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My Favorite Christmas Recordings #1 Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme: That Holiday Feeling

Bitter, cynical, and borderline misanthropic for most of the year, I reform for the holiday season and from mid-November to the last minute of Epiphany I’m all about the season.  Readers of Old Road Apples will find themselves under a constant barrage of holiday fare this season–from themed essays to book reviews to a countdown of my very favorite Christmas recordings.

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Here it is, Steve & Eydie standing tall at Number One!  Unexpected?  Maybe.  They would certainly be a dark horse on most people’s lists, but I’m not most people, and I’ve loved these guys since I was a little kid.  Remember those old promo anthologies I was talking about at the bottom of this countdown?  Steve and Eydie featured prominently in many of them, and those songs still resonate with me today.  I had a hell of a time finding it, in fact–the “new price” for this on Amazon is $42.95, which is robbery.  I bought mine for $24.95 from the artists’ web site and never looked back.

The title track is the first Christmas song I listen to each year, by tradition, because I’ve got that holiday feeling, of course.  The snappy little pop jazz duet is the perfect starting gun for the season, the cover of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is easily as good as Dean Martin’s version, and “Hurry Home For Christmas” just dares you not to sing along–then sing again in the shower, on the stairs, in the car….

Some of the tracks have a big band sound more like the music of the 40’s, some of it like late 50’s Swing–it fits in with my favorite Christmas music milieu.  With huge bonus points for “Sleigh Ride”–the merriest song of the season.  I wish my friends and I had half as much fun as the whoopin’ and hollerin’ on that sleigh ride–and with those whoops and whipcracks at the end of the song, I turned to my wife yesterday morning and said “Is it just me, or does that sound like Steve’s giving Eydie a little spankin’?”

“I know!” She said.  “I just thought the same thing!”  We busted a gut.  You should too.

1. That Holiday Feeling
2. White Christmas
3. Winter Wonderland
4. The Christmas Song
5. Baby It’s Cold Outside
6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
7. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
8. Sleigh Ride
9. Let Me Be the First to Wish You Merry Christmas
10. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
11. What Are You Doing New Years Eve
12. Hurry Home for Christmas
13. That Ol’ Christmas Spirit
14. Happy Holiday
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My Favorite Christmas Recordings #2 The Carpenters: Christmas Collection

Bitter, cynical, and borderline misanthropic for most of the year, I reform for the holiday season and from mid-November to the last minute of Epiphany I’m all about the season.  Readers of Old Road Apples will find themselves under a constant barrage of holiday fare this season–from themed essays to book reviews to a countdown of my very favorite Christmas recordings.

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So, this isn’t a perfect album–it’s a wildly self-indulgent attempt by Richard Carpenter to create a sort of Christmas Magnum Opus, a collection of songs that range from orchestral to pop.  Much of it is brilliant, a bit of it isn’t–but all of it features the incredible, heart-breaking voice of Karen Carpenter.  And let’s be a little honest here.  I grew up on new wave and punk rock, but I am utterly and unapologetically in love with the tragic Karen Carpenter.  I’m two steps removed from fantasies of traveling back in time to try and save her from herself–two small steps.

The centerpiece of this record is “Merry Christmas Darling,” and that’s sort of like saying the centerpiece of the solar system is the sun.  It matters.  A lot.  In my mind, it’s the perfect Christmas song–romantic, sentimental, nostalgic, and a little sad.  Combined with Karen’s honeyed voice, it’s a mind blowing creation.  Pop music perfection.

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My Favorite Christmas Recordings #13 Peggy Lee: Christmas

Bitter, cynical, and borderline misanthropic for most of the year, I reform for the holiday season and from mid-November to the last minute of Epiphany I’m all about the season.  Readers of Old Road Apples will find themselves under a constant barrage of holiday fare this season–from themed essays to book reviews to a countdown of my very favorite Christmas recordings.

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Peggy Lee’s voice just cuts right through me, and my favorite style of Christmas music is swing, so you can guess where I’m headed here. The only problem is that this album is pathetically short–less than half on hour, on a format that permits twice that, and I know that other Peggy Lee Christmas recordings are out there.  Alas, until something more ambitious appears this one is is super-heavy rotation–a little funky, a lot smooth, and that beautiful, beautiful voice.  There is a nice mix of familiar and not so familiar, with the arrangements neither tired nor so unique that they’re distracting, but at the end of the day it’s about that voice.

I may try this one next year–it’s got a lot more songs on it.

Anyone heard it?

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My Favorite Christmas Recordings # 22 Diana Krall: Christmas Songs

Bitter, cynical, and borderline misanthropic for most of the year, I reform for the holiday season and from mid-November to the last minute of Epiphany I’m all about the season.  Readers of Old Road Apples will find themselves under a constant barrage of holiday fare this season–from themed essays to book reviews to a countdown of my very favorite Christmas recordings.

Here’s an extra for today.  I’m behind a few…

Diana Krall: Christmas Songs

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People say I’m resistant to change, and maybe that’s true–no way in hell I’ll be buying that Josh Groban crap.  I got this one at the insistence of a friend, who convinced me that Krall’s voice is awesome and I have to admit that it’s pretty good.  Of course, I don’t know the first thing about contemporary jazz, or whatever kind of jazz this is–I don’t know anything at all about jazz, actually, which is funny because I have half a dozen friends who are accomplished jazz musicians in bands, with actual gigs and everything.  The one who is a singer despises Diana Krall, but I never bothered to ask why.  Maybe Krall is really average and is only famous because it seems like she’s always posing like she just had sex and needs to have a cigarette (see above) and some whiskey on the rocks. In case you think I’m exaggerating, here’s another shot–but in this case she appears to be just about ready to have sex.

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Okay, I just did some research–the knock on her is that her music is “like white bread.”  Process that and get back to me.  It’s a nearly perfect Christmas album, however, especially for the jazz non-enthusiast.  The only liability is that she scats a little here and there–not scat, like bears do in the woods, but that “ba-diddy ba boo boo bah bah bah ippity dippity doo dah doo”  business.  Can’t stand that–fortunately, it passes swiftly.

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Click on image to make songlist big enough to read.
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My Favorite Christmas Recordings #23 A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas by Kristin Chenowith

Bitter, cynical, and borderline misanthropic for most of the year, I reform for the holiday season and from mid-November to the last minute of Epiphany I’m all about the season.  Readers of Old Road Apples will find themselves under a constant barrage of holiday fare this season–from themed essays to book reviews to a countdown of my very favorite Christmas recordings.

Note: I forgot to write one of these yesterday, so this is the first of two special Christmas music posts today.

Kristin Chenowith’s A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas

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Broadway star Kristin is smokin’ hot, has a great voice, and is actually a real, live, genuine elf–which should make you feel a little weird about what you were thinking while noticing how hot she is.  This album couldn’t miss, and it didn’t.

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My Favorite Christmas Recordings #24 Christmas Cheers by Straight No Chaser

Bitter, cynical, and borderline misanthropic for most of the year, I reform for the holiday season and from mid-November to the last minute of Epiphany I’m all about the season.  Readers of Old Road Apples will find themselves under a constant barrage of holiday fare this season–from themed essays to book reviews to a countdown of my very favorite Christmas recordings.

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Straight No Chaser: Christmas Cheers

This is at least the second seasonal recording by this group, and I haven’t heard the other.  You might have seen Straight No Chaser on a PBS special–they’re a charismatic, all-male A Capella group that sound great.  I’m not a music guy, and this isn’t the style of music that I listen to outside of the holidays(which seems to be a theme for my Christmas choices), so I can’t talk about them technically, but the fact that I’ve vaulted them into my “top” list should mean something on it’s own.  Indeed, this record is so much fun, and the singing so beautiful, that they may claw themselves up a few slots over performances with which I’m more familiar. The opening number, “The Christmas Can-Can” is hilarious.

They sound great, and they’re fun too : see

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My Favorite Christmas Recordings #25 Now That’s What I Call Christmas!

Bitter, cynical, and borderline misanthropic for most of the year, I reform for the holiday season and from mid-November to the last minute of Epiphany I’m all about the season.  Readers of Old Road Apples will find themselves under a constant barrage of holiday fare this season–from themed essays to book reviews to a countdown of my very favorite Christmas recordings.  You’ll note I’m beginning this a little early–that’s to give you a fare shake at picking up the top of the list .

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Now That’s What I Call Christmas!

By the same logic that led me to list the previous entry, Now That’s What I Call Christmas is a fantastic building block for a Christmas music collection.  It is another anthology, featuring 36 classic Christmas songs, often in legendary recordings of definitive versions interspersed with new interpretations by more contemporary performers.  It is another album that you can pick up used for under a dollar.  This entry was the first in a series, and in my opinion remains the best, with the proportion of classics in later volumes (there are at least 4, plus a “best of” record that is, oddly, a best of an anthology and a somewhat counter-intuitive choice in an age of digitalization) decreasing in later volumes–though all have their charms and, I presume, admirers.

An added bonus to these anthologies is that they reduce the “clutter” of a complete collection, especially a collection one may listen to only a few weeks out of each year.  For example, while listening to Burl Ives croon “Have a holly jolly Christmas” is something we can hear every day between Thanksgiving and New Years with little cumulative effect, the entire Burl Ives Christmas collection–90 full minutes of the Burl-meister himself, might just be a little too much.  On the other hand, this record can get just a little too bogged down by a few of the more modern songs–the Britney Spears and Gloria Estefan contributions are particularly insipid–but then, I’m definitely a swing guy when it comes to the holidays.

You should be able to click on the songlists to make them large enough to read.

Now Thats 1 Now That's 2