Tag Archives: Christmas

The three always under the tree

Christmas Day is here!

It’s been a nice morning, and I hope it’s been one for you, too.

These three songs always make my Christmas.

An 11-year-old Michael Jackson will forever convey the excitement of Christmas morning. That Christmas songs could sound like this was a revelation to 13-year-old me.

“One more time, yeah! Santa Claus is comin’ to town. Oh, yeah!”

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. Also available digitally.

A holiday toast!

“Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
“Ringing through the land
“Bringing peace to all the world
“And good will to man”

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. Also available digitally.

A Christmas wish.

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971.

I’d always had it on “Shaved Fish,” the 1975 compilation LP from Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. Until this year, that is. Found this while record digging. Delighted to have it.

It’s also available digitally, of course.

Merry Christmas, mein friends!

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2017, Uncategorized

‘Happy Christmas to all!’

It’s getting late. Time for a story.

Please enjoy our traditional Christmas Eve post.

On a winter day more than 40 years ago, Louis Armstrong went to work in the den at his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

That day — Friday, Feb. 26, 1971 — he recorded this:

stashxmaslp2

“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985.

It’s out of print, but you can find the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) on eBay. I found my copy when my friend Jim threw open his garage door and sold some of his records. I’ve since found another copy. It seems to be common.

louisarmstrongnightbeforexmas45

(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)

There’s no music. Just “Louis Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids … from all over the world … at Christmas time,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo died the following July.

You just never know.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2017

The Zen Christmas

This year, I wanted to experience the Christmas season on the fly, seeing what I could see and hearing what I could hear at random.

So, when I was out and about, or in the car, or at home, it was fun catching the snippets of Christmas music that came along at random in the stores and on the radio and online. That includes the WFMU “Testify!” and Funky 16 Corners Christmas shows from my friend, the mighty Larry Grogan. (Who, by the way, should unwrap a MacArthur genius grant one of these years.)

Some were new to me, some not. It was good to appreciate again the great horn charts on the Carpenters’ version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

I wanted to try something different, to get away from the same old, same old Christmas experience from time to time. To that end, I have a lot of Christmas music in my collection, and I listened to almost none of it.

There are a few exceptions, of course. On Christmas Eve, this is one.

Reverent yet thrilling, Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night” is done as a New Orleans-style dirge with some moody Hammond organ and some terrific gospel voices singing backup.

creolexmascd

Ten years ago, my friend Rob in Pennsylvania declared this to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.”

It still is.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and not available digitally, but Amazon will rip you a copy. It’s also on “MOJO’s Festive Fifteen,” the fine Christmas compilation CD that came with the January 2011 issue of MOJO magazine, if you can find it.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2017, Sounds

How to shop for record diggers

As the holiday season arrives, we present the following as a public service.

Your loved one is a record digger. You want to give them a good gift. I’m blessed to have a family who gets it, and is good at doing so.

If you’re Santa, here are a few guidelines. If you’re waiting to unwrap the gifts, please feel free to share with your loved ones.

Less is more, Part I. It’s better receive one nice record than an overstuffed, overpriced box set.

Less is more, Part II. It’s better to receive one nice record that gets dropped right onto the turntable than a stack of records that goes unplayed.

Talk to the folks at the record store. They might know your record digger better than you do, and they’re more than willing to help you find what you seek.

It’s OK to give a gift certificate. Let your record digger pop for obscure stuff neither you nor the record store folks would ever have considered. (Which explains how “The Hullabaloo Show” by The Hullabaloo Singers & Orchestra made it into one of my crates last month.)

It’s OK to ask for a wish list. That’s the best possible scenario for all parties. The giver is confident of giving something the recipient wants to receive.

That happened this summer. Four days before my June birthday, I went to see Garland Jeffreys. When I got home, I mentioned that he had a new record out. (Money was tight, so I didn’t stop by the merch table.) A couple of months later, out of the blue, we had to stop at the record store while running errands. Turns out a certain special order had come in.

“Waiting for the Man,” Garland Jeffreys, from “14 Steps to Harlem,” 2017. On which he covers his friend Lou Reed. He played this one for us that night.

Speaking of wish lists, here’s the one I typed into my phone while hanging out at the record store not too long ago.

— Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, “Soul of a Woman”

— Bob Seger, “I Knew You When”

— Mavis Staples, “If All I Was Was Black”

— The Isley Brothers and Santana, “Power of Peace”

— The “Soul Christmas” reissue on Stax

— My friend Norb’s book “Fear of a Norb Planet”

Ahem.

 

 

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Filed under November 2017, Sounds

Yeah, After This Year

We usually wind up Christmas with the same three songs here, but Santa Claus has already come to town and gone.

But after this year — After This Year — it’s still worth hearing the message in the other two.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released in 2010. Also available digitally.

“Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
“Ringing through the land
“Bringing peace to all the world
“And good will to man”

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.) Also available digitally.

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!”

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2016, Sounds

As the city shuts down …

Driving home from the hospital, where my dad is spending Christmas weekend, I watched the city start to shut down for Christmas Eve.

As 5 p.m. arrived, last-minute shoppers lingered at Shopko, their cars clustered near the entrance. Last-minute diners lingered at McDonald’s, but its sign was off. Taco Bell had gone dark. The “Open” sign was still on at Subway, but it looked like they, too, were just about out the door.

So it is on Christmas Eve, the one night of the year when, well, all is calm.

creolexmascd

Then you hear Irma Thomas’ voice piercing the quiet in the best possible way.

Nine years ago, my friend Rob in Pennsylvania called this “goosebump-inducing stuff.”

It still is.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and not available digitally, but Amazon will rip you a copy.

Reverent yet thrilling, this version is done as a New Orleans-style dirge with some moody Hammond organ and some terrific gospel voices singing backup.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2016, Sounds

Once again, it’s Christmas Eve

On this Christmas Eve, a post that has become a tradition.

On a winter day more than 40 years ago, Louis Armstrong went to work in the den at his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

That day — Friday, Feb. 26, 1971 — he recorded this:

stashxmaslp2

“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985.

It’s out of print, but you can find the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) on eBay for $10 or less. I found my copy three years ago, when my friend Jim threw open his garage door and sold some of his records.

louisarmstrongnightbeforexmas45

(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)

There’s no music. Just “Little Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo died the following July.

You just never know.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas music, December 2016, Sounds