November 30, 2007

O, R They?

Christmas is a box of Hartley's Potato Chips!!! Thank you to JV's ever generous mother and grandmother! Do yourselves a favor and order yourself a bag or ten. Trust us. The best chips ever. And they do it right. Go here now!

Ok, tunes.

Marvin Gaye: I Want to Come Home for Christmas

I said it last year and, sadly, I have to say it this year: this song is all too relevant today. One of my all-time Xmas faves.

There is no other version, ya heard me?

I would've been just fine in the 40's.

I know it says from Bottlerocket, but this is from the Rushmore soundtrack. So good.

Ok, maybe not a 'traditional' holiday song, but I can certainly see this sentiment applying to many New Year's Days this year.

November 29, 2007

Joyous Voices Sweet and Clear

A brief post from me today too.

The Mills Brothers: I'll Be Home for Christmas

As if this song could get any sadder.

I can see JV dancing to this, snapping his suspenders to the beat.

Well, it hasn't, and I don't want it to, but this is a great tune so deal.

I haven't posted nearly enough Nat yet, but there's still time.


Christmas All Over Again

In a few days, December will be here. But isn’t 77 Santas going to run out of songs? Nope. I still have 494 songs left—don’t get too excited because there’s no way I can post all of those. Still, we’ve got plenty left.

Silent Night – A.V. Bornand Collection
This is an old-time music box.

Christmas All Over Again – Tom Petty
This is a rocking song by one of rock’s most handsome men.

Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You – Billy Squier
This is a delicious piece of 80s cheese.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Aimee Mann
This is just sad.

November 28, 2007

Sleigh Bells in the Air, Beauty Everywhere

(Artist's rendering of PC & JV)
Good to be back in the fold. That was scary. To make up for it, and to try and top JV, I give you my first mega-post of the season.

Joni Mitchell: River

Nothing beats the original. Sorry JV. Such a particular writing style.

Paul Anka is the one who turned a little old French song into the show stopper "My Way" that his buddy Frank Sinatra sang and sang well. My father loves both of them, and this Lennon tune reminds me of driving around Cleveland in winters with him while he fixed furnaces and the like. These three are for him.

For the swinger in all of us. Oops.

Her voice soothes and scares me at the same time. Soul power.

Why not two great versions on one day. I don't know who Randolph is, either. Sorry JV.

In Italian, that is. I thought I knew ever Nat Christmas song there was. I was wrong. This is the first time in my life I've been wrong. It feels weird. Like losing your virginity while getting a cavity filled must feel.

One of Bing's final TV appearances, in 1977, was to sing this with Bowie.

To make up for yesterday's post, where I was going to tell you all to watch the special. Hope you did. I caught about 20 minutes of it.

You have two choices. Choose wisely:

John Prine: Christmas in Prison

I am fastly falling for this women's music. It's no bullshit, heartbreakin', honest songwriting. Check out her tune "I Drink" too. This is off her album Filth and Fire. I never thought I'd say this, but dig those steel drums!

Enjoy. PC

Gliding Along with the Song of a Wintery Fairyland

Okay, no idea what happened during our momentary panic yesterday. Thanks to everyone for their comments—they were very helpful. Perhaps it was the large number of photos and YouTube links we had on the page. You see, we’re just bursting with Christmas music and can’t control ourselves. Rather than display the past seven days, we’re now only doing the past three. But keep in mind, the links should be good for seven days so if you’re a newcomer, page back through. If you’re a regular, I hope you’re glad that we’re still up. To make up for the silence of yesterday, here are ten for you today.

Santa Claus Is Back In Town – Elvis Presley
Here’s a bluesy stomp through Christmastime courtesy the King in his big black Cadillac.

The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) – The Chipmunks
One year he will get that hula-hoop. I know it.

Sleigh Ride – Johnny Mathis
Okay—if my cheeks are “nice and rosy,” it’s because they’re cold. And I would not be “comfy, cozy.” Still, it would be lovely weather for a sleigh ride together. Giddy up!

We Three Kings of Orient Are – The Beach Boys
If they sounded this melodic, everyone in that manger must have been pretty happy. The Beach Boys lush and serene version is one of my favorites.

Silver Bells – Diana Ross and The Supremes
Let’s keep the harmony train rolling.

Run Rudolph Run – Chuck Berry
Another question—who in the hell is Randolph? Is this the guy who’s threatening to take Rudolph’s job? Could he be an illegal immigrant, like the Republicans claim are taking all our jobs? I don’t understand, but I sure hope Randolph asks Mitt Romney a question on the YouTube debate tonight. Now that I think on it, Wolf Blitzer certainly has to have some kind of reindeer lineage.

What Christmas Means to Me – Stevie Wonder
So, up until now, Christmas has meant various things—Cadillacs, sleigh rides, hula-hoops, and rock and roll electric guitars. But it means more than that to Stevie.

Deck the Halls – The Caroleers
No, this isn’t from last year’s hilarious Danny DeVito/Matthew Broderick holiday movie (emphasis on sarcasm). The Caroleers sound as if they’ve had a few rounds of booze to warm them up. It’s certainly not a good version, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Merry Merry Christmas Baby – The Tune Weavers
Surely one of the saddest Christmas songs—but not quite the level of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love. Still, I don’t think she really wants her baby to have a merry Christmas and New Year.

Christmas Tree’s On Fire – Holly Golightly
Just a reminder: always water that tree. It’ll burn up faster than your Christmas bonus. And please, don't keep it around until Valentine's Day like Ms. Golightly.

November 27, 2007

Red in the Face

Okay, how many of you are experiencing problems with this blog? PC pointed out that he was seeing red, red, red everywhere. While it looks okay on my computer, I’m not quite sure what the dillio is, though using out-of-date terms like dillio certainly don’t help anything. This is a first for us, so any of you techno-savvy folks who have a clue, we’d certainly appreciate a tip or two. But suffice it to say, the elves in Santa’s workshop aren’t happy. It's especially sad because I just got a fine Christmas collection in the mail today. Thanks mom!

Until I figure out what’s going on—and perhaps it’s fine now, I have no idea—I’m only doing one song today.

They Say It’s Christmas Day – Anne McCue

November 26, 2007

Who’s the Man with All the Toys?

What did PC say yesterday? Nothing would keep me away from this blog? Well, of course he’s right. And there are some wonderful treats today. But how about our visits—we never would have dreamed that 77 Santas would be such a hit! We’re almost up to 13,000 hits. Last year, I think we had around 2,000 for the entire season. Thank you, everyone who’s visited, who have left comments, and have just enjoyed the music. After all, that’s what we’re about—finding some of our favorite Christmas tunes, some obscure and some not, and sharing them.

The Man with All the Toys – The Beach Boys
It’s barely over a minute and a half but it’s absolutely sublime. The harmonies and that “oh” after each verse—I dare you not to sing along. Let's just hope the man doesn't have too many more toys to recall this year.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Fats Domino
The man is a force to be reckoned with, inspiring a myriad of Beatles tunes. Classic Fats on this track—that bluesy/boogie-woogie piano, a nice sax solo, and of course the man’s incredible vocals. He’s an American original that is still going strong, despite a close call in Hurricane Katrina. Keeping that in mind, here’s a little bonus: Walking to New Orleans. It’s got nothing to do with Christmas but it’s beautiful.

In the Bleak Midwinter – The Pipettes
There’s just something cool about a girl group who wear matching polka-dot dresses in 2007. If only Phil Spector weren’t a complete nut, he could make a great Christmas album with this British group.

O Holy Night – The Vienna Boys Choir
Fall on your knees! I love the unabashed theatrics in this song—and this version, complete with a pipe organ, really starts to purr at the 1:36 mark. That would make even an atheist fall in love with a religious song.

November 25, 2007

Tis The Season to be Merry. That's My Name...

I have work to do, so this will be a bit short. Sound familiar? At least I get Christmas break. I will post like crazy then. Something tells me this new job won't keep JV down, either. So, to try and follow his stellar post, here's a few from my end. If you ever have problems downloading the songs, please leave us a comment. Thanks.

Stevie Wonder: Silver Bells

I think "Two Tickets to Paradise" is a Christmas song too.

Here's a trio from Phil Spector's Christmas album. If you read regularly, you should know we are heads over heels for this album and post from it often.

The Ronettes: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus


I Wish I Had A River

How about seven Christmas songs on your Sunday? Many of these songs reflect the weather here today: cloudy, dreary, frigid, and damp.

In the coming weeks, I can’t promise the regular posts I’ve had the past several weeks. I start a new 9-5 job tomorrow and it will definitely affect my blogging schedule. Usually, I strove to update the blog by noon on weekdays, but now it will likely be in the evenings (at least EST time—there are no many international readers, I don’t know this affects you). More than likely, my weekday posts will grow smaller. Less writing, maybe a fewer number of songs, but I will try my damnedest to get something up every single day. However, if I’m missing a few days, you’ll know why. I know PC has done his best to get songs up on a regular basis, but that guy’s busy too—and also a writer.

Oh Come, Oh Come Emanuel – John Fahey
Once again, let’s start things off with a master guitarist.

O Come O Come Emanuel – Sufjan Stevens
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice. Great rendition by Sufjan off his Christmas box-set.

Little Drummer Boy – Mark Kozelek
For a man who can make even AC/DC songs sound spare and melancholy, did you expect his version of “Little Drummer Boy” to actually feature some cheer? Nope. Acoustic and chilling.

River – Sarah McLachlan
I’m gonna make a lot of money and then I’m gonna quit this crazy scene.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Andre Gagnon
Truly one of the most downbeat holiday songs ever recorded. This is a beautiful instrumental version.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Death Cab for Cutie
This is a band that’s hit or miss for me. Luckily, this one hits. Sure, it’s not Darlene (no one is) but it’s more laidback and pared-down.

Silent Night, Christmas Blue – The Tractors
A bluesy little number that features a soothing organ throughout.

November 24, 2007

Merry Christmas from Dixie to Everyone Tonight

I don’t know about you, but I need some tunes to warm me up. Several hours at Scott Stadium here in Charlottesville thinned my blood. Good game today with Virginia Tech prevailing in the end. Honestly, I didn’t have much allegiance to either team (I wore my Penn State T-shirt under my clothes so my fanhood would not be questioned) and was happy to see a competitive game. It’s very possible that Penn State and UVA could meet this year in a bowl game, which would be unfortunate for the Cavaliers. I’m sorry but the ACC doesn’t compare to the Big Ten when it comes to football.

Anyway, on to the music. As I mentioned a few days ago, we have a little country-themed Christmas planned. Our original goal of a week has been altered a bit—check in on Saturdays for Cowboy Christmas tunes. PC already got the snowball rolling and it’s time for me to pack some more on.

Christmas in Dixie – Alabama
Yes, the 80s/90s super group Alabama! Okay, so maybe others aren’t as excited. But I loved Alabama as a kid.

Tennessee Christmas – Alabama
And this one is one of my favorites off their Christmas album.

The Night Before Christmas (In Texas, That Is) – Gene Autry (featuring The Cass County Boys)
Horses. Not reindeer. Santa can drive it all, including semi-trucks.

Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy – Buck Owens
The one and only Buck.

Christmas for Cowboys – John Denver
You know, I think John Denver gets a bad rap. Some of his songs are just knockouts. After his death, he was cremated with the 1910 Gibson guitar his grandmother had given him as a child. He often sent handwritten letters to fan who sent their thanks for his music.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Ernest Tubb
A voice unlike any other.

Country Christmas, Part One

JV and I have decided to run our Country Christmas posts over the next couple weekends. I will kick it off. He will follow up later, after the UVA/Va Tech game. Lucky bastard. We both realize we have a LOT of country christmas tunes, so these posts should be large. I have JV and our buddy Jake to thank for my current love of/appreciation for good country music.

Nice and smooth. JV introduced this song to me a few years back and it's become one of my favorites.

Merle Haggard: If We Make it Through December

This will probably appear on the blog once or twice more before Christmas. It's good. It's sad. It's Merle.

Satan is Real. So is Santa.

Oh, Loretta.

My pretty little snowflake. Is this a pretty way to call you sig. other a flake?

Not quite the King, but damn fine in its own right.

JV used to like singing this in gradeschool. I'd give anything for a Youtube of that.

Me, I'll be just fine.


November 23, 2007

Salvation Army Bells Are Ringing

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. The all-Christmas radio stations are on across the land. The season is on in full force—even your local Grinches can’t deny that. Trim the tree, wrap the presents, and turn the Christmas music on. I’ll be home with bells on.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love
If you check this blog regularly, you’re already used to two things: Gayla Peevey and Darlene Love. I adore this song—one of my top five of all time—and since it’s the “official” start to the holiday season, you’re getting it again. And in the coming weeks, you’ll get a few more versions. And probably Darlene at least once more.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – The London Philharmonic Orchestra
Something about Christmas orchestra music makes me think of walking a street decorated with lights and filled with shoppers. That’s probably something that’s never really happened, but I like fake nostalgia.

Little Saint Nick – The Beach Boys
It’s true—Christmas comes this time each year.

All Alone on Christmas – Darlene Love
If I could only listen to this on my Talkboy just like in Home Alone 2. Darlene Love plus Christmas equal sheer bliss.

Here Comes Christmas – Bill Kelly
Since it’s the kick-off to holiday shopping, how about a little song that critiques commercialism? As Kelly says, it gets more commercial every year but it’s still my favorite holiday.

Darlin’ (Christmas Is Coming) – Over the Rhine
A beautiful little song.

Merry Christmas Darling – The Carpenters
What a tragedy. Karen Carpenter had an amazing voice and this is one of my favorite Christmas songs.

I’ll Be Home with Bells On – Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
My dad loved this song and today would have been his 51st birthday. I’ll end today's post with one for him.

Since We've No Place to Go

A little jazzy batch to start off your Friday.

And, to make up for yesterday's flub, here's two from Ella.


November 22, 2007

Make the Yuletide Gay

So, I'm sitting here sharing my peppermint bark with Jim James, and he's like, "Dude, you should make a Christmas ladies post!" How could I say no to him?

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21, 2007

Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring

Apologies for the late update. Busy today. If you get a chance, go see No Country for Old Men. It’s phenomenal, though lacks some Christmas joy—in fact, the message is pretty much the world is a terrible place, it’s going to get worse, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Oh yeah, it’s also hyper-violent. But my stars is this a masterpiece—every performance will just knock your stockings off your chimney.

Onward to the music. Time to ring those bells.

Carol of the Bells – John Williams
A beautiful version from Home Alone.

Carol of the Bells – Metallica featuring The Tran-Siberian Orchestra
How about a head-banger’s version?

Carol of the Bells – The Vienna Boys Choir
Nothing really tops this.

Your fries are done:

Mercy Mild

A little set to get your day started off right.

More to come!

November 20, 2007

It Wouldn't Be Christmas...

From Wikipedia:
"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" is a song by Darlene Love from the 1963 Christmas compilation album, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. The song was written by Phil Spector, along with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, with the intentions of being sung by Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes. According to Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector was not able to put as much emotion into the song as needed, so Love was brought into the studio to record the song instead, which eventually became a big success.
Darlene Love has performed the song on the final new episode of the Late Show with David Letterman before Christmas every year, since 1986 (previous to 1994, the performances were on NBC). The song is always performed with the Late Show's house band, the CBS Orchestra, augmented by additional strings and other instruments, as well as a full choir.
No one does this like Darlene—the 1981 performance is the first time (I believe) she performed the song after she sued Phil Spector for royalties. Enjoy.







Gobble Gobbling Our Way

Big ups to my mom for scoring me this ornament at a craft show this weekend. Fitting end to Ohio State's 4th straight victory over Michigan and our 2nd straight Big Ten title. Pretty good year, seeing as how most analysts thought this would be a down year for us. I personally thought we'd be playing for another national championship. Seriously. I was mum about it. We came close and we still might get in. Who knows. I knew Jim Tressel was unhappy with the way last year ended and the man is highly competitive. That filters down to his players. Ok, end football rant. Some tunes!

The First Song: Band of Horses

Sure, it's not a traditional Christmas tune, but it references Christmas and it's awesome. Thanks again to Ryan for giving me a ticket to their show last week in Chicago. I appreciated them before the show. Now I'm in love with them. It's just good rock and roll music. No bullshit pretense. All I ask from my art is that it isn't afraid to feel and that it takes risks. One of the greatest risks, to me, is that tight rope walk between genuine feeling and sentimentality. These guys straddle it gracefully.

This off their "Xmas Fiasco Style" EP. Since so many people (lazily) compare MMJ to BoH (Holy abbreviations, Batman!), I figured I'd follow with this.

I'll save my Burl Ives rant for another day. Or you can read the archives.

Snow in the forecast for Thanksgiving in Chicago! Bring it on!

That's where we'll end it for today.

Today's fun fact: Edison patented the phonograph on December 24th, 1877!


Watch Your Ps and Qs

I loved Ray Stevens when I was a kid. One year for my birthday—right after second grade—I was given a tape of Ray Stevens’ Greatest Hits which featured such classics such as The Streak, Ahab the Arab, Along Came Jones, Gitarzan, and Shriner’s Convention. Though the songs had all been recorded in the studio, a laugh track was added in post production—it was similar to watching a sitcom. And now that I think about it, many of the jokes were on the same level. Commercials promoting his albums and especially his music video collection seemed inescapable. In the videos, he dressed as the famous characters listed in the songs above. His comedy style certainly isn’t subtle—he goes all-out, so over-the-top that it quickly becomes cheesy. But, as kid, I ate all of this up, listening to that tape again and again and turning up the volume on the television when one of his commercials came on. One of my favorite tracks by Ray Stevens is “Santa Claus Is Watching You.” When that chorus comes—my cousin Travis and I used to sing this. Actually, we still sing that deep baritone and it’s guaranteed to happen this holiday season at least once.

Now, there are at least three versions of this song that I know about. A short single version, a longer version, and also a version that includes references to the CIA, wiretapping, and surveillance (it was 1962 when this came out—glad we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing anymore, right? Right?). As for the long versus short versions, I have to recommend the long. It’s obvious in the short versions where the tape splices occurred and I can’t imagine why it was trimmed to begin with—I mean this is an epic song on par with “Stairway to Heaven.” Okay, so maybe it’s not that big, but I still love it.

Santa Claus Is Watching You – Ray Stevens

Courtesy of YouTube, here’s the video for “Santa Claus is Watching You” by Ray Stevens. The lyrics have been changed for this “updated’ version, but Ray Stevens is still going all out in his utter zaniness. And it’s actually quite annoying and also scary. That elf is downright creepy.

So, hopefully you watched that clip to remind you (or introduce you) to Ray Stevens. The next clip is imperative that you understand the man at least a little bit. This was made by Travis and Jonathan of Red State Update fame. The first day I saw this, I watched it about ten times and laughed. Perhaps that says something about how my humor has evolved since listening to Ray Stevens many years ago. The premise for this clip: super-producer Rick Rubin works with Ray Stevens. Hilarity ensues.

The Christmas Party

We’re almost one month away from the big day—what’s in store for 77 Santas? The second week of December will be a country Christmas. No, not Toby Keith or Kenny Chesney—we’re talking the likes of George Jones, The Louvin Brothers, and Charley Pride. Real country. And of course we have lots more—like 500 songs—to cull from. And remember, we’re always open to requests—as long as you’ve been nice and not naughty.

Reindeer Boogie – Hank Snow
Here’s a little preview of our upcoming country Christmas. And, starting Friday, be sure to check out Big Rock Candy Mountain—each year, the blog has delivered some great country Christmas tunes.

Joy to the World – Clem Snide
A sparse, haunting rendition of this traditional song—nothing else expected from Clem Snide, who did some great reinterpretations of songs. Check out their cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” if you don’t believe me.

The Christmas Party – The Walkmen
I love the voice-over throughout this song. This jangle, sloppy version captures the excess and chaos of a Christmas party.

One More Sleep ‘Till Christmas – The Muppets
Kermit and the gang breeze through this holiday song from A Muppet Christmas Carol, which is underrated in my book.

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis – Neko Case
Is there a better way to follow-up The Muppets? In a few days, we’ll post a live version by this song’s original singer, Tom Waits. Keeping him in mind, this song chronicles a pregnant prostitute and her sad yet occasionally funny melodrama—now that I think of it, perhaps I should have posted “Green Sleeves” today considering that song’s history. No matter—this isn’t really a Christmas song, but anytime to hear the stunning and beautiful voice of Neko Case is enough to post this song.

November 19, 2007

Santa, Got Yer Goat?

This from a little wikipedia search, which means it's probably completely inaccurate:

The Yule Goat (Sw. julbock) is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols. Its origins might go as far back as to pre-Christian days, where goats where connected to the god Thor, who rode the sky in a wagon drawn by a pair of goats.
The function of the Yule Goat has differed throughout the ages. As far as until the 19th century, youths would go from house to house during Christmas time to perform small plays or sing Yule Goat songs, with one of the in the group dressed up as the Yule Goat. In Finland, the Yule Goat was originally said to be an ugly creature that frightened children, and demanded gifts at Christmas. During the 19th century its role shifted towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts, in Finland as well as the rest of Scandinavia, with one of the men in the family dressing up as the Yule Goat. This tradition would have the goat replaced with the jultomte (Santa Claus) at the end of the century, and the tradition of the man-sized goat disappeared.
The Yule Goat is nowadys best known as a Christmas ornament, a figure, often made out of straw or roughly-hewn wood. In older Scandinavian society a popular prank was to place the Yule Goat in a neighbour's house without them noticing; the family successfully pranked had to get rid of it in the same way. The modern version of the Yule Goat figure is a decorative goat made out of straw and bound with red ribbons, a popular Christmas ornament often found under the Christmas tree. Large versions of this ornament are frequently erected in towns and cities around Christmas time — these goats tend to be set on fire before Christmas, a "tradition" that is dangerous, illegal and certainly unasked for by the goat makers. The Gävle goat was the first of these goats, and remains the most famous as well as the most burnt down.

Upon reading this, I realize that JV and this Wikipedia writer have the same editor. Oh!
I learned of this from a little flyer I got from the Museum of Science and Industry, advertising this exhibit
I will certainly visit this!

And, while I am strapped for time (I promise much fuller posts in the coming days, when I have a chance to breathe), here is a song about a Christmas Donkey. I have trouble differentiating between goats and donkeys sometimes. Shut up Nicole.

Lou Monte: Dominic the Donkey

More soon. Promise. How about those Buckeyes!


Thought I'd Send a Card

What’s in today’s bag of goodies? How about The Banjo Brothers and their instrumental takes on two classics, complete with slide whistle? You could try Bobby Goldsboro’s simple and sweet Christmas wish. Dodie Stevens has to be today’s highlight—that’s a voice right there. But then again, Eddie Layton’s sparse and downright creepy rendition of “Green Sleeves” is a winner as well.

Holly Old St. Nick; Jingle Bells – The Banjo Brothers

A Christmas Wish – Bobby Goldsboro

Merry, Merry Christmas Baby – Dodie Stevens

Green Sleeves – Eddie Layton

November 18, 2007

All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue

Back from a holiday yesterday. Apologies but I just needed a day away from the computer. Without delay, let’s get to the songs.

All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue – Over the Rhine
Honestly, as you’ll see from my little post-Saturday football wrap-up below, it disgusts me to even think about the colors blue or white. This is a beautiful and depressing song off. Check them out if you get a chance—very good Ohio-based band.

Tag Along – The Wilburn Brothers
Obviously trying to ride the wave created by Rudolph, The Wilburn Brothers sing about a little dog named Tag Along who helps Santa Claus. It’s fun.

Winter Symphony – The Beach Boys
Yet again, Brendan at The Rising Storm went out of his way to send us an early Christmas present—Ultimate Christmas by The Beach Boys. Many of the songs I had heard before—though some not for years—but this is one I never knew, an outtake off the Beach Boys’ MIU album. This is a beautiful song with great arrangements.

Christmas Is Canceled – The Long Blondes
These women have a pretty great English-pop sound. Everything from 60s pop, The Ramones, and Pulp seem to have influenced their sound. This song has some bite to it.

Carol of the Bells – The Calling
Apparently this is a modern rock band. I vaguely remember the crappy local radio stations in Pennsylvania playing one of their songs repeatedly, yet I don’t remember its name. “Carol of the Bells” has always been one of my favorite holiday songs—this version isn’t spectacular but it’s not horrible either.

And now, here’s something totally unrelated to Christmas—a rant about Penn State football. It’ll most likely be the final one of the year.

Congrats to PC and his Bucks. Yet again, they dominated Michigan and it’ll most likely mean the departure of Lloyd Carr, one of the most classless men in college football. Anyway, it was a solid routing marred by ugly weather. As for my Nittany Lions and their loss at Michigan State—this was flat-out embarrassing, by far the worst loss I had seen all year. The team finally decided to open its playbook and go for broke—they had the punt team fake a field goal, a wide receiver threw a pass. And, somehow, they squandered it all—after half-time, I think most of the Nittany Lions were on the plane for State College, especially quarterback Anthony Morelli, who will now go down as one of the most-promising yet also most-disappointing quaterbacks in many years. Rumors persisted that he wasn’t smart enough to learn the plays—and I wholly believe them. He exerted horrible leadership and piss-poor instincts for the game of football. Sure, he had an arm (and, I believe he had legs, though to see him run, you wouldn’t think so) and a few tools, but he didn’t have a brain for the game. Now, with the season finished, the Lions record is 8-4—pathetic, considering this was the record last season. The team did not grow at all. A few players matured, a few had their moments, but as a team, they didn’t do a goddamned thing to prove they were worthy of that number ten ranking we had at one point in the season. And for as touted as our defense was, they sure made a point of pissing away some games—how in the hell does a team like Michigan State run all over us? But it’s not all for nothing—we’re bowl eligible. But I don’t even care what bowl we play in or who its against. We don’t deserve a bowl and I fully hope that when the bowl invitations are announced, Penn State will decline. This year saw more problems off the field than I can ever remember—allegations of fighting against many players, our starting running back accused of rape, and several busts for underage drinking. On the field, nothing at all improved over a lackluster season last year. These kids don’t deserve to take a trip anywhere warm. And neither does Joe Paterno. His leadership, along with the entire coaching staff, has been non-existent this year. He’s got one more good year left—many seniors and experienced players return next season—but if we’re looking at an 8-4 record next year, or even a 9-3 record next year, it’s time for JoePa to leave Penn State. Hell, it might be time for me to leave Penn State as a fan. After all, the University of Virginia is ranked higher than Penn State this year and I live two miles from the Cavaliers stadium. I’m sure they’d like another fan.

November 16, 2007

Not Even Santa Wears Short Sleeves

Tomorrow is an exciting and sad day for Big Ten football fans—a day of rivalries that also closes out our regular season of play. My Nittany Lions are going to face a tough battle at Michigan State—they always play us hard. And PC is bravely going into a state that, as one fan on a recent HBO documentary said, “smells like hot dog water.” So, here’s hoping for a strong end from both our teams. Go Lions. Go Buckeyes.

But before we can get to that, we’ve got some great songs up for today. I love the little map feature on our blog—we didn’t have this before the redesign. Over the past few weeks, the map has had an outbreak of red dots. In high school, my face always did the same thing right before we had to get our yearbook photos taken. But it’s great to see where everyone’s from. And, really, we’re just getting started on the holiday season.

Sleigh Ride – The Ventures
I love the fake-out start to this—for a few seconds, it’s “Walk, Don’t Run.” But then we’re whisked off in that sleigh.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Aimee Mann
This one is off One More Drifter In the Snow, one of the best holiday albums released last year, even though NPR said that it was too depressing. It’s Aimee Mann—what did you expect? This is the fourth version of this song we’ve posted—and the second one that flat-out rocks. Mann adds some chugging tubas and at about the one-minute mark, everything comes together.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Sarah McLachlan
I’m proud that I somehow withheld posting this song for a while—it’s one of my very favorites, though out of the dozen or so versions I have, Judy Garland remains my favorite. We’ll have a much longer post about the story behind this song in December. It remains one of the bleakest holiday songs ever recorded, yet also one of the most beautiful. This version’s off McLachlan’s Wintersong, also one of the best holiday albums released last year.

My Christmas – Mindy Smith
Perhaps it’s no surprise that a woman raised by a pastor would record a Christmas album. I didn’t know much about Smith until this year—she’s perhaps best comparable to Alison Krauss and Patty Griffin. However, she did do a pretty faithful cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” back in 2003 that scored some airplay on radio. Folk, bluegrass, Americana—I don’t know what you call it, but it sounds very sweet.

White Christmas – The Tractors
A relaxed and instrumental version of the old classic. Love that bluesy ending.

Be back on Sunday with some more—taking Saturday off.

November 15, 2007

Mistletoe Hangs in the Hall

The other day I realized the Writers’ Guild of American strike will affect one of my sacred holiday traditions. Each year, Darlene Love performs “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on the Late Show with David Letterman—and it’s by far my favorite holiday day song ever recorded. However, Dave hasn’t been airing since the strike started. And now, there is the possibility that we won’t have Darlene Love or Jay Thomas’ classic story of meeting Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger) or the traditional knocking of the meatball from the Christmas tree. Now, I fully support the writers in their cause and believe that they’re owed much more than the producers want to give up, but I hope something breaks before mid-December.

Jingle Bells – Earl Scruggs
Some down-home guitar and banjo picking by one of the best.

The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle – Burt Bacharach
If you haven’t heard this before, it should be no surprise that Bacharach and Larry Kusick wrote this tune. Poppy and relaxed Christmas perfection.

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – The Ronettes
I love the sound of that big smooch at the beginning. But what’s not like about this version? Phil Spector—what is there to say? I was reading his Wikipedia page today and there is a great story about a track he produced called “(Let’s Dance) The Screw.” A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector was deemed a failure at that time of its release—Nov. 22, 1963, the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Out of mourning, radio stations didn’t play Christmas songs that year.

Christmas Time – The Boss Martians
I know nothing of The Boss Martians. Their MySpace says that the band members share a love of garage, punk, surf, and power pop influences—it shows. This song proudly wears its early garage and pop influences on its sleeve.

November 14, 2007

November 13, 2007

Christmas with The Boss

In my native Pennsylvania, an anonymous donor has given $100 million to the struggling city of Erie. (Read the AP story here.) Erie, like so much of Pennsylvania, has fallen upon hard times. Factories that once dominated the area either went out of business or outsourced their business overseas. The poverty rate climbed to a staggering 19 percent and the median household income is barely above $31,000. The generous donation will be split among several community charities. And thus far, the identity of the donor remains a mystery. But what a great chance to improve the city. And, as the Christmas season grows near, a true testament of goodwill. Hopefully this will encourage many to give whatever they can to the less fortunate this season. And oddly enough, though I had written this post last night, I woke this morning to find out my hometown newspaper features an article on the local economy. For an understaffed newspaper, this is the best piece of reporting they’ve done in years and something that might actually get the locals fired up. If I were to ever write another nonfiction book (buy Burn from Algonquin Books in early 2009!), I would write about this problem and just try to figure out what happened. This isn't a particularly well-balanced article—it would have been nice to have heard from an expert who believed a minimum wage increase had no bearing on vanishing jobs and some of the statistics are outdated. However, since I used to work for the newspaper, these shortcomings are no surprise to me. Nor is the dwindling population of my hometown. A wise said it best: “They’re closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks. Woman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.”

No other American songwriter has even tapped into the veins of the working class like Bruce Springsteen. I’ve been a fan of The Boss for years and have only come to love his music more. For me, nothing tops the stark Nebraska, though Darkness of the Edge of Town and The River are a close second and third. And of course Magic—my favorite album of the year—will also go down as one of the man’s classics. Sometimes people joke that too many of his songs are about topics too similar. But that’s an affront to the people he sings about. Even though I can be quite the music snob sometimes, I’ll always defend the earnest and true message of Springsteen’s music. He gives those who yearn to escape their rusted towns a voice—they race their cars down dark streets, fall in love, and struggle with their jobs. It’s the landscape where I grew up and one I’ll never forget.

Everyone’s heard Bruce do “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Both are great, to be sure. But here’s a few other amazing Christmas tunes from Bruce’s December 17, 2000 show at Asbury Park—and no, “For You” isn’t really