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Monster Gator Caught In Florida

Did everyone see the size of the alligator that was recently killed in Florida–estimated at 15′ long and over 700 lbs, it’s shown at the bottom of the page. That’s just…Nope.

It’s like this:

Scary.
grizzly

Real Scary.
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Nope.
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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.

Carpenter 2 Carpenter 3

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My Favorite Christmas Recordings #3 Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Wishes You a Swinging 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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So, it’s Christmas Day, I’m busy with family stuff, and I’ve still got 3 album entries and the second part of “Christmas Traditions” to write and post–go ahead and call fumble, I’ve clearly dropped the ball.

If there is a singular voice of Christmas in our home, it is Ella Fitzgerald–what can I say about this legendary singer that hasn’t been said before, and by people who actually know what they’re talking about.  She’s slick, she’s deep, but still accessible in the way the very best of these holiday records must be.  Literally, I’m short of words, and there’s no hyperbole that can tell you how rarely that happens.  It’s just a perfect album, everything you want, and like several others it could (and almost was) the number one choice on this list, falling short only on sentimental value–the two records ahead of it simply evoke more memories and traditions.  No Christmas collection should be without it.

Ella

 

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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 #14 Barenaked Ladies: Barenaked For The Holidays

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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Okay, let’s get a few things straight–where holidays are concerned, or any days really, I have historically been all about barenaked ladies; though for quite some time I’ve focused on one lady in particular  I remain, philosophically speaking, an enthusiast.  I wasn’t sure about this recording when I received it as a gift–as it turns out, these Ladies are neither naked nor, in fact, are they ladies.  At first listen I suspected this would be a little too lite and witty and, frankly, new for my tastes.

It turned out to be a wicked good album full of funny originals & time-honored classics. Great for perking up spirits when seven hours into an all-day cookie-baking extravaganza.  From the opening track, a warp-speed rendition of Jingle Bells, to the closing song–the first interpretation of Auld Lang Syne I’ve ever heard that doesn’t make me want to crawl into a bottle and cry myself to sleep, the Ladies are a blast.  Elf’s Lament, a song about North Pole labor strife and a rebellious push for long overdue unionization, is hilarious, and they include not one, not two, not three Hanukkah songs that are catchy enough that even Pat Robertson might find himself humming it on the way to a Daughters of The Confederacy shindig.  Best of all, or most audacious, is a totally straight-faced cover of Do They Know It’s Christmas that has proven to be a gateway vice to my teenage daughter’s full-bore melodramatic sing-a-long in the style of the original, overwrought form–

There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
Is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you…

“The clanging chimes of doom.” Right.  You should hear my daughter screech along, at the top of her lungs.  Worth every penny.

1. Jingle Bells
2. Green Christmas
3. I Saw Three Ships
4. Hanukkah Blessings
5. O Holy Night
6. Elf’s Lament
7. Snowmen
8. Do They Know It’s Christmas?
9. Hanukkah O Hanukkah
10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman/We Three Kings
11. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
12. Carol of the Bells
13. Footprints
14. Deck the Stills
15. Christmastime (Oh Yeah)
16. Sleigh Ride
17. Christmas Pics
18. I Have a Little Dreidel
19. Wonderful Christmastime
20. Auld Lang Syne
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My Favorite Christmas Recordings #15 Ray Coniff Singers: Christmas With Conniff

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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Ray Coniff: Christmas With Conniff

Here’s another super nostalgic choice from my childhood, hammering home how much of Christmas is, for me, a sort of hazy-around-the-edges sentimentalism–a striving for “that feeling.”  I guess that Ray Conniff was some sort of chorale director–all of these songs are sung by a chorus, a really good chorus.  When I hear these songs, I still imagine a bunch of really happy, healthy, clean-cut 1960’s Americans singing on the back of a hayride–or sleigh ride–and it turns out that I’m sort of right.

This stuff is just timeless, and the more that our holiday celebrations devolve into a morass of sectarian conflict (between normal Americans and right-wing Christian jihadists… http://nation.foxnews.com/2013/12/12/war-christmas ) and commercial overkill, the more I enjoy reaching back for the seemingly unspoiled, can’t we all just get along, kind of music I heard when I was a little kid.  Of course, when I was a little kid it was the height of Viet Nam, and my first memory of watching television was sitting around my grandparents’ house while the Watergate trials played out on every channel–so it’s pretty safe to say that this nostalgia thing is more about idealization and selective memory.  I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to imagine a better past than present, as long as we use that idealized past as a touchstone to build a better future.

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My Favorite Christmas Recordings # 20 Joan Osbourne : Christmas Means Love

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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A lot of folks don’t know Joan Osbourne–she flirted with mainstream success a couple of decades ago with a couple of pretty great singles, Spider Web and One of Us from a really great album “Relish”…you might remember the latter: what is god was one of us/just a slob like one of us/just a stranger on the bus….

She didn’t disappear after that, but kept making a series of remarkable blues-soul-rock-whatever albums, touring, and making fans happy wherever she landed.  Because she’s not well known, this record is a bit of hidden Christmas treasure–a nice mix of traditionals, interesting covers, and even a few originals.  The attraction here is Osbourne’s voice–smoother than smooth, smokier than smokey, sexier than sexy.  A great recording for staying inside on a cold winter night.

1. Christmas Means Love
2. Santa Claus Baby
3. Away In a Manger
4. Christmas Must Be Tonight
5. Cherry Tree Carol
6. Christmas In New Orleans
7. Children Go Where I Send Thee
8. Angels We Have Heard On High
9. What Do Bad Girls Get?
10. Great Day In December
11. Silent Night