Tag Archives: 2006

A smaller Christmas, Day 3

We went to the orchestra concert at Green Bay East High School tonight. Thus, a bit of an orchestral selection for tonight’s tune.

“Basse (Winter Dance)” was one of the missing Christmas hits, a playlist of more contemporary Christmas songs assembled last year after reading that no Christmas song has been a hit since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” in 1994.

This is an elegant folk instrumental written and performed by Ritchie Blackmore. Yes, the same Ritchie Blackmore who played all that crunchy guitar in Deep Purple and Rainbow. For the last 15 years, he’s been performing this style of music, often described as Renaissance or New Age. His wife, Candice Night, is the group’s singer.

blackmoresnightwintercarolscd

“Winter (Basse Dance),” Blackmore’s Night, from “Winter Carols,” 2006. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

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

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

The missing Christmas hits

Fascinating to read in the Milwaukee paper the other day that no Christmas song has been a hit since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” in 1994.

My pal JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ also took note of that story, which prompted him to ponder the state of Christmas radio then and now.

All that said, there certainly are some Christmas songs that should have hit the charts in the last 17 years. Here are some of them.

“Who Needs Mistletoe,” Julie Roberts, from “Who Needs Mistletoe,” 2011. A country song every bit as filthy as Clarence Carter’s great “Back Door Santa.”

“Oi To The World,” Severe, from the wonderful Punk Rock Advent Calendar, 2009. Well, it’s reverent as far as UK punks go.

“We Three Kings,” Blondie, a 2009 holiday release. Always fun to find Debbie Harry under the tree. Always fun to hear Blondie’s classic sound.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Blistering vocals and blistering blues guitar. Move over, fellas.

“Silent Night,” the Blackhearts and special guests, from “A Blackheart Christmas,” 2008. Some sound bites from that year’s presidential race make it a bit of a time capsule. It once had a bit of a valedictory feel. Now it has the feel of opportunities lost.

“Silent Night,” Bootsy Collins, from “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” 2006. A sweet mashup of reverent narration, funk, R&B and gospel.

“Winter (Basse Dance),” Blackmore’s Night, from “Winter Carols,” 2006. It’s out of print but is available digitally. If you can get past that Ritchie Blackmore is no longer rocking out as he did in Deep Purple and Rainbow and not cede all the elegant guitar work to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you might dig this instrumental.

“Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming),” Melanie Thornton, from “Memories,” 2003. It’s an import that has gone out of print. This tune was used in a Coca-Cola ad after the R&B singer’s death 10 years ago, but its back story transcends marketing.

“It’s Christmas And I Miss You,” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. It’s out of print but is available digitally. A gentle ballad reflecting the loneliness the season can bring. It’s co-written by guitarist Don Barnes and our friend Jim Peterik.

“Little Drummer Boy,” the Dandy Warhols, from “Fruitcake,” 1997, a Capitol Records promo EP. It’s out of print. In which the Little Drummer Boy takes a psychedelic trip.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ (In A Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train),” the Tractors, from “Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas,” 1995. It’s out of print but is available digitally. This fine bit of country swing actually was a modest hit on country radio in in 1995 and again in 1998. After all, it’s just their 1994 hit “Baby Likes To Rock It” retooled with new lyrics for Christmas.

“Soul Christmas,” Graham Parker and Nona Hendryx, from “Christmas Cracker,” 1994. If there were any justice, this scorcher would have been the hit from 17 years ago.

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Filed under December 2011, Sounds

‘They won’t let me play’

Evan wants to do it all. Evan is 15.

He’s been in high school for little more than a semester and already has sampled at least a half-dozen clubs, two sports and most of the social opportunities. This week, the Snoball dance is on Saturday night.

But not all is well on the East High campus.

“Dad, they won’t let me play in pep band,” he said the other day.

Some of his friends are in pep band, including his girlfriend of the moment — the one with the strict parents, the one who gets to do almost nothing outside of school.

But you have to be in band class to play in pep band, and Evan hasn’t taken band class since seventh grade.

That hasn’t stopped Evan. Never mind that he doesn’t know any of the music. Never mind that he doesn’t read music well enough to learn the songs even if someone slipped him the sheet music. Never mind that he rarely practiced when he did take band class.

He got out his sax the other night. He started playing it. I doubt the pep band is playing “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” but there you go.

He fancies being able to walk in with his sax, sit down and play along with the pep band. I think it’s gonna be a hard lesson learned. It’s a little like playing basketball in the driveway and then thinking you can just join the varsity at midseason. Don’t work that way, pal.

Maybe Evan can listen to these tunes and learn them. From Houston:

“Louie, Louie,” the Rice University Marching Owl Band, from “The Best of Louie, Louie,” 1983. It’s out of print.

“Super Bad,” Kashmere Stage Band, from “Texas Thunder Soul: 1968-1974,” 2006. The best high school band ever.

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Filed under February 2010, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 44

This has been a dreadful year for finding new Christmas music. I can’t remember the last time it was so hard to find something I really liked at the record store.

Thankfully, this has been a pretty good year for finding some good Christmas music around the blogs. Read on, and fill your sleigh.

— Blondie is offering a free download of a new recording of “We Three Kings.” It’s pretty good. Give it a listen or watch the video, then go get it.

— Nils Lofgren is offering free downloads of three Christmas tunes he did in the late ’90s to benefit United Cerebral Palsy in Arizona, where he lives. They’re laid-back versions of “O Holy Night” and “Do You Hear What I Hear,” and then Margo Reed joins him for a duet on “Silent Night.”

Listen to “O Holy Night,” from “Merry Arizona 97: Desert Stars Shine At Christmas,” then go get ’em.

— Did you have an Advent calendar when you were a kid? Ours had one part of the Christmas story each day. Our son Evan gets a piece of chocolate in his Advent calendar each morning. It’s breakfast.

In any case, each day of Advent 2009 brings a new song over at the Punk Rock Advent Calendar, courtesy of UK punker Jimmy Severe. More hits than misses. But don’t click on the links too early!

“Oi To The World,” Severe, from the Punk Rock Advent Calendar, 2009. (It was either this or a Who-inspired “Angels We Have Heard On High.” You can’t go wrong with either one.)

— If you like Christmas mashups as much as I do, head over to the Bootie Blog to grab either or both of their Christmas compilations, “A Very Bootie Christmas” from 2006 and the new “A Very Bootie Christmas 2.” There are 16 cuts on the former and 14 or 15 cuts on the latter, depending on whether you want the family-friendly version. Or, you can just grab individual cuts.

“Back Door Santa Getting It On,” DJ Schmolli, from “A Very Bootie Christmas,” 2006. Clarence Carter meets T. Rex meets Whitney Houston, courtesy of this fine DJ from Vienna, Austria.

“Christmas Bop,” Smash-Up Derby, 2006, from “A Very Bootie Christmas 2,” 2009. The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” meets Santa Claus and some familiar Christmas tunes, done live by the San Francisco group that bills itself as “the world’s first live mashup rock band.”

This cut also is on last year’s “Santastic Four,” the most recent of the four Christmas mashup compilations from dj BC of Boston. Bootie Blog proprietors A + D graciously point you toward those four fine “Santastic” comps. Dig them also. (There is no new “Santastic” comp this year.)

— Finally, a gentle reminder that this year’s Three Under the Tree posts will stay up here at AM, Then FM through New Year’s Day.

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Filed under December 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 38

The storm is starting.

For now, the snow is light, dusting our yard and our streets. We’re expected to get at least a foot of snow by the time the storm ends tomorrow night.

So, we’d better put three under the tree before the snow gets too deep.

“Winter Snow,” Isaac Hayes, 1970, from “Christmas in Soulsville,” 2007. On which Mr. Hayes is bummed out, having encountered a former lover with “lips so warm and a heart as cold as a winter snow.” It’s the B side to “The Mistletoe and Me,” his Christmas single from that year. The CD is a fine compilation of Stax Christmas tunes from the ’60s and ’70s.

“Winter (Basse Dance),” Blackmore’s Night, from “Winter Carols,” 2006. On which Ritchie Blackmore, the former Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist, proves he’s indeed a Renaissance man. This is a graceful, elegant instrumental. It’s a bit like the John Fahey tunes sampled in Vol. 37.

“In Like A Lion (Always Winter),” Relient K, from “Let It Snow, Baby … Let It Reindeer,” 2007. On which you think the kids might be learning a few things from Jackson Browne. It’s not really a Christmas or holiday tune, and certainly not Relient K’s familiar pop-punk, but rather a laid-back, reverent reflection on winter and hope.

We’ll save “Winter Wonderland” for another day. It’s rarely a wonderland when you have to shovel it just so you can get into the driveway when you come home from work late at night.

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Filed under December 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 33

A year ago tonight, we were rather funked up. On a cold Wisconsin night, we saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings scorching the stage at the Barrymore Theatre in our old neighborhood in Madison.

The next night, we put three funked-up tunes under the tree. It turned out to be the most popular thing we did in last year’s series. It went like this:

Three years ago, funk legend Bootsy Collins released a Christmas record that clearly bears his stamp, yet one that has surprisingly tender moments. It’s a remarkable re-imagining of some familiar songs, a mash that’ll be familiar to Christmas music fans and to P-Funk fans.

This earnestly spoken sample is the first thing you hear on the record:

“I’m sure there’s going to be more than one unpleasant surprise before we’re done.”

You can just imagine Bootsy standing there, his bass ready to go, with a wide smile on his face as he dives in. That said, why don’t we dive in?

“Merry Christmas Baby” — Definitely not Charles Brown’s version. It’s funked up, as you would imagine. Yeah, that’s Bootsy on the guitars and the Space Bass. The Nasty Natti Horns pump out a big backing track and there’s some fine Hammond organ by Morris Mingo.

“Jingle Belz (AKA Jingle Bells)” — You’ve heard this a million times. You’ve never heard it like this. The spoken lead-in — kids being asked “whattaya want for Christmas?” — and Boot-A-Claus’ laid-back vocals set the tone for this romp, which mashes elements of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and“Joy to the World” in the last minute. Fred Wesley’s trombone is the backbone for the whole thing.

“Silent Night” — Backed by some elegant keyboards, Bootsy shares a warm, real memory of Christmas as a child in the first 1:30. Then it gives way to “Silent Night” as a slow funk jam with some sizzling vocals by Candis Cheatham. The pace picks up between verses, with more spirited jamming. You’ve never heard this like this, either.

All from “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” Bootsy Collins, 2006. (I thought about changing out the songs from last year, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.)

In “Silent Night,” Bootsy remembers growing up in Cincinnati as a boy who loved Christmas, then fell in with “the wrong crowd,” which teased him:

“‘Aw, they ain’t no Santa.’ Then they took it a step further and said ‘Well, how is he gonna get in your house, and you livin’ in the ghetto with no fireplace? What kinda chimney is he gonna come down?’ I said, ‘Hmmmm.’ (Must be comin’ through the window.)”

Sharon Jones grew up in Brooklyn, wondering the same thing. On her charming new Christmas soul single, she asks just how Santa put her toys under the tree when there …

“Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from the 7-inch single Daptone DAP-1048, 2009. It’s due out Tuesday.

Those of us on Daptone’s mailing list got the tune today as a little gift. Give it a listen, then go get your own.

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Filed under December 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 8

bootsycdsleeve2

Yesterday, we found Boots under the tree.

Today, we find Bootsy under the tree.

Two years ago, funk legend Bootsy Collins released a Christmas record that clearly bears his stamp, yet one that has surprisingly tender moments. It’s a remarkable re-imagining of some familiar songs, a mash that’ll be familiar to Christmas music fans and to P-Funk fans.

This earnestly spoken sample is the first thing you hear on the record:

“I’m sure there’s going to be more than one unpleasant surprise before we’re done.”

You can just imagine Bootsy standing there, his bass ready to go, with a wide smile on his face as he dives in. That said, why don’t we dive in?

bootsyxmas4evercd

“Merry Christmas Baby” — Definitely not Charles Brown’s version. It’s funked up, as you would imagine. Yeah, that’s Bootsy on the guitars and the Space Bass. The Nasty Natti Horns pump out a big backing track and there’s some fine Hammond organ by Morris Mingo.

“Jingle Belz (AKA Jingle Bells)” — You’ve heard this a million times. You’ve never heard it like this. The spoken lead-in — kids being asked “whattaya want for Christmas?” — and Boot-A-Claus’ laid-back vocals set the tone for this romp, which mashes in elements of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Joy to the World” in the last minute. Fred Wesley’s trombone is the backbone for the whole thing.

“Silent Night” — Backed by some elegant keyboards, Bootsy shares a warm, real memory of Christmas as a child in the first 1:30. Then it gives way to “Silent Night” as a slow funk jam with some sizzling vocals by Candis Cheatham. The pace picks up between verses, with more spirited jamming. You’ve never heard this like this, either.

All from “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” Bootsy Collins, 2006.

I’d already planned to go from Boots to Bootsy today, but there was no doubt about it after we saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and the Menahan Street Band with Charles Bradley last night. Christmas came early. One can never have enough funk in their stocking.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds