December 23, 2010

Tis The Season (To Geek Out)

I am a huge music geek. Evidence? I own 4,000 albums which are now immaculately arranged in a highly organized iTunes library complete with issue-correct artwork and when I get bored I play a little game a lot like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon only instead of Kevin Bacon I just connect any two random bands in six steps or less without ever using reference material*. But I get especially geeky around Christmas. And, oddly, the Christmas songs I like are nowhere close to the things you'd normally find me listening to.

My Christmas go-tos are varied. Given are Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby (a notorious asshole but a very Christmasy one). Burl Ives, Mel Torme and Harry Connick also make their traditional presence known. A capella makes its annual return (Straight No Chaser rocks as much as a capella can rock). So does John Denver, arguably the whitest man to ever open his mouth and sing. Denver sings solo and with the Muppets and Kermit makes his solo debut in my house as well. Simon & Garfunkle duet every holiday season with their not-at-all upbeat but incredibly powerful 7 O'clock News/Silent Night. And of course, you can't have Christmas without Brian Setzer or some of his other big band counterparts. Or Willie Nelson (I grew up in Texas).

There's a short window during with you can enjoy Christmas music, at least without people laughing at you. It would be odd, for instance, to be cruising the streets in June blasting Sinatra belting out Jingle Bells. So between Thanksgiving and Christmas I listen to Christmas tunes to the exclusion of almost all other types of music. Then the new year strikes and I return to normal. It's a lot like an old Star Trek episode I'm thinking of but I've just shown off exactly how much of a music geek I am so I'm reluctant to show off any other signs of my geekhood.

Am I alone on the Christmas music thing? What are your go-to Christmas albums?

* For example, Iron Maiden and Genesis: Janick Gers is one of Maiden's three guitarists. He played on Fish's debut solo album A Vigil In A Wilderness of Mirrors. Fish provided vocals for two tracks on Tony Banks' album Still. Tony Banks is a founding member and keyboardist for Genesis.

Or, just for grins, death metal pioneers Opeth and David Bowie. Opeth recorded two albums with producer Steve Wilson, of the awesome band Porcupine Tree. Wilson remastered several 1960's and 1970's King Crimson albums with Robert Fripp. Fripp, of course, recorded three seminal Bowie albums including Heroes.

Posted by Chris at December 23, 2010 6:52 AM

I too like all those traditional Christmas singers-and throw in a dash of John Lennon, Billy Squier, WHAM and the silly 12 Pains of Christmas. Anything but that horrid Christmas Shoes or the song about the cat and the mouse and the cat dies. WTF? Seriously? That says Christmas to someone? I also can not stand the sound of Michael Buble's voice. It makes my ears bleed.

My two very favorite Christmas CD's are Theresa Andersson's "Peace Stories" (her voice is like an angel" and Leroy Jones (who is a very dear and personal friend of mine and I encourage everyone to buy this CD because he is the sweetest man ever and a hell of a good cook) "Wonderful Christmas-A Brass Salute to the King of Kings"

Posted by: Lisa at December 23, 2010 7:32 AM

I used to have that S&G song on an actual record (I think) and then on cassette tape. I'll have to see if I can find it again.

I'm an opera person so I have play lists of some of the best (Pavarotti, etc.) doing Christmas music. Okay, so I'm weird.

If I didn't tell you Merry Christmas already, Merry Christmas to all.

Posted by: Ann Elizabeth Adams at December 23, 2010 8:52 AM

I'm with you on the Christmas music. I have Straight No Chaser's "Christmas Cheer" on my iPod and have been playing the heck out of it when I don't have the radio tuned to the all-Christmas station (I switch over to the iPod in the car if they start the song about the shoes, Dominick the Donkey or Elton John's "Step into Christmas.") The kids love the SNC 12 Day of Christmas when they bust out the Africa music. Squirrel Nut Zippers have a really good Christmas album including a song which includes my kids' favorite lyrics ("'s Christmas in Carolina, we're chillin' in our underwear...") We're very refined in our household, can you tell?

Jon Anderson from Yes put out a Christmas album back in the day that is hard to find but totally awesome. It's call "Three Ships" and has him doing the most incredible version of "O Holy Night." Even if you are not religious, hearing him hit that super high note at the end of the song will absolutely slay you.

Posted by: MamaKaren at December 23, 2010 9:47 AM

My all-time fav is The Muppet's "The Christmas Wish". I cannot listen to it with anyone else around as I invariably wind up a mess. Somehow, the silly green bugger cuts through all my substantial cynicism around this whole season and speaks to me of how I'd want Christmas to be. Other favs: Dave Matthew's "Christmas Song", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", Jackson Browne's "Rebel Jesus" and the Skydigger's version of "Good King Wenceslas". I gotta make me a playlist before Saturday.

