Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Carols For Christmas: The Good

The Christmas season is upon us yet again. If there's one factor that truly ushers in the Christmas season, it's the songs. Like the "Soundtracks For Summer" and "Haunts For Halloween" entries before it, everyone has their own set of songs that simply remind them of this joyous holiday.

But unlike Summer, whose songs vary in nature and genre that simply evoke heat and relaxation, and Halloween, which are awesome and are great for listening year-round, Christmas songs are only tolerable during that all-too-brief 25 day-or-so period. I say this due to our retail and radio systems wishing to blast festive cheer into our eardrums as early as October. When I used to work at KB Toys, I remember one year where the Christmas music started around mid-October and didn't end until Early February. Now that the store I worked at closed, I can finally tell the nonexistent fellow employees to go fuck themselves for letting overworked teenagers and parents alike be succumbed to Kidz Bop-esque torture.

And with the fact that Christmas is the greatest and most hyped holiday of the entire year, there's no surprise that there's an enormous plethora of songs to choose from. Unlike Halloween songs which have been proven before to universally awesome, there's a whole lotta muck with Christmas tunes. You have to pan through all of the "Now That's What I Call Christmas 57," "Has-Been Pop Stars That You've Never Heard Of Butcher Your Favorite Holiday Classics Vol. 3," and "Dogs Barking 'Hark, The Herald Angel Sings'" albums to get to the good stuff.

This entry, the first in a short series, will deal with my favorite Christmas songs of all.

Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives

I love "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" as much as the next guy, but realizing that Santa was a total dick throughout the whole special kind of dampens its enjoyability. Thankfully, the God-Like Burl Ives as our narrating snowman manages to counterbalance this with his legendary pipes. It might have arrived at the end of the special, but his version of "Holly Jolly Christmas" always manages to welcome the season every single year. Thanks to my current job at CVS, I get to hear this tune every single day. Not a bad deal, if I may say so.

Note: I wanted to embed the version from Rudolph, but the quality was too crappy. Why is there only 1 video of that on youtube?

Last Christmas - Wham

If there's one song by Wham that I can admit to enjoying, it's "Last Christmas." I was born in 1987, but I'd like to imagine that this was how people in the 80's actually celebrated Christmas. I'd also like to say that I'm a fan of the Jimmy Eat World version of the song, but in all fairness, Wham came first. So there.

Father Christmas - The Kinks

This economic implosion getting you down? Feeling like those Salvation Army Santas are now mocking you with their bells all a-clanging, their convenience to good deeds, and their ability to identify three prostitutes at a time? Are you wishing that they could be on the business end of your coal-inducing wrath? Well, never fear, The Kinks feel the same way!

Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 - Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Star Wars vs Star Trek. Dropkick Murphys vs Flogging Molly. Luxembourg vs Portugal. It always seems like everyone you ask either likes one group or the other. In terms of awesome orchestral Christmas music, it comes down to Manheim Steamroller vs The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Fortunately for you readers, I'm in the camp of fans of the latter group. On the other hand, blogging friend Pilver is a fangirl for Manheim Steamroller.

Her loss. So why did I choose this song over their more well-known "Wizards in Winter," which, like Manheim Steamroller's "Deck The Halls," was also famously synched to house lights? Just give the above video a listen. It stands as one of the most beautiful pieces of music that I've ever listened to, and I've had my share of listening to the classic Classicals in Music 100 (which, on a digressing note, was NOT Music 101, which happened to be Music Theory).

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - The California Raisins

Gene Autry. Burl Ives. Your Third Grade class that was forced to sing it at your elementary school's winter concert. We've all heard this song from just about anyone who had a voicebox. It's a pretty hard song to muck up. Hell, I'm not alone in which that I've added "like a light bulb" and "...and Monopoly!" after the corresponding verses when I was a kid. I don't still do that. Nope, no way.

That being said, the version sung by the California Raisins for Will Vinton's "A Claymation Christmas" was hands-down the best version that I've ever heard. It was an excellent Christmas special, and it's a damn shame that it's not being shown on TV anymore. It's currently on DVD with its lesser known Halloween and Easter counterparts, but like most Christmas specials out there, watching it on TV with the commercials included somehow seems right.

This sketch, the last one of the special, was a perfect way to close out the show. Wallace & Gromit wouldn't appear on the scene for a few years, so the California Raisins were the most famous Claymation Icons out there. And in that great Will Vinton way, not only is the animation awesome, and the song is fantastically performed, it performs a Christmas show rarity by being genuinely funny.

"There goes the last bus!"
"So call me a cab."
"Hey man, you're a cab!"

It was definitely a palate cleanser from that nightmarish "Joy To The World" segment. I still don't know why that one scene freaked me out as a kid. Perhaps it was the fact that a claymated Chapel moving gradually larger into the frame triggered some sort of "religious evil" reaction in my mind.

Christmas in Hollis - Run DMC

Hip-Hop used to be fun, people. We used to rap about Mom, collard greens, and Run DMC finding Santa, thereby helping him save Christmas. Now the only red and green I keep hearing about is about people busting caps in their peeps to watch money rain out of them, or something or other. It all seems to blend together to me these days.

Fairytale of New York - The Pogues

Sadly, the ultimate "FAIL" of Pilver's list was the omission of this song. Dear heavens, do I think that this song is beautiful. Just every moment of this song is fantastic, and it actually reaches out of my jukebox, opens up my ribcage, watch the money pour out, and touch my heart. I'll be a man and admit that I've cried to this song. Depending on the year, they were either tears of joy or tears of depression of loves lost.

It's your atypical love song about drunks, dreams, and love at Christmas time. That, and I loves me some dreary Irish music.

That's it for today. Tune in next time for The Bad. Until then, check out X-Entertainment's Christmas Jukebox, where you can hear these and other great Xmas tunes to get your nog on.

1 comment:

DJ D said...

Yeah, I totally agree with "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Rudolph" from the Claymation Christmas Special. That was such a great special! You're right, it was much better on TV with the commercials and everything. I also really liked the version of "We Three Kings" on there. That's my favorite version of that one.

I've also always been really partial to "Oh Holy Night"--the full on classical one with the choir and everything. When I was a kid we used to always make a point of listening to "Christmas in Ground Zero" by Weird Al and the Chipmunks Christmas record with that song about Alvin wanting a Hulahoop. Our tradition was to always listen to that one while we were unwrapping presents. I think I'm going to try to bring that one back this year.