Three under the tree, Vol. 37

Having been reunited via Facebook, an old friend and I were discussing Christmas music the other day. He mentioned some ’60s Christmas LPs he liked. I said I had a couple of them. Then he confessed that he still had them, too. Good for you, man.

Finding the ’60s Christmas record that’s most enjoyable cut after cut, start to finish, was easy. As with our favorite ’70s and ’80s Christmas records, it’s about the memories associated with it.

But in this case, it’s about the quality of the tunes, too.

Today’s record came out in 1968, but we haven’t had it that long. Still, it seems as if it’s been a part of our Christmases forever. I bought it in the early ’80s, most likely on the recommendation of Mike, the laid-back gent who ran — and still runs — Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau, Wisconsin. I don’t know how I would have otherwise found out about it.

Commonly known as “The New Possibility,” its full title is “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album.”

It’s perhaps the most accessible of the eccentric folk guitarist’s albums. This fine web site on Fahey describes his style as “American primitive guitar,” and that’s fairly accurate. His sound on the steel-stringed acoustic guitar is spare yet elegant.

I have three other Christmas albums by Fahey — “Christmas With John Fahey, Vol. II” from 1975, “Christmas Guitar” from 1982 and “The John Fahey Christmas Album” from 1991 — and he recorded at least one more. Each has its moments, but the first is still the best.

Listen for yourself:

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Fantasy”

“Silent Night, Holy Night” (I’ve shared this one before, but you rarely hear this song done in a slide blues guitar style.)

All by John Fahey, from “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album,” 1968. (The link is to the 1993 CD re-release, which adds five cuts from the out-of-print “Christmas With John Fahey, Vol. II.”)

If my old friend was reluctant to admit his guilty pleasures in ’60s Christmas music, he shouldn’t have been. We were kids then, a time when the most innocent (and perhaps most vivid) Christmas memories are forged.

There are lots of good Christmas LPs from the ’60s, records to be enjoyed from start to finish. Among them: “Sound of Christmas” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio from 1961, “The 25th Day of December” by the Staple Singers from 1962, “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector” from 1963 and “Christmas with the Miracles” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles from 1963.

Then there’s Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Mitch Miller and the Gang, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, James Brown and Jimmy Smith. All kinds of good Christmas memories — even if not for all tastes — from the ’60s.

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1 Comment

Filed under December 2009, Sounds

One response to “Three under the tree, Vol. 37

  1. jb

    True dat. I’d add another favorite to the list, “The Spirit of Christmas With the Living Strings” and Stevie Wonder’s Christmas album, which has been released under various titles over the years (and which could benefit from a little judicious editing, but that’s what CD burners are for).

    Old music has a special appeal at Christmas, because all of us are trying to recapture those idyllic Christmases past that we think we remember. We can’t do that with Mariah Carey’s Christmas album, although someday, someone will.

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