Posted by: Martin at December 23, 2010 10:01 AM

I listen to a cheesy '60s album my parents owned and I later got on CD - the Ray Conniff singers. I also like the first in the Very Special Christmas series - all those '80s artists I grew up with.

But a Christmas song I'll listen to all year long, even if it is the middle of July is Billy Nighy's "Christmas Is All Around Us" from Love Actually. It makes me smile every time.

Posted by: Heather at December 23, 2010 10:11 AM

I also play Christmas music almost exclusively between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I don't have whole albums that I like, but there are some songs that stir my heart. "Mary Did You Know" by Kenny Rogers and Winona Judd is a fave. I also like the Chipmunks Christmas song for a little levity. I do have an old cassette tape of guitar Christmas songs that is just lovely. Plus all the old standbys (including Bing) are a must-have this time of year.

Posted by: bacioni at December 23, 2010 10:33 AM

Please forgive me, I can't stand Christmas music. I'm Christian, I grew up with songs in church and sang in the choir as an adult. I love church songs. And I love little kids getting excited and singing about Santa & Co. (Or dreidels or whatever else. Little kids happy, excited, and singing is a fabulous combination.) But for some reason, I just don't really want to hear it on the radio. Makes no sense, I know, but there you are.

If you want to hear me sing Mozart's requiem mass (soprano part), though, that's pretty easy. Just get me in a spot where I think I'm by myself. Four years of performing that in high school has it ingrained in my brain forever.

Posted by: alektra at December 23, 2010 11:17 AM

Well, Chris, you know that I share your taste in music. Here are the albums that appear on my Christmas playlist:

Billboard's Greatest Christmas 1935-1954
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Celebration
Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song
A Classic Rock Christmas (Various)
A Disney Family Christmas
Elvis' Christmas Album
Merry Axemas - A Guitar Christmas
Merry Axemas Vol. 2
A Rock n' Roll Christmas (Various)
The Nutcracker
A Very Special Christmas 1-5 + Live
We Wish You A Metal Xmas

And assorted one-offs, like John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and Billy Idol's "Yellin' At The Christmas Tree".

Have a merry, Chris.

Posted by: Brooke at December 23, 2010 11:34 AM

Paul McCartney, "Wonderful Christmas Time"
Any, Bing Crosby, Perry Como or Mormon Tabernacle Choir Songs.
I know, Chris. You are laughing. I am really a nerd!

Posted by: Maribeth at December 23, 2010 3:06 PM

My i-pod has been playing Christmas lists consisting of the following since Thanksgiving:
Straight No Chaser (saw them live on Tuesday - simply amazing!)
Barenaked Ladies (Barenaked for the Holidays)
Harry Connick (I have a great memory from an event I worked many years ago where he played live - he's a fantastically nice guy)
Muppets Christmas (I'm a sucker for anything Muppets)

I added in the Glee Christmas album this year.

I can't stomach Mariah Carey (makes me gag) so I can't deal with just listening to the satellite station (they have her in HEAVY rotation).

Hope you and your entire family have a fantastically happy Christmas!

Posted by: Melissa at December 23, 2010 5:21 PM

Charlie Brown Christmas :D

Posted by: Heather at December 23, 2010 6:42 PM

Definitely Christmas music from Thanksgiving until Christmas!

I like island Christmas music...
Jimmy Buffett Christmas Island
Junkanoo Christmas
Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis!!
Bing Crosby and all the classics...

Posted by: Krush at December 23, 2010 7:46 PM

OK. The Grinch here, but I worked at Home Depot for 5 yrs. And from Thanksgiving to Christmas there was nothing but Carols played. Since we had to keep an ear out for pages, we had to listen to the same 50 songs done in 50 different ways for 40 hrs a wk, for 6wks. My kids and g-kids hate me for this, but Christmas music comes on, I zip to anything else. ANYTHING!!

Posted by: joss is boss at December 23, 2010 7:49 PM

Pandora is my go to Christmas it.

Happy Holidays Chris! Hope it's a good one for you!

Posted by: The Stiletto Mom at December 23, 2010 10:09 PM

I too love the Christmas albums from the 1960's, so my favorite is Sing Along with Mitch Miller. Wouldn't be Christmas with out a whole lot of Mitch Miller.

Merry Christmas.

Posted by: Cathy at December 24, 2010 8:51 AM

Merry Christmas!! * :D

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