Tag Archives: Blind Boys of Alabama

12 days of Christmas, Day 9

In the e-mail today is a note about NPR Music’s Jingle Jams holiday mix.

They asked 10 stations to suggest 10 Christmas songs each, then put it all together into one playlist. You can stream it here.

Here are 12 of the songs, in the order they appear on the Jingle Jams playlist. The station or program suggesting the song is in parentheses.

“Let It Snow,” Leon Redbone, from “Christmas Island,” 1989. (Folk Alley)

“‘Zat You, Santa Claus” Louis Armstrong, 1953, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Hipster’s Holiday,” a 1989 CD compilation.) (WBGO, Newark, New Jersey; WDUQ, Pittsburgh)

“Last Month Of The Year” the Blind Boys of Alabama, from “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” 2003. (WXPN, Philadelphia)

“Santa Claus, Santa Claus,” James Brown, from “Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” 1966. The LP is out of print but all the songs are on “The Complete James Brown Christmas,” a 2-CD set released earlier this year. (KUT, Austin, Texas)

“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (KUT)

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” Darlene Love, from “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector,” 1963. (WXPN)

“Christmas Wrapping,” the Waitresses, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on the “Christmas Wrapping” EP. That also appears to be out of print, but the song is available digitally.) (KUT)

“Greensleeves,” the Vince Guaraldi Trio, from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 1965. The buy link is to a 2006 remastered CD release with extra tracks, including an alternate take on this one. (WDUQ)

“Jingle Bells,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas ’64,” 1964. Smith’s “Christmas Cookin’,” from the same year, is the same record but with a much cooler cover.  (WBGO)

“Must Be Santa,” Brave Combo, from “It’s Christmas, Man!” 1992. Hard to find, but available from the band or digitally. NPR’s version is from a live performance at KUT. This version is done as a polka.

“Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney,” Ella Fitzgerald, 1950, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Yule Be Miserable,” a 2006 CD compilation) (WDUQ)

“The 12 Days of Christmas,” Harry Belafonte, from “To Wish You A Merry Christmas,” 1962. (NPR Music staff)


Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

Three under the tree, Vol. 8

This has been quite a remarkable year for Mavis Staples.


In April, she released “We’ll Never Turn Back,” an album full of freedom songs old and new, produced by Ry Cooder. It’s one of the best albums of the year (and will make a swell gift for someone on your list).

In September, some of her earliest work with the Staple Singers was re-released.

“The 25th Day of December,” is a 1962 Christmas gospel album simply and elegantly sung by the Staples family — Roebuck (Pops), Mavis, Yvonne and Pervis — and accompanied by Pops on guitar, Maceo Woods on the organ and Al Duncan on drums. It was recorded in two days in late July 1962 at Universal Studios in Chicago.

At the time, the Staple Singers still were a gospel and folk group. This album was the Staples’ fifth album since their debut in 1959, and just their second on Riverside Records, a jazz label. It wasn’t until 1967 that they turned to more commercial R&B and soul.

The first two of tonight’s three selections come from “The 25th Day of December.”


“Go Tell It on the Mountain.” This is the traditional African-American spiritual, with an arrangement by Pops.

“There Was a Star.” This is an original, written by Pops and William Westbrook.

Both by the Staple Singers, from “The 25th Day of December,” 1962, re-released on CD, 2007.

Here’s still another traditional tune featuring Mavis Staples.


“Born in Bethlehem,” the Blind Boys of Alabama with Mavis Staples, from “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” 2003.

This album pairs the Blind Boys, one of America’s great gospel treasures, with an eclectic mix of duet partners. Some work great, like this one, on which Jimmy Carter has the lead vocal. Others less so. It’s largely a matter of personal taste.

It’s certainly worth checking out, though. The Blind Boys’ other duet partners: Robert Randolph, George Clinton, Michael Franti, Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Chrissie Hynde, Richard Thompson, Aaron Neville, Shelby Lynne, Me’shell Ndegeocello and Les McCann.

We might circle back to this one. Until then, enjoy. More to come.


Filed under Christmas music, November 2007, Sounds