Tag Archives: Irma Thomas

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.

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“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

Three under the tree, Vol. 11

Over at JasonHare.com, my fellow bloggers Jason and Jefito have begun another season of Mellowmas. The weather outside is frightful, and so is their choice of music. The lads lovingly select Christmas tunes, post them and then gleefully rip them to shreds.

On Sunday, they posted Jim Nabors’ version of “O, Holy Night.”

Rob saw that and left this comment:

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

Rob is correct.

As a reward for his insight, I promised Rob I would try to counteract the effects of Camp Mellowmas — or is that Mellowmas camp? — by offering that terrific song here tonight.

It’s one of three tunes that are reverent but thrilling.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. Out of print.

Done as a New Orleans dirge with some terrific Hammond organ.

“Ave Maria,” Stevie Wonder, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. Also out of print.

A simple piano line and Stevie’s vocal — then listen for a 45-second harmonica solo about 2 minutes in — backed by a welling, soaring choir.

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

Listen for the reverb from Pops Staples’ guitar and some more sweet Hammond organ. (Circle back to Vol. 8 for more from this fine album.)

Enjoy. More to come.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds