December 31, 2007

Best of 2007: Top 107 Songs

Not all of these songs were released in 2007. Some were songs that I heard for the first time this year—yes, it’s cheating, but get used to it. My original plan was to post all 107 songs but let’s face it—I have other things to do. And our Christmas season took a lot out of me. So, here is the list, in alphabetical order, and with a few songs linked.

When I Say Go – The 1900s

See You At the Lights – 1990s

No One – Alicia Keys

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Heretics – Andrew Bird

(Antichrist Television Blues) – The Arcade Fire

Sleepdriving – Archives

Fluorescent Adolescent – Artic Monkeys

Die Die Die – The Avett Brothers

Is There A Ghost – Band of Horses

I Was A Daughter – Basia Bulat

Atlas – Battles

Before the Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette) – Bettye LaVette

I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You – Black Kids

Weapon of Choice – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Wild Mountain Nation – Blitzen Trapper

Doves Circle the Sky – Bodies of Water

In Our Talons – Bowerbids

Darlin’ Do Not Fear – Brett Dennen

Four Winds – Bright Eyes

Long Walk Home – Bruce Springsteen

Small Town Crew – The Brunettes

Melody Day – Caribou

Ramblin’ Man – Cat Power

Dacing On Our Graves – The Cave Singers

Running Up That Hill – Chromatics

Pretty Voice – Cloud Cult

Men’s Needs – The Cribs

Assholes – The Damnwells

A With Living – Do Make Say Think

The World May Never Know – Dr. Dog

State of Massachusetts – Dropkick Murphys

I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News) – Eagles of Death Metal

Hard Sun – Eddie Vedder with Corin Tucket

Going Nowhere – Elliot Smith

While You Were Sleeping – Elvis Perkins

Girl from the Renaissance Faire – Ethan Lipton

So Long, Lonesome – Explosions In the Sky

This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race – Fall Out Boy

My Moon, My Man – Feist

Song for the Fields – Fields

If You’re Into It – Flight of the Conchords

The Pretender – Foo Fighters

Chelsea Dagger – The Fratellis

If You Want Me – Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

Here Comes A City – The Go-Betweens

No Pussy Blues – Grinderman

I Became Awake – Great Lake Swimmers

When Under Ehter – PJ Harvey

All This Time – Heartless Bastards

Tick Tick Boom – The Hives

Devil Do – Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs

Innocent Bones – Iron and Wine

The Mirror Speaks – James Blackshaw

Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)… — Jay-Z

The Opposite of Hallelujah – Jens Lekman

Johnny Appleseed – Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros

The Golden State – John Doe with Kathleen Edwards

Creedence Song – John Fogerty

White Dove – John Vanderslice

Heartbeats – Jose Gonzalez

Right Moves – Josh Ritter

D.A.N.C.E. – Justice

You Can’t tell Me Nothing – Kanye West

Back Out on the… — Kevin Drew

Fireworks – Knoxville

All My Friends – LCD Soundsystem

It’s Nothing To Me – Lee Hazelwood

Poor Old Dirt Farmer – Levon Helm

Are You Alright – Lucinda Williams

Ain’t Never Been Cool – Lucky Soul

Paper Planes – M.I.A.

You Don’t Wanna Leave – Mike Mangione

Fine + 2 pts – Minus the Bear

Gunpower and Lead – Miranda Lambert

Missed the Boat – Modest Mouse

Mistaken for Stranger – The National

Myriad Harbour – The New Pornographers

Sucka Muthafucka – Northern State

The Past Is A Grotesque Animal – Of Montreal

Our Life Is Not A Movie or Maybe – Okkervil River

Call and Response – Or, the Whale

Bros – Panda Bear

The Magic Position – Patrick Wolf

Mr. Bellamy – Paul McCartney

Love Reign O’er Me – Pearl Jam

Committed to Parkview – Porter Wagoner

Make It Wit Chu – Queens of the Stone Age

Welcome Home, Son – Radical Face

Reckoner – Radiohead

Dead Sound – The Raveonettes

Umbrella – Rhianna (featuring Jay-Z)

Silver Lining – Rilo Kiley

My Punishment for Fighting – The Rosebuds

Lake Michigan – Rouge Wave

Halloweenhead – Ryan Adams

Black Dirt – Sea Wolf

100 Days – Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings

Phantom Limb – The Shins

Elysium Number Five – Sir Richard Bishop

Tarantula – Smashing Pumpkins

You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb – Spoon

Now, Now – St. Vincent

Take Me to the Riot – Stars

Way Down in the Hole – Steve Earle

Big Chair – Travis

Rag and Bone – The White Stripes

Impossible Germany – Wilco

December 29, 2007

Best and Worst 2007: Television

I hope everyone had a nice holiday and enjoyed some great Christmas tunes. We’re back at 77 Santas with our annual year-end lists. Always fun and sure to spark arguments, we cover television, movies, and music. Let’s kick it off with television.

Best Television of 2007

12. Countdown with Keith Olbermann (MSNBC)
This show should be essential viewing every American. With a mix of wit, snark, and intelligence, Olbermann never forgets to keep the viewer entertained with this mix of news and opinion. While his special comments sometimes verge into over-the-top parody, it’s impossible not to agree with his impassioned pleas to our incompetent and corrupt government.

11. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
Earlier this year, Colbert, the fictional, blustery, self-obsessed right-wing nut case, interviewed Bill O’Reilly, a real, blustery, self-obsessed right-wing nut case. Surreal, meta, and brilliant, the Colbert is the perfect antidote to the real-life blowhards like Glenn Beck, whom too many people take seriously.

10. The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
John Stewart continues his brilliant run as host, though sadly hasn’t been seen in months due to the writers strike. It’s a shame, because this season of political campaigns seems apt for humor, especially with a buffoon like Mike Huckabee taking the Republican lead and Hillary Clinton’s camp criticizing Obama’s kindergarten essays.

9. Flight of the Conchords (HBO)
Low-budget, low-concept, and low-key, no show made me smile or enjoy myself as much as Conchords. Two New Zealand musicians struggle to make it in New York City with the help of their manager, who also happens to work at the New Zealand Consulate. Each episode features an inspired and spot-on music video.

8. The Office (NBC)
The once solid stalwart saw its status fall this year. The hour-longs felt forced, uninspired, and long. Plus, Michael Scott has gone from a decent boss who makes impulsive, stupid decisions to an impulsive, stupid boss who occasionally makes a decent decision. He’s no longer believable or the least bit realistic. Still, for all the show has done wrong this year, it continues to provide solid laughs. And PB&J finally got together.

7. South Park (Comedy Central)
Somehow this show only becomes more relevant and painfully funny with each passing season. Nothing proves that more than October’s brilliant three episode “Imaginationland” arc. South Park casts its net wide, satirizing nearly everything imaginable. Smart, irreverent, and inventive television like this doesn’t happen often.

6. Lost (ABC)
Okay, so I’m cheating on this one—I’m only ten episodes into the third season on DVD. But Lost is hands-down the most entertaining show on network television. Some fans complain that the answers don’t come fast enough—perhaps I’m in the minority in feeling totally at ease with what’s been revealed thus far. Dense, complex, and wholly original, Lost is unlike anything that’s ever been on television.

5. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Maybe it was Larry David’s real-life divorce that injected the latest season of Curb with some much needed vigor. Past seasons had always felt a bit dark but this season spewed bile—while the ever-paranoid Larry always believed everyone was against him, this season they actually were. The resulting ten episodes were equal parts hilarity and pain.

4. 30 Rock (NBC)
30 Rock has grown from a show providing slight laughs to the funniest show on television. Tiny Fey and her brilliant writers keep the pop culture references coming at rapid-fire pace—but the show is deeper than that. Fey satirizes liberals, conservatives, corporations, and entertainment with flawless ease. And the talented supporting cast, lead by a hilarious Alec Baldwin, is the best on television. While no show has proven itself a worthy successor to Arrested Development, 30 Rock has come the closest to taking over that pedestal.

3. The Sopranos (HBO)
Tony and company had suffered through a slow and meandering season five and season six—part one. Thankfully creator David Chase steered his show back to what it made so great—the family, whether that be the Bada Bing crew or Carmella and the kids. The final nine episodes rivaled the show’s perfect first season. And that final smash-cut to black is an ending for the ages.

2. The War (PBS)
Ken Burns proves yet again why he is an American treasure. This six-part series explores America’s relations to World War II via residents of four towns—an original take on something that’s been done countless times. While the information within might be old-hat to the hardcore WWII buff, it is invaluable to the casual viewer who believes that World War II was a “good war.” No war is good, but some are necessary.

1. Mad Men (AMC)
No other show was as well-crafted, intriguing, and entertaining as AMC’s freshman drama Mad Men. Set in an advertising agency circa 1960, the show nails down smoky and boozy period details yet is only a microcosm for the same societal issues we still face today. It has the ambition to take on sweeping topics such as the 1960 presidential election, yet its true brilliance lies in the quiet and subtle relationships of its deeply flawed yet undeniably compelling characters.

Worst Television of 2007

1. Family Guy (FOX)
Tired and predictable, the fact that Family Guy remains ever-popular isn’t just a statement on the laziness of television writers, it’s proof that our society might have plummeted into a free-fall.

2. 24 (FOX)
How do you follow up your show’s best season? With its worst. Uninspired and boring, 24 lacked all relevance and tension this season. Here’s hoping the producers can get the show back on track next year—and by next year, I mean 2009, since it likely won’t return in 2008.

3. Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader Who Didn’t Forget the Lyrics and Can Dance with the Stars? (Every Network)
Picking one of these seemingly endless game shows is like picking which way you’d like to die.

December 17, 2007

77 Santas Top Twenty-Seven Christmas Songs—2007

It’s been a fantastic season with 77 Santas and it’s time to close out the season with the list of my favorite songs this year. Last year, I did fifteen songs—I’m upping it by twelve this time around. I’ve written about many of these already. And I could write a blurb for every song but suffice it to say that they are all personal to me and many are rooted in my childhood memories. It’s been a blast and I can’t wait to do it all over again next Christmas. And no more Yule Goat! Be gone, Yule Goat!

Have a safe, happy, and fun holiday.

27. Sleigh Ride – Johnny Mathis

26. The Christmas Waltz – Peggy Lee

25. If Christmas Can’t Bring You Home – Reigning Sound

24. Merry Christmas Darling – The Carpenters

23. Christmas Auld Lang Syne – Bobby Darin

22. The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes

21. Merry Christmas from the Family – Robert Earl Keene

20. It Won’t Be the Same this Year – Vince Gill

19. In the Bleak Mid-Winter – Sarah McLachlan

18. Christmas In Paradise – Mary Gauthier

17. I’ll Be Home with Bells On – Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers

16. It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way – Jim Croce

15. Please Come Home for Christmas – Charles Brown

14. Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day – Brenda Lee

13. Santa Claus Is Watching You – Ray Stevens

12. Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy – Buck Owens

11. Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen

10. Calling On Mary – Aimee Mann

9. Hardrock, Coco, and Joe – The Three Little Dwarfs

8. 77 Santas – Gayla Peevey

7. Happy Xmas (Was Is Over) – John Lennon

6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Pedro the Lion

5. Christmas Must Be Tonight (Alternate Version) – The Band

4. Little Saint Nick (Single Version) – The Beach Boys

3. Purple Snowflakes – Marvin Gaye

2. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland

1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love

Where the Treetops Glisten

Here’s my penultimate post at 77 Santas this season. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to check out our songs this season. I might make a post or two closer to the holidays, but I’ll have to see what’s happening—it’s possible I just won’t have the time. So, as promised, PC and I closed shop this season with a bang. And, by our count, we posted over 500 songs. That’s a record for us. We’ll be back to our normal posting after Christmas, beginning with my year-end best lists. And after a month or so vacation from blogging (hey, it’s tiring sometimes, especially during Christmas season!), we’ll post our usual eclectic bag of songs until November 1, when it starts all over again.

White Christmas – Bing Crosby

I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Frank Sinatra

If You Were Born Today – Low

Rehash Pipe

This will be my last post of the season. Here is a selection of tunes I've posted thus far, some new favorites, some old. It's been a pleasure, JV, as always. Thanks to all our readers too! Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

December 15, 2007

The Final (Country) Countdown

JV said it all, so I'll just tag along here with some tunes.

Allan Jackson & Allison Krauss: The Angels Cried

More to come...

A Country Christmas

My final country Christmas post of the season. Here’s the timeframe for 77 Santas: both PC and myself will wind things down on Tuesday. After that, we’ll venture off to see our families. Which is what the holidays are all about. Hopefully we’ll have left you with some Christmas songs to enjoy in the week leading up to Christmas and you can somehow get along without us. Still, we’re here for a few more days, and it’s going to be a blowout. So, no more delay. On to the songs!

Out On the Road for Christmas – Red Simpson

Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) – Jimmy Newman

Christmas Carols by the Old Corral – Tex Ritter

Gently Rock His Cradle – Jimmie Davis

Captain Santa Claus (And His Reindeer Space Patrol) – Bobby Helms

Santa Claus Is Ridin’ the Trail – Dick Haymes

Truckin’ Trees for Christmas – Red Simpson

Tonight Is Christmas – Alabama

The Christmas Spirit – Johnny Cash

Away In a Manger – Red Foley

Silent Night – Red Foley

December 14, 2007

Pretty Purple Snowflakes

Ready for a quick one? Good. Because I’m saving some energy for a super-post Saturday. I’m talking about fifty or so songs from PC and myself. And I hope you don’t have many plans, because we are really going all out tomorrow. Here’s a little something to get your appetite started.

Coca Cola Christmas Song
Holidays are coming.

Pee-Wee’s Christmas Theme – Pee-Wee Herman
It’s Christmas in the Playhouse.

Christmasonic – Dom Mariani
It’s Christmas and the summer’s almost here.

I’d Like to See My Mom for Christmas – Bob Jones and Williams Sextette
And in a few days, I will.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone
Zooey Deschanel is not only a good actress (please see All the Real Girls if you haven’t already), but also a great singer. Leon Redbone… Well, he’s Leon Redbone.

Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
Give her something—she’s been an awful good girl.

I’ll be Home for Christmas – Chris Isaak
I like him. Sue me.

Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Deck those halls. Trim those trees.

White Christmas – Raul Malo
One of this year’s new Christmas albums. Raul Malo has a fantastic voice—go ahead and try to be old school, Michael Buble. Raul Malo’s got your number.

Purple Snowflakes – Marvin Gaye
My favorite Christmas song of the day. I don’t know if it gets much more perfect than that opening piano.

December 13, 2007

Silver Lanes Aglow

A bit too much holiday cheer for PC last night, so this will be short and sweet and then it's back to the couch.

Perry Como: The Twelve Days of Christmas & Ave Maria

Whenever I hear Ave Maria I think of that scene in A Mighty Wind and then I giggle.


Santa Claus Is Coming Tonight Down on the Bayou

The Onion has posted a fantastic “humor” column about Christmas. When I was a kid, our local newspaper (and where I once proudly served on the staff) published a humor column written by a guy who thought he was hilarious. I kind felt sorry for our local writer—he tried, you know? He probably worked really hard on those Saturday columns. But his writing was about as funny as a child’s funeral. And it read exactly like The Onion’s spot-on parody. Perhaps this is one of those jokes that only I enjoy—much like The Onion’s “Bomb New York” song parody, or even the Ray Stevens meets Rick Rubin video I posted on here a few weeks back.

Our comments remain stellar. You readers are our very own Anderson Coopers—you’re keeping us honest. Hopefully all of you have perfectly coifed hair as well. PC and I have made our share of errors this season and we’re working hard to fix them for future 77 Santas.

Yesterday, Chris Willman from Entertainment Weekly made a comment and referenced his list of 100 Great Christmas Bummers. I should have linked to it back in November. This is my kind of list. I once made a CD set called Super Happy Fun Mix that featured what I considered the most depressing songs of all time—I even made a point to buy only the most depressing albums I could find for about a year of my life. Anyway, I love this list. My only addition: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home” by Darlene Love. The imagery of the snow coming down, the church bells ringing in town. “They're singing ‘Deck the Halls’ but it’s not like Christmas at all.” And of course the fantastic ending—the crescendo of that marvelous wall of sound, the back-up vocals and Love’s heartfelt cry of “please.” Her baby doesn’t return in the end. In my book, that’s the saddest, happy sounding Christmas song ever recorded. And for as much as I love some of the covers, no one does it like Darlene. Wish this writer's strike would be resolved so we could see her on Letterman this year. Of course, that song is one of top five time all-time favorite songs ever recorded. At any given point of the year, I’ll listen to it. It’s even mentioned in my forthcoming (and first) book—at least thus far. I’m hoping the editor doesn’t suggest I take it out, or else we might have us an argument. I heard Cormac McCarthy had the same ordeal with The Road. But don’t worry—I’ll have plenty of time to plug my book next Christmas, when its release will only be a month or so away. Exciting.

With the mention of Darlene, it gives me a good excuse to post it again. And as you know around here, I jump at any chance to post it.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love

Nut Rocker – B Bumble and the Stringers
This one is just cool.

Sleigh Ride – The Late Greats
Another one up over at The Late Greats. This is exactly how a sleigh ride should feel if you replace the sleigh with a Ford Mustang.

Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas – E
Let’s hope that’s true.

Papa Noel – Brenda Lee
My queen of Christmas. I love her delivery in this one—I’ve never been down on the bayou, but I imagine this is how it would sound.

Jingle Bells – Booker T. and the M.G.s
What can you say? This one is just cool also.

White Christmas – The Drifters
It’s impossible not to sing along with this one. It sounds especially good when you force your friends at candy-cane-point to sing back-up.

I Wish It Were Christmas Everyday – Roy Wood with Wizzard
Pure pop bliss.

A Child Is Born In Bethlehem – King’s College Choir
I could listen to choir songs all year. This is just beautiful. Hall. E. Lujah.

White Christmas – The Pipettes
These women are hell-bent on resurrecting that girl group sound. And I have no problem with that whatsoever.

The First Noel – Elvis Presley
Something about this version always makes me think of that closing scene to A Christmas Story—after Christmas finally hits, and the snow softly falling.

I’ll be Home for Christmas – Tift Merritt
If you’ve never heard Tift Merritt, go out and buy her first two albums pronto. She’s an amazing talent who probably fits into the alt-country genre, though there’s lots of Dusty Springfield in her sound as well. Why the woman isn’t a stay is beyond me. And she puts on a very fine live show too.

December 12, 2007

Let Your Heart Be Light

This is a theme post we do each year and it’s one of my favorites. Last year, a few weeks after I posted this write-up, Entertainment Weekly totally copied the idea and had a feature article on the subject—okay, given production schedules, they probably had it done way before my post and I doubt that they read 77 Santas. But it’s nice to dream. Anyway, as the song says, have yourself a merry little Christmas and enjoy.
I’m going to call “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” the most depressing Christmas song ever written. In fact, it was originally even more somber than the version that we know today.

The song was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Judy Garland made the song famous in her 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis. Garland found the original lyrics too sad for a Christmas song. There is a fatalistic view on the world—there is talk of everyone being together, of muddling through, friends once gone who will come back. It reminds me a hymn almost, that promises a great reward in Heaven, where all friends and family will one day meet each other again.

In fact, the original version, which Hugh Martin didn’t want to rewrite, did include religious undertones.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Pop that champagne cork
Next year we may all be living in New York.
No good times like the olden days,
Happy golden days of yore,
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more.
But at least we all will be together
If the Lord allows.
From now on we'll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Most versions that we hear today are a combination of these original lyrics. However, in 2001, Martin wrote a version called “Have Yourself A Blessed Little Christmas.” It is a much more sacred version. Also, it’s been noted that the chord progression to “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is strikingly similar to “Blue Moon,” which had been written ten years earlier. The only difference is additional chord progressions at the ending and bridge.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland

Garland’s version, which we’ve saved for this post, probably has the most recognizable lyrics. There is a tender delicateness to this version—that quiet, music box-like introduction that draws the listener into the word. It’s beautiful.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
Next year,
All our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow.
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Frank Sinatra

Ah, but there are even more versions. Frank Sinatra recorded a lighter version. It’s a bit happier with updated lyrics. Unfortunately, I don’t have this version of the song! But I have another version by the Chairman. If Frank’s singing, it can’t be that bad, right? The violin at the beginning lightens into a warm, slightly jazz-like swing. Here are those lyrics that Sinatra tweaked a bit.

Christmas future is far away
Christmas past is past
Christmas present is here today
Bringing joy that may last
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.
Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.
Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Hem

Hem’s version was posted on The Late Greats the other (check them out, for a great Christmas mix, plus some other great songs as well). Driven by a piano, it’s a straight forward and sad version.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – The Carpenters

The Carpenters have a great Christmas album. Their version features a nice little introduction by Karen Carpenter which I don’t believe is in other versions, though I might be mistaken.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – The Pretenders

This comes from the first volume of A Very Special Christmas.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Andre Gagnon

This is an artist that I know little about. Gagnon’s version is a surprisingly beautiful, all instrumental version of the song. Once again, a piano drives the song.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Nat King Cole

The King of Christmas songs in my book, Cole’s golden voice rises above the somewhat cheesy synthesizers here. Of all the versions, this one seems the most dated in terms of production values. But still, nothing compares with the man’s voice.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Sarah McLachlan

This version is melancholy beyond compare. The little instrumental flairs between verses are beautiful and the piano is beautiful when mixed with bells, strings, and the quiet cymbals.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Bright Eyes

A delicate and straight-forward version of the song. Stark and spare.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge

Doo-wop and without music—striking and in its harmonies.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Ruth Browne

Ruth Browne was one of the 50s best unsung R&B singers. This version is slow and haunting—you can hear that pain in her voice.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Aimee Mann

For a woman known for her melancholy, this song is surprising a bit more upbeat that you might expect. But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Mel Torme

This is my favorite version of the song, originally featured in Home Alone. Torme was called The Velvet Fog, and for good reason—that voice is smooth. Fans of the television show Night Court might remember that Harry Anderson’s character loved Mel Torme. For some reason, my father loved Nigh Court and Mel Torme. My mother and I saw Home Alone twice in December of 1990. My father had been dead for a few months by that point. It had been a hard year and we hadn’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. Even though I had heard the song plenty of times, when Torme’s song played at the end, I actually listened to the lyrics for the first time. The promise that next year would be better, that someday everyone would be together, and that troubles would be out of sight—it stuck with me. Composer John Williams produced this version and adds his unmistakable instrumentation behind Torme’s warm and endearing vocals. Every time I watch Home Alone, I am reminded of sitting in a dark theater with my mother and laughing until it hurt.

Love's Pure Light

I've only got 6 days of posting left! I will do my best to deliver the goods every one of those days. I promise BIG things for Saturday. I'll start it off with a little Motown.

And now a little Nat King Cole suite:

A little Spector magic:

And we'll close it out with some bookish nerd rock:

They Might Be Giants: Santa's Beard


December 11, 2007

A Dozen and One

As PC pointed out today, we are two weeks away from the big day. Time to break out the big guns. I’ve got a handsome mix of thirteen songs today, from new to old, traditional to original, and all of them are classics in my book. We’ve got a fantastic U2 cover, a great Pearl Jam cover, the definitive version of “Let It Snow,” and Snoopy. I love Snoopy and that bloody Red Baron. Christmas bells, those Christmas bells… For those keeping track, this is 77 Santa’s 200th post. UPDATE: EXPERIENCING PROBLEMS AGAIN. PLEASE BEAR WITH US.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2

Don’t Believe In Christmas – Pearl Jam

The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes

Please Come Home for Christmas – The Uniques

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Vaughn Monroe

Silent Night – The Temptations

Silent Night/Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis – Tom Waits

In the Bleak Mid-Winter – Sarah McLachlan

In the Bleak Mid-Winter – Royal College of Music Chamber Choir

Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen

Just Like Christmas – Low

O Holy Night – Nat King Cole

Little Drummer Boy – Harry Simeone Chorale

So how’s the holiday shopping coming along? Have any readers on your list? Let me suggest a literary journal that I had a little hand in a few months back, Ecotone. Ecotone is a literary journal of place that seeks to publish creative work about the environment and the natural world while avoiding the hushed tones and clich├ęs of much of so-called nature writing. In the natural world an ecotone is a landscape where two separate ecosytems overlap, a place of danger and opportunity for animals. As we try to reimagine a new literature of place, our journal embraces literary ecotones, writing that breaks across genres and seeks out edges. These edges—between science and literature, the urban and rural, the personal and biological—are places that are alive and electric, as well as new and dangerous. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, Clark. Check it out.

Two weeks and counting...

Moving through the decades (in maybe not chronological order) to bring you some Christmas cheer.

Like they used to.

He one king of Memphis is.

Can't wait to watch Rudolph.

Much better than Coltrane's version. Did you just call me Coltrane?

We have to post it sometime. I wonder if this song annoys Santa.

Our blog is not our blog without her. Me, I want a panda bear this Christmas.

In keeping with a two song animal theme.


December 09, 2007

An Ohio Christmas

I give to you a group of songs by artists from, in some fashion or another, my great home state of Ohio.

Chrissie Hynde is from the Kent/Akron area. (Cuyahoga Falls, as mentioned in "Back to Ohio")

Dayton's finest and most prolific maker of songs, Mr. Robert Pollard (and co.)

He lived in Columbus and studied philosophy at The Ohio State University, which adds an entirely new dimension of awesome.

From Piqua, OH. Posted this a few weeks back.

Joe Walsh went to Kent State University. My friend's mom used to get high with him. On life. High on life.

They formed in High School in Canton, OH, and went on to write and perform some amazing songs, such as this one.

He's from Steubenville, OH. He also died on Christmas day.

She's from Evanston, OH.

I don't have any Over the Rhine, but JV has posted some and he may again in the future. I also wish I had xmas tunes by Devo, Afghan Whigs, NIN, Marilyn Manson etc. but I don't. Anybody that knows of any or of any artists I don't know about, feel free to comment.

Christmas Out on the Range

On our Christmas Vacation post a few days back, we made a gross oversight: Ray Charles. How this wonderful song escaped my memory is beyond my imagination.

The Spirit of Christmas – Ray Charles

Now, on to this weekend’s country music mix. Some classics today. Enjoy the songs, and here’s hoping that The Steelers beat the Patriots today.

Daddy’s Drinking Up Our Christmas – Commander Cody

My Mom and Santa Claus – George Jones

Christmas On the Plains – Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Silver Bells – Clint Walker

Happy Christmas Day – Charley Pride

White Christmas – Kitty Wells

Old-Fashioned Christmas – Jimmy Martin

Merry Texas Christmas You All – Ernest Tubb featuring The Beasley Sisters

I’m Gonna Lasso Santa Claus – Brenda Lee

December 08, 2007

Don’t Mess Around with Those Silly Toys

Public service announcements:

1. Stop by some fine, fine sites to check out their mixes.

Aquarium Drunkard has been sporadically posting Christmas tunes this month, and they’re quite good. Check out that Marvin Gaye song up today!

The Duke of Straw posted his annual Christmas mix over at The Late Greats and it’s fantastic, as usual.

The Leather Canary has some nice mixes.

Any other Christmas sites you like? Don’t worry—you won’t hurt our feelings. Leave a comment and we’ll link to them. Or if you have one of your own, even if it's not Christmas related, just give little ring-a-ling and we'll post.

2. Watch The Wire

And just a reminder—while we post Christmas music during November and December, we keep up with music all year round. In the last week of December, be sure to stop by to see my Best of 2007 lists—books, movies, music, and television. Standard fare—I love lists. My best television show of 2007 wasn’t on any major network or HBO. So, if you’re curious, stop by after the holidays and check us out. But I can already tell you what the best show of 2008 will be: The Wire. While 2007 brought us the finale of The Sopranos (and I liked it, don’t get me wrong), that show doesn’t hold a candle to The Wire. It is at the very least the best television drama of the last decade, filled with stark realism, complex characters, and superb storytelling. The brilliant season four literally made me laugh and cry—it’s the best season of television I’ve seen in my life, and trust me, I’ve seen lots. It’s unfair to call The Wire the best show on television—it’s more than that. This show is on the level of The Brothers Karamazov or Great Expectations. It’s a masterpiece of craft and to anyone who tells me The Sopranos or anything else is a better show doesn’t know jack. This is a major work that demands to be watched. Anyway, if you’re out there and have some time before the holidays, re-up on season 1-4 of The Wire. The fifth and final season premieres on January 6. But I digress.

Onward to tunes! Wish I had the time to write a little something for all of these, but this is a massive sixteen song mix. Of course you’re entitled to listen to them anyway you like, but I’m partial to the order below. Enjoy and see you tomorrow with some more country tunes.

The Holly and the Ivy – King’s College Choir

Last Month of the Year – The Blind Boys of Alabama

Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms

Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives

Mama’s Twisting with Santa – Mark Anthony

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Arab Strap

In the Bleak Midwinter – Bert Jansch

Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

Father Christmas – The Kinks

Back Door Santa – Clarence Carter

Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas – Carla Thomas

If You Want It

Monday will mark the fortieth anniversary of Otis Redding’s untimely passing. Only twenty-six at the time, Redding had already established himself as one of the very best soul singers to ever record, mixing gospel and R&B into a style all his own. On the night of December 10, 1967, Redding and most of his back-up band The Bar-Kays were aboard a plane that crashed into a lake near Madison, Wisconsin. Three days prior to his death, Redding had recorded what would become his biggest hit—and though not a Christmas song, I’m posting it as an extra.

(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding

Merry Christmas Baby – Otis Redding

Listening to Otis Redding at Home on Christmas – Okkervil River

Tuesday marks the anniversary of Sam Cooke’s murder. The events around this are still debated, but it’s safe to say that the world was robbed of a major talent. Cooke had one of the greatest voices of the last century. (CHRISTMAS SONG AIN'T SAM COOKE--SEE COMMENTS FOR MORE!)

What A Wonderful World This Would Be – Sam Cooke

Christmas Means Love – Sam Cooke

Today marks the anniversary of John Lennon’s murder in New York City. Every year, I’ve posted “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by Lennon in remembrance of the day. Sadly, I wasn’t alive for a single day of Lennon’s life—my mother was pregnant twenty-seven years ago today. And it wasn’t until high school that I really discovered The Beatles. It’s easy to speculate about what Lennon would have done in the later years of his life, but let’s not forget all that the man accomplished. Lennon left an indelible testament that spoke to the very greatest aspects in humanity, and “Happy Xmas (Was Is Over)” certainly demonstrates that. The song’s message has only become more relevant with each passing year. So yet again, have a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.

Here are four different versions.

The Polyphonic Spree

Sarah McLachlan

Sense Field

John Lennon

Ring Ting Ting-a-ling Too

Time to kick off the weekend with a little stocking of country.

Not sure if JV posted this, but it's awesome. RIP Sir.

A common song this week.

A repost from Novemer. Then, I could post this song every day it's so good.

I can't wait to go back to my hometown for Christmas.

Another re-post. Been listening to a lot of Willie this week, mainly The Red Headed Stranger.

More coming...


December 07, 2007

Happy Xmas (School is Over!)

That's right kids. As soon as I get the grading finished, it's on for real. Until then, a small set of jams.

Drums are just sick on this song.

I'm trying really hard not to make a tasteless joke here.

My favorite band making music right now. Maybe a close second for favorite band of all time behind The Band. So bright. Glowing.

More Otis coming from JV, I think...

Get hit in your soul and keep it there.

December 06, 2007

Saint Nicholas Day

Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Saint Nicholas

In late medieval England, on Saint Nicholas' Day parishes held Yuletide "boy bishop" celebrations. As part of this celebration, youths performed the functions of priests and bishops, and exercised rule over their elders. Today, Saint Nicholas is still celebrated as a great gift-giver in several Western European countries. According to one source, medieval nuns used the night of December 6th to anonymously deposit baskets of food and clothes at the doorsteps of the needy. According to another source, on December 6th every sailor or ex-sailor of the Low Countries (which at that time was virtually all of the male population) would descend to the harbour towns to participate in a church celebration for their patron saint. On the way back they would stop at one of the various Nicholas fairs to buy some hard-to-come-by goods, gifts for their loved ones and invariably some little presents for their children. While the real gifts would only be presented at Christmas, the little presents for the children were given right away, courtesy of Saint Nicholas. This and his miracle of him resurrecting the three butchered children, made Saint Nicholas a patron saint of children and later students as well.

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas – Chet Atkins
A master guitarist at his cool, relaxing best. Listen to that fingerpicking.

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas – Roy Drusky
Christmas Eve is coming soon, now you dear old man...

Santa’s Beard – The Beach Boys
He’s just helping Santa Claus.

Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys
This one’s for Brendan—yeah, he has it already, and we’ve posted it already too, but really, do you ever tire of this song?

Repeat the Sounding Joy

Really, we do. This with the obligatory kid's chorus. Tell me, though, what the hell is figgy pudding? Is it good? Does anyone have a recipe?

This my obligatory Nat King Cole post.

It's Christmas time in the city, all right.

Really, we do.


December 05, 2007

In Which We Highlight Novelty Songs (Good and Bad)

Look—you knew this was coming. Novelty songs. We’ve already posted a few and we’ll probably post a few more. But here’s a whole post dedicated to nothing but.

The Twelve Pains of Christmas – Bob Rivers

Rusty Chevrolet – Da Yoopers
By far my favorite from this post. Somehow, I never tire for this song—probably because it reminds me of numerous people and their cars in my hometown.

Grandma Got Runover By a Reindeer – Elmo and Patsy
Send them back!

Redneck Twelve Days of Christmas – Jeff Foxworthy
Here’s a bad one—unless you like Jeff Foxworthy. Is he smarter than a fifth grader?

The Christmas Shoes – Alabama
The ultimate manipulative song. This one is for PC who passionately hates this song. And so do I. Why Alabama? Why?

The Real Slim Santa –
Not kid friendly. Snagged this from The Late Greats. Check out some stellar Christmas mixes over there.

Horny Christmas – Loo and Placido
Also, not one for the kids. But that Dandy Warhols sample sure is great--actually, it's the entire Dandy Warhols song.

I Yust Go Nuts for Christmas – Yogi Yorgesson
A classic.

Shagged with Ice

Here's two versions of a tune I like a great deal:

When I listen to this version, I get the feeling a forest troll is going to climb through the floorboards and gnaw on my shoulder.

Before he became a country superstar with 100 hits in the Billboard 100, Eddy Arnold was a driver for an undertaker. Sounds better than my job.

Sure, it isn't a traditional Christmas tune, but these guys kick ass and they certainly have a mind of winter.

This was Wallace Stevens' favorite version. Actually, he used to sing it in the bubble bath. It even inspired him to write this:

The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter

To regard the frost and the boughs

Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time

To behold the junipers shagged with ice,

The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think

Of any misery in the sound of the wind,

In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land

Full of the same wind

That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,

And, nothing himself, beholds

Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.


December 04, 2007

We’re Gonna Have the Hap, Hap, Happiest Christmas…

Here are four songs from the much beloved National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Now, I’ve never been the biggest Chevy Chase fan—though I do love Fletch. And while some of the later Vacation movies suffered considerably, this one remains my favorite. PC might have posted a few of these—honestly, I don’t remember. Either way, enjoy the tunes, kick back with some eggnog, and hope that Cousin Eddie doesn’t come to visit.

Christmas Vacation – Mavis Staples

Hey Santa Claus – The Moonglows

Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby

Here Comes Santa Claus – Bing Crosby

Out my window, a few snowflakes trying

More snow coming Chicago way, and I love it.

As suggested the other day.

I just woke from a 20 minute winter's nap, and this was on the radio. Not bad, not bad at all.

She's becoming one of my favorite ladies of Christmas song.

From the man Bob Dylan considers America's greatest poet. Hard to disagree, really. This for my folks, who surrounded me with good tunes all growing up.

I wish I didn't have the image of Mary Carpenter in my head that I do whenever I hear her voice.

Peppermint Stick.


December 03, 2007

Come to the manger, see the little stranger

Got some work to do, so this will be short. This is my last week of classes! Then just a stack of grading and I get a month off to rest, write, play N64, drink, eat, eat & drink, make posts, talk to santa, and drink!

Mahalia Jackson: Silent Night, Holy Night

More like, Silent Night, Holy Shit! (I'll give you a moment to belly laugh at that display of sheer wit and wordplay. And, done.) Wow. What a voice. She refused to sing secular music her entire career, and she stuck to it until she passed away, here in Chicago, her home away from New Orleans.

A version you hear often on radio. Still, it's awesome. I love the 'neigh' at the end.

"One [O Holy] night, Bobby Vinton sent us champagne."

Can't go too long without a post from the Spector album.

This from the man of "Feliz Navidad" fame. He's a fine guitar player, too, as evidenced by this instrumental take.

A true master. Sorry, Jose, you got nothin on this man. This for JV, who's feeling this song this season. And, while I'm at it, another version:

Bing Crosby: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

I know JV posted this earlier in the season, but it's expired, and awesome, and my favorite band.


Another Cowboy Christmas

Apologies for the posts expiring so quickly—we also apologize for being cheap, since we could pay some dough for longer downloads. But, as always, if anyone ever has a request for a repost, just leave a comment and we’ll get it back up lickity-split. Even more apologies—my country post is a day late, but PC had my back yesterday. No, the picture doesn't have much to do with Christmas, but there appears to be cowboys. And it looks cool.

Blue Christmas – Webb Pierce
Ah, the old classic never gets any less blue.

Senor Santa Claus – Jim Reeves
Lou Dobbs requested this one—he said we just weren’t addressing the illegal immigrant problem in the country this holiday season.

One of You (In Every Size) – Marty Robbins
No socks, shirts, and ties, just your loving lies. Snagged this one from Flowering Toilet. Check the great Christmas mix up on that site.

Merry Christmas from the Family – Robert Earl Keen
Of course Keene’s Christmas tune would chronicle motor homes, chain-smoking, champagne punch, bloody Marys, and a can of fake snow. Hallelujah, everybody say cheese, merry Christmas from the family! This is fast becoming one of my favorites.

A Cowboy’s Christmas – Wayne Newton
Did cowboys have hairspray like Wayne Newton? They’d be a handsome bunch if that were true. This song’s hilarious because it tries so hard to be "cowboy."

The Santa Claus Boogie – The Tractors
Finally, a newer country tune. Take some time to believe in Santa Claus.