitarist known largely for session work with Steely Dan, Billy Joel, and others, has also recorded over two dozen solo albums. This track features his wife, contemporary Christian singer Michele Pillar, on vocals. It’s got a hook that sticks in your head despite your best efforts, so I’ll be humming the damn thing all day now.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve”/Ramsey Lewis Trio/The Sound of Christmas. This song frequently turns up on Christmas albums, where it always seems to me like the audio equivalent of a store putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween. New Year’s, wait your turn.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”/Living Strings/The Spirit of Christmas. An earlier post about this album is here, if you missed it; another post about it is coming later this week.
I didn’t intend for this blog to become all Christmas all the time, but it’s beginning to look a lot like it.
“Christmas Time Is Here” (alternate vocal)/Vince Guaraldi Trio (buy it here, or visit your favorite big-box store and look for a version of it in a metal tin, packaged with a 40th anniversary tribute CD featuring David Benoit, the Rippingtons, Chaka Khan, Toni Braxton, and others)