When I picked up the new issue of Mojo magazine last week, it came with a most unexpected little gift. There’s always a free CD, but the surprise was that it was a Christmas CD. First time for that.
Inevitably, “Mojo’s Festive Fifteen” includes a few cuts I have on other records. Chuck Berry’s version of “Run Rudolph Run.” (He didn’t write that, by the way. It just sounds like he did). The Christmas single put out last year by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.
What piqued my interest was seeing Irma Thomas’ version of “Oh Holy Night.” That’s another one I’ve had for some time. But then I listened to it. Oh, it’s good enough, a fairly straightforward rendition, but it’s not the same, nowhere as good, as the version on …
“A Creole Christmas,” various artists, 1990.
Can’t believe we’ve had this for almost 20 years. One of the first Christmas records we bought on CD, it’s been one of our favorites ever since.
That it’s gone out of print — and apparently isn’t available digitally — has made it much sought after. I once sent it to a guy who said he’d worn out his cassette copy. He said his wife would be so thrilled to have it that he was certain they’d be parents nine months hence. I never heard back on that.
Recorded in New Orleans and New York, this record is Creole only in that it features almost a dozen performers with deep New Orleans roots. It’s all R&B, soul and zydeco. No matter. It’s outstanding. We share this one every year, for good reason.
“White Christmas,” Allen Toussaint.
As noted here last year, this is a rollicking piano romp, nicely complemented by the horns. All the more special now that I’ve seen Toussaint play live. He’s an American treasure.
“Merry Christmas Baby,” Dr. John.
Three years ago, Mike wrote to request this one, saying “I seem to remember Dr. John’s version of this song being even more languorous than the Charles Brown version.” Dr. John, first known as pianist Mac Rebennack, is a New Orleans legend. This one, as always, is for Mike.
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” Luther Kent.
A hymn not often heard on Christmas records, and certainly not one done as blues. Kent is something of a local institution in New Orleans.
And, of course …
“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas.
Three years ago, Rob called this “goosebump-inducing stuff.” Yes. Reverent yet thrilling, it’s done as a dirge with some moody Hammond organ and some terrific gospel voices singing backup. This one, as always, is for Rob.
All from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print.