Has it really been a year since I posted my inaugural favorite Christmas songs rant? Was it a year ago that Santa last rode into town on his sleigh? Really? Wow. How time flies.
So much has transpired since this time last year when I put the list together. Not when it comes to the music I recommended and still love, goodness no. More to do with yours truly. I am not the same man now that I was then. So much water has passed beneath the proverbial bridge. But that is a good thing, believe me. For one thing, my childlike love of all things Christmas has returned full force. It was never really gone, just sublimated through years of telling myself the same thing over and over again: “No Christmas music before December 1st! Ever!”
Well, you live and learn, don’t you. One of the biggest things I have learned twixt this time last year and this time this year is the fact that I really, really love Christmas. And, no, not from any kind of religious, dogmatic point of view. That is a discussion for a completely different article. No, over the past year I have oft found myself asking what it is that matters the most to me; on any number of topics. So, taking a cue from that way of thinking, I forced myself to reconsider exactly what it was that I hated so about Christmas. For the life of me, I couldn’t come up with a single damned thing.
Yay Christmas. Yay Santa.
Instead I discovered the following reasons that I LOVE Christmas: I love the way that complete strangers greet each other on the street this time of year. I love the way that young children’s eyes grow large and radiant at the mere mention of the “S” word. I love connecting or reconnecting with dear friends, over a nice meal, a glass of wine, port or mulled wine. I love Linus’ soliloquy during “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. I love the misunderstood Christmas tree which Charlie Brown picked out; a tree which, with love and support, blossomed into a wondrous tree, replete with children singing “Hark the Harold Angels Sing”. I love the very possibility that you and I are going to get to spend any kind of time together over the course of the upcoming holidays, regardless of the fact that the last time we may well have done so was last Christmas right around this time. I love the decorations, the lights and one of my three girls, Lola, perched on a branch half way up my tree.
Christmas is a completely wonderful time of year; the way your heart quickens at the merest memory of your youthful anticipation of jolly old Saint Nick’s arrival. I love the anticipation of spending Christmas Eve, warmly ensconced in front of a fire, a glass of wine in hand, with a dear and special friend, watching It’s A Wonderful Life and Scrooge (aka A Christmas Carol) (the 1951 version with Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge).
And so, with that being said, I offer up my 2014 version of my top ten favorite Christmas Songs (in no particular order):
1. AC/DC -- Mistress For Christmas
An old friend lamented the absence of this classic last year following my 2013 list. What can I say in my defense? Obviously, I concurred.
2. Clarence Carter -- Backdoor Santa
How could I have ever missed this unsung Christmas classic last year. Thanks again JC.
3. Otis Redding / Bruce Springsteen -- Merry Christmas Baby
The last recommendation from my friend John Cairns… Otis Redding / Bruce Springsteen’s amazing versions of this Christmas time staple. What’s not to love? I ask you!
4. Paul McCartney and Wings -- Wonderful Christmas Time
On the surface, a very lame song. But it is Sir Paul, and it does grow on you… well, it grew on me at the very least. Regardless of the fact he comes across as a bit of a stalker in this video…
5. The Ramones -- Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)
A Merry Christmas wish all the way from Queens, New York. It always brought an appreciative smile to my face when these bastions of anti establishment still had the desire to release a Christmas song… Just saying…
6. Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops -- Sleigh Ride
An annual holiday treat, the Boston Pops Orchestra always puts on a killer Christmas concert, more often than not broadcast on your local PBS station… God love public broadcasting.
7. Louis Armstrong / The Brian Setzer Orchestra
I have always loved the original by old Satchmo himself; Brian Setzer does a mighty fine version himself. Really not quite Christmas without at least a cursory reading of this classic.
8. Louis Armstrong & Velma Middleton / Idina Menzel & Michael Bublé -- Baby It’s Cold Outside
Old school to new school. Louis and Velma, Idina and Michael. I love the music from the first, LOVE the video from the second. An all around Christmas classic of the first order, regardless of who does it.
9 . Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox -- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen -- Acoustic Electro Swing Hiphop Version
You know, you should never be to old to discover. In any aspect of your life. Now, those who know me know how much it is that I love music. Good music. This year I have been well and truly blessed in that department. One new friend introduced me to two new artists. One old friend, lets just call him Bob (convenient since that is his real name), introduced me to Soctt Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox when he offered me his spare ticket to go and see the band live here in the big old honking T dot. And we all know how much I loathe live music, don’t we ;). Well, this is SB & PmJ take on the old Christmas standard, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, done up in electro swing hiphop style. Enjoy and check out EVERYTHING else this amazing group have ever produced.
10. Playing For Change -- Feliz Navidad / Low Down Dirty Christmas
The second friend, new in the truest sense of the word, introduced me to two new bands. Let’s just call her Paddy Ann (convenient since that is her real name). Eels and Playing For Change. The music of both of these wonderful artists spoke to me the first time Paddy Ann played them. These two videos incorporate the greatest Christmas hits of Playing for Change… Do yourself a favour; go check out Stand By Me. You will see exactly why I fell in love with this diverse and scattered conglomerate of musicians.
Trust me, you shan’t be disappointed.
Eels -- Everything’s Going To Be Cool This Christmas / Christmas Is Going To The Dogs
The other band that this new friend (let’s just call her Paddy Ann etc etc) introduced me to was Eels. She played me a number of songs of theirs upon our first meeting (mostly off of their then current release “The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett”). So, leading up to Christmas it occurred to me that Eels may well have their own yuletide story to tell. Low and behold, they did. These, then, are my only two honourable mentions for Christmas 2014.