Tag Archives: 2005

The quietest New Year’s Eve

What are we doing New Year’s Eve? Oh, not much. Just sticking close to home, staying socially distanced.

“When the bells all ring and the horns all blow
“And the couples that we know are fondly kissing
“Will I be with you or will I be among the missing?”

We’re all among this missing this year, making this classic all the more poignant as 2020 finally ends. Maybe next New Year’s Eve.

Written by Frank Loesser in 1947, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” has been described as the only notable jazz standard with a New Year’s Eve theme. This sophisticated tune tempers an unrequited love with some hope. We all could use some hope these days.

It’s great no matter who does it. Let’s go.

It’s the ’60s. You’re in a roadhouse, the one hard by the tracks. You hear this.

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” King Curtis, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (Recorded on Oct. 23, 1968, at Atlantic Studios in New York. That’s Duane Allman on guitar.)

Then you head uptown to a nightclub. You hear this …

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” the Ramsey Lewis Trio,” from “Sound of Christmas,” 1961.

… and this …


“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Eydie Gorme, from “That Holiday Feeling!” Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, 1964. (Steve sits this one out.)

… and this.

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967.

Four decades later, you wander into a hotel ballroom …


“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Brian Setzer and Julie Reiten, from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 2005.

This blog post originally appeared here in different form … 10 years ago. Man. Where does the time go?


Filed under December 2020, Sounds

This land was his land

What a time we have lived in.

That realization comes more often as those of us of a certain age get older. When we were kids in the ’60s, there were four TV channels.

On those four channels, there was a thing called the variety show. You could hear some comedic and dramatic monologues, see some skits and production numbers, and hear Broadway songs, pop standards, pop hits and — after a while, grudgingly, it often seemed — rock music.

Folk music was part of that rich cultural stew, too. That’s where I must have heard Pete Seeger and his songs.

In a lifetime of listening to music, his songs are part of the foundation of everything I know. They’re some of the first songs I ever came to know as a grade-school kid in the ’60s. “This Land Is Your Land” was the most memorable. But I also came to know “If I Had A Hammer,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” “Goodnight Irene,” “Rock Island Line” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

But as I grew up and my tastes changed, folk music just wasn’t my bag. John Prine and Steve Goodman were as close I got to folk. Pete Seeger was, and is, no less great, but I’ve long known more of his songs done as covers than as his originals. I don’t have any Pete Seeger records.

Peter Paul Mary Moving LP

“This Land Is Your Land,” Peter, Paul and Mary, from “Moving,” 1963. Also available digitally.

My dad had this record, so we played it endlessly as kids. This song and “Puff,” one of the saddest songs I know, over and over.


“Rock Island Line,” Johnny Cash, from “Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar,” 1957. Also available digitally.

My dad loved trains, so of course we loved this train song. It’s the first cut on Johnny Cash’s debut LP. (I bought this record in the late ’80s, and only recently realized it was his first LP.)

Sharon Jones DK Naturally LP

“This Land Is Your Land,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from “Naturally,” 2005. Also available digitally.

Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back CD

“Eyes On The Prize” and “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007. Also available digitally.

(I used to have “Goodnight Irene” on a Ry Cooder record, but it went out in one of the Great Record Purges.)

All these covers inspired by Pete Seeger, a national treasure whose work is timeless, whose influence endures.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under January 2014, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 10

When we started these 12 days of Christmas, I noted that in writing the Three Under the Tree series for the last three years, I picked up a bunch of old Christmas vinyl and CDs, more for you than for me.

In so doing, there were a bunch of records that had more misses than hits. Most of them were used, so there wasn’t a lot of money wasted.

This year, I bought only one Christmas CD, one I’d been seeking for a while. I bought it new, and it turned out to be another one with more misses than hits. So it goes.

Rarely do I come across a Christmas record that doesn’t have something worth hearing. I can think of a couple, but there’s no need to name names.

We’re here to put some nice things in your Christmas stocking, so hope you will enjoy these tunes from records that had some nice moments.

“Christmas Time,” the Mighty Blue Kings, from “The Christmas Album,” 2000. This Chicago group covers a tune by West Coast bluesman Jimmy McCracklin.

“Christmas Is A Special Day,” Fats Domino, from “Christmas Gumbo,” 1993. It’s out of print as such, but is available as “Christmas Is A Special Day,” a 2006 CD re-release with a different cover. Fats wrote this charming little hymn and does it in — what else? — a laid-back New Orleans style.

“We Four Kings (Little Drummer Boy),” the Blue Hawaiians, from “Christmas On Big Island,” 1995. Let a little surf wash into your Christmas.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Shawn Colvin, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. A lovely, low-key version.

“Merry Christmas Darling,” Deana Carter, from “Father Christmas,” 2001. What makes this cover of the Carpenters song so remarkable is its acoustic arrangement with Carter’s father, veteran Nashville session man Fred Carter, on guitar. Deana Carter sings this in a higher register than did Karen Carpenter — and that may not be for everyone — but she nicely complements her dad. Fred Carter died earlier this year.

“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” the Whispers, from “Happy Holidays To You,” 1979. (The buy link is to a 2001 import CD.) Off the same album that delivered “Funky Christmas,” this is a smooth, jazzy arrangement clearly from the late ’70s.

“Joy To The World,” Aretha Franklin, 1994, from “Joy To The World,” 2006. This is an odd little compilation of Christmas songs, gospel songs and show tunes recorded over 30-plus years. This cut features Aretha backed by the Fame Freedom Choir, from the soundtrack to the 1994 remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.” That is about the only nice thing we have to say about any remake of the 1947 classic, long one of our favorite films.

“What Christmas Means To Me,” Darlene Love, from “It’s Christmas, Of Course,” 2007. A cover of the Motown song done first by Stevie Wonder.

“Christmas Is,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967. It’s out of print. This tune starts out with a swinging big-band arrangement, then has Lou channeling Santa Claus midway through before wrapping up with some smooth nightclub cheer. This Percy Faith tune never sounded so good.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Etheridge lets it rip on this Charles Brown blues tune.

“Christmas Celebration,” Roomful of Blues, from “Roomful of Christmas,” 1997. The B.B. King version may be more familiar, but this take by the veteran East Coast group is pretty good.

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time,” Pete Jolly, from “Something Festive!” 1968. Long out of print. This is a Christmas sampler from A&M Records. It was sold at B.F. Goodrich tire dealers in 1968. This cut is a cool, stylish, upbeat rendition by the California jazz pianist. (You’ll also find it on “Cool Yule: The Swinging Sound of Christmas,” a UK compilation released in 2004.)

“Blue Christmas,” Ann and Nancy Wilson, from “A Very Special Christmas 2,” 1992. Not a big fan of this tune, which everyone associates with Elvis, but this is a pretty good version. Melissa Etheridge also does it justice.

“What Child Is This,” Reverend Horton Heat, from “We Three Kings,” 2005. An upbeat yet moody take — it feels a little like Morricone — on a song usually done with much reverence.


Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

12 days of Christmas, Day 2

Do you go to see Christmas shows?

Last month, we went across town to see a high school production of “White Christmas” which turned out to be quite dazzling. Of course, this is a school that supports music like some schools support football. You get the idea.

(As I watched, I kept thinking that the kids from our son’s musical — probably half the number involved in this production — would at any moment deliver that “Blazing Saddles” moment, crashing through the set and stealing the show. But I digress.)

Long ago, I took my dad to see Mel Torme at Christmas time. That was something. As was Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

But the Christmas show to see, the one we dig, is the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

No one mounts a show quite like this.

Everyone’s dressed for Christmas, from the big band to the backup singers (who quite nicely jingle your bells, strutting the fine line between naughty and nice). There’s lots of sparkle and glitter and, of course, it snows at the end.

There’s a little something for everyone, whether you came to hear the Christmas music, or all those horns, or Setzer’s guitar work (yes, there’s even a little of the Stray Cats).

I should have taken my dad to see this, too.

It was a little like those old Christmas shows we watched when I was a kid — a little bit big band, a little bit lounge and a lot of showmanship.

They aren’t touring this year, so this will have to do. Showtime!

“Boogie Woogie Santa Claus”

“Sleigh Ride”

“Run Run Rudolph”

All from “Boogie Woogie Christmas,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 2002.

“Dig That Crazy Santa Claus”

“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

“Angels We Have Heard On High”

All from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 2005.

If you want the whole package — sounds and visuals — check out “The Ultimate Christmas Collection,” which has all of these cuts plus a DVD of a 2004 show at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. I think 2004 was the first year we saw them. And then in 2005, and in 2006.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

Days of swine and noses

There’s some kind of nasty flu bug going around town. A couple of high schools have closed for the week. Our son Evan had only a four-day school week because of conferences, and he’s missed all of it.

It’s not the swine flu, but it’s enough to knock him down for the count.

It’s been quiet around the house, so I finally have had some time to get caught up on some writing and some reading, particularly checking out what the rest of the music blog world is up to.

So, some additions to our blogroll that are worthy of your time.

Analog Apartment has been there for some time. A place for vinyl record lovers, they’ve come back strong after taking much of the summer off. They’ve developed a sweet sister site — My Analog Apartment — at which you can log all your records, album art and all, and manage your collection. Good Twitter feed, too. No tunes, though.

Turntabling is new to the blogroll. Its proprietor, Joe Wallace, also is deep into vinyl records. He’s just back from a record-digging adventure that took him from Chicago to St. Louis to Austin to San Antonio and to points in between. He blogged from several stops, and I wanna go. Turntabling is a mixed bag, not for all tastes. If you are into bad album art or DJing, or are looking to buy obscure LPs, check it out. However, there are no tunes here, except in video clips.

— Speaking of road trips, our friend Red Kelly, the Soul Detective, is on one right now! He’s been to Nashville, Atlanta and Augusta, Ga., digging vintage tunes and tweeting about some great BBQ along the way. I wanna go. Watch his videos over at The B Side.

30 Days Out also is new to the blogroll. Anyone who writes a series on the old Warner Bros. sampler records is OK with me. George Kovacic and Denny Angelle have been running this show for about a year and a half. They offer news and reviews, too. And, yes, there are tunes.

Well, enough of the announcements.

If I were sick, you might get “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.” But Evan is sick, so here’s some of his pop-punk.


“Call In Sick,” MxPx, from “Panic,” 2005.

Not our usual fare, but we’ll return to our regular programming.

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Filed under October 2009, Sounds