Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Music -- The Trimmings

Now that I've posted about my favorite sentimental classic Christmas music, I'm going to offer up some trimmings -- that is a few songs and cuts from my embarrassingly vast Christmas music collection. I chose to continue the traditional route -- next year I'll offer up some of the more wild and rare stuff. This year, I'm feeling especially sappy.

Fourth on my list of my favorite classic holiday songs is I'll Be Home for Christmas written by by Walter Kent and James "Kim" Gannon, and first recorded by Bing Crosby the year after he made White Christmas a big hit. It's a great song for a Christmas music sap like myself because like the others I dig, it counters the joy of the holiday season with a tinge of sadness. It's told from the point of view of someone who isn't spending Christmas with his loved ones, but will "in his dreams.'' Told you I'm a sap.

Like the others, it has been recorded numerous times by a fairly broad range of performers. My favorite is probably Rosemary Clooney's version, which is streaming here. No matter what anybody says, you don't get more classic than this. And like I've said in previous posts, I think she's among our greatest interpreters of Christmas music and this song is no exception. There are a few others I dig as well. And since this is the trimmings, I've stocked up the old Vox stash with a whole host of songs today. Here's a few choice cuts as we say goodbye to Christmas 2008.

Tony Bennett has recorded Christmas songs at various times in his long career. I mentioned my favorite of his -- White Christmas with Dexter Gordon -- in a previous post. But he made a record in the late 60s that I like a lot. Click on the song title to listen to his version of The Christmas Song and Winter Wonderland.

I had to drop ol' Blue Eyes on you, even though I'm not a huge fan of his versions of Christmas songs. Still, it's Frank Sinatra and his version of White Christmas was pretty popular in its day.

Speaking of White Christmas, here's a version you may not have heard -- that amazing voice should sound familiar -- it's opera star Placido Domnigo and it's beautifully arranged. Perfect for waltzing around the Christmas tree, I mean if that's something you do.

Here's a couple of soulful versions of The Christmas Song, one that works a lot better than the other. First is from Al Green who really does a nice job on it, even including the original lyrics. The second is James Brown who in this blogger's humble opinion, should've stuck to his comfort zone. The arrangement is god awful. Still you can't help but be happy he gave it a go.

I'm not a huge fan of Dean Martin's work but I am a big fan of some of his songs. His laid back, tipsy approach sometimes works unbelievably well -- and seems, to me anyway, perfectly suited to classic Christmas tunes. Here's two of his: I'll Be Home for Christmas and my all-time favorite Dean Martin Christmas song: Winter Wonderland. He totally makes it his own. Some serious rat pack swing cool here -- really, what is Christmas without Dino?

I'm not always up for a Christmas downer and when I need some pick-me-up, I put on Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas CDs. Here's her peppy version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas -- try not snapping your fingers and tapping your toes to it. I swear when you play it back-to-back with Judy Garland's or Etta James' version, it almost sounds like a whole new song. Gotta love Ella.

Chris Isaak is one of the more palatable of recent pop stars doing Christmas songs. I like his surfer vibe on Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

And speaking of recent, here's a couple of modern Christmas songs I like. Joni Mitchell's The River, done here by James Taylor and Richard Thompson's Happy Days & Auld Lang Syne.

Happy Holidays y'all!


Jeff said...

I totally agree with your comment about Sinatra - he is way up high in my personal pantheon, but his Christmas albums are somewhat underwhelming. I've never quite been able to figure it out.

S.O.L. said...

I wonder if it has to do with when he recorded the Christmas songs, Jeff. I think he did most of them after the late 50s when he was arguably at the tippy top of his game. My take on Sinatra is that he never expanded on his style after he hit his groove -- the "Songs for Swinging Lovers" era. After that, he sort of lived off his "Vegas nightlife" persona and I think it hurt his rep as a pure singer -- and he was among the best ever. But Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Bobby Short, even Rosemary Clooney -- they grew and changed and honed their talents over time. Sinatra sort of stayed in one place -- a high place of course but still, I think he could have been even greater.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie SOL, ya ask the provocative question..." what is Christmas without Dino?" My answer, nothin' one sings winter likes our Dino...never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool....oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth...

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