I love this time of year. Sure, there’s the lights, the presents, etc., but one of the things I love most is the music. I am not afraid to admit it; I simply love Christmas music. It depresses me when I have to remove it from my iPod at the end of the year (actually, it probably stays there until mid-January).
Christmas music makes me feel good when I am down. Though it’s not all bright and cheery, it generally tends to lean that way. I like it with a lot of bells and whistles, though there are certainly some beautiful acappella songs. On the way home from dropping Mitchell off at school, I had my iPod shuffling Christmas songs and Elvis Presley’s “Merry Christmas, Baby” came on. Too bluesy. There’s no place for Blues when it comes to Christmas songs. Name me one good bluesy Christmas song. I am sure there is one; I just can’t think of it. And I am talking about sloooowwww Blues.
Recently, Spotify asked several artists to put together a playlist of Christmas songs. I checked out some of the artists I was interested in, such as Primal Scream and Ryan Adams. Adams, being kind of the idiot that he is, selected a heavy metal song for each day. He called his playlist “Black Christmas”, though none of the songs to my knowledge have to do with Christmas. I didn’t bother to listen to but 30 seconds of one song. My point: Metal has no place in the realm of Christmas music either. Metal and Blues.
I tend to gravitate towards the classic artists when it comes to Christmas songs: Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Burl Ives, etc. Something about that oldies sound goes well with Christmas songs. But when I made a quick list of the 5 songs I wanted to put on this blog, only two would I consider true oldies, and one of them is my #1 song. These choices are more about the uniqueness of the song and the performance than about the song itself. Meaning….I like the song “Silver Bells”, but you could randomly select about 5 artists to perform it and I bet their take on it would be roughly the same. Though if one of the artists turned out to be Radiohead, you would probably listen to about 3 minutes of the song before realizing it was supposed to be “Silver Bells.”
Though I didn’t look into this, I believe 2-3 are original compositions. OK, enough talk. Here is the list.
#5 – Jon Anderson’s “Easier Said Than Done”
You probably don’t recognize the title because this is one of those original compositions I talked about earlier, written with “Chariots of Fire” theme composer and Anderson collaborator, Vangelis. And if you don’t know Jon Anderson, he is the long time lead singer of the rock group Yes. Jon has a very distinctive voice that goes well with Christmas music. He made a Christmas album called “Three Ships” back in the mid-80’s that I owned on cassette for a very long time. Up until probably a couple years ago, it was not available for purchase anywhere. Frankly, it’s my favorite all-around Christmas album. It’s also probably the only one I listen to from beginning to end each year. It has a lot of bells and whistles to give it that Christmas sound.
I thought about putting one of the more traditional songs like “Three Ships” or “The Holly and the Ivy” on here, but I realized I really love how this song has grown on me over the years. Jon gets help from the likes of The Cars’ Elliott Easton and his own band mate at the time, Trevor Rabin.
#4 – Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time”
So here I go again being more of a Paul fan than a John fan. Yep, you won’t see “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” on this list, though it’s a solid song. But this is definitely more the party song. With the money McCartney has, I am sure McCartney has a wonderful Christmas every year. It’s fairly sparse, with mostly just that keyboard. But it’s lively and is definitely a mood lifter.
#3 – The Beach Boys’ “The Man With All the Toys”
“Little Saint Nick” gets all the attention on The Beach Boys Christmas album, but I always enjoy this one more. There’s not much to it…..fairly short. But I am so intrigued by all those “bops” throughout the song.
#2 – Robert Goulet’s “Home for the Holidays”
Years ago, Julie and I bought a cassette with several old Christmas songs on it. We got a kick out of this one because of the last few lines in the song, which are very silly. I have come to realize that it’s one of my favorite Christmas songs because it has a great sound and I love Goulet’s voice. Unfortunately, Mr. Goulet is no longer with us, so he won’t be making a new Christmas album. Nor will he be able to appear in a Beetlejuice sequel.
#1 -Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad”
Thanks to Jose Feliciano, we can now say “Feliz Navidad” to anyone at Christmas time and not get a strange look. I have loved this one ever since I was a wee boy. I had no idea what he was saying for a few years; in fact, I wonder if I even knew it was a Christmas song. It’s interesting how if some website recommends I would like an artist and it turns out the artist sings in a foreign language, I immediately dismiss it. Not this one. I think it’s the fact that he mixes Spanish and English and it works beautifully. It’s a very passionate performance of an uptempo, all-around great song.
I actually thought of a somewhat bluesy Christmas song that works – “Run, Run, Rudolph”. But again, this is not slooooowwwww Blues.
Honorable Mention – Guster’s “Tiny Christmas Tree”
Last year Target put out a free Christmas song compilation that could be downloaded from their site. This song was the first one on it. It’s very catchy, and I could see this becoming a modern Christmas classic, much like Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”!