Tag Archives: Irma Thomas

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

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

Goosebumps for Christmas

Eight years ago, during our first Christmas season here at the blog, my friend Rob called this song “goosebump-inducing stuff.”

It still is.

creolexmascd

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.

“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.

My apologies for not posting it here for the last three years.

As always, it’s for Rob.

“A Creole Christmas” also features the great Allen Toussaint, whom we lost this year. Enjoy his swinging piano take on “White Christmas,” a song you rarely hear with a big band arrangement, or any kind of an upbeat arrangement.

Man, hard to believe this record is 25 years old now.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2015, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 23

With everything that needed getting done, yesterday seemed to summon another of the whirlwinds that so often ensue as Christmas draws near.

You just want to step out of that whirlwind and find a quiet place.

Especially now that Dec. 23 has turned to Christmas Eve.

creolexmascd

“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.

Five years ago, my friend Rob called this “goosebump-inducing stuff.”

It still is.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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

12 days of Christmas, Day 4

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.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

Three under the tree, Vol. 34

Bootsy Collins’ “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” sampled here in Vol. 33, might not be the best Christmas record of the ’00s, but it’s pretty close when you’re thinking of Christmas records you can enjoy, cut after cut, start to finish. There aren’t many like that.

Perhaps the only ’00s records we’ve enjoyed more from start to finish are “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night” by .38 Special, from 2001, and “Let It Snow, Baby … Let It Reindeer,” by Relient K, from 2007, sampled in Vol. 32.

But that got me to thinking. What are some of the other Christmas records we’ve enjoyed from start to finish from other decades?

As I look over all the stuff from the ’90s, one record stands out. Every time I post a tune from it, someone raves about it, and rightly so.

I once sent the whole thing to a guy who said his wife would be so thrilled to have it that he was certain they’d be parents nine months hence. Too much information? I think he also said he once had it on cassette, but that it had become “worn out and broken.”

That record is “A Creole Christmas,” released in 1990 on Epic/Associated.

That title is a little misleading. Though tasty, there’s no Creole seasoning. Recorded in New Orleans and New York, this CD gathers almost a dozen performers with deep New Orleans roots. It’s all R&B, soul and zydeco, and that’s just fine. Listen for yourself.

“White Christmas,” Allen Toussaint. All the more special now that I’ve seen Toussaint play live. He’s an American treasure. This is a rollicking piano romp, nicely complemented by the horns.

“Please Come Home for Christmas,” Johnny Adams. This one will give you a good idea of how Adams crossed over from gospel in the ’50s to R&B in the ’60s. Smooth.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas. This is for Rob, who calls this version “goosebump-inducing stuff.” Damn straight. It’s reverent but thrilling, done as a dirge with some terrific Hammond organ.

All from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and hard to find.

A couple of other good long-players from the ’90s, though admittedly guilty pleasures: “Star Bright,” by Vanessa Williams, from 1996, and “Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas,” by the Tractors, from 1995.

Tomorrow, a good one from the ’80s.

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Filed under December 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 27

“O Holy Night,” written in 1847 by French composer Adolphe Adam, is one of those Christmas standards that frequently receives a reverent treatment, yet all too often a treatment that turns an epic sonic blast.

Tonight, we find three under the tree that treat “O Holy Night” a little differently, a little more downbeat.

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“O Holy Night,” Easy Anthems, from “Hark!” 2007.

Remarkably, this record was a free download last year, and I was delighted to have found it. Easy Anthems is an Americana group led by the Long Island husband-and-wife team of Philip A. Jimenez and Vanesa Alvero Jimenez. Theirs is a laid-back version featuring Vanesa’s strong, soulful vocals, Philip’s gentle guitar and Paul Loren’s Wurlitzer electric piano.

melissaetheridgenewthoughtxmascd

“O Night Divine,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008.

This is the only new Christmas record I bought this year. It has its moments, and this is one. While not “O Holy Night,” this tune incorporates bits of it. You hear it in Philip Sayce’s long, sizzling guitar solo, which starts about a minute in. You hear it again about two-thirds of the way through, when Etheridge winds up her scorching vocals. It’s different — music from long ago, lyrics for today — but I like it.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and much in demand.

Last year, our fellow music blogger Jason Hare’s Mellowmas series (since moved to Popdose) offered Jim Nabors’ take on this tune. In the comments was this tip from a reader named Rob:

“For a GREAT take on this song, check out Irma Thomas’ version on a compilation called ‘A Creole Christmas.’ Goosebump-inducing stuff.”

Rob was correct, and we posted it over here at AM, Then FM.

Reverent but thrilling, this version is done as a New Orleans dirge with some terrific Hammond organ. Still the best.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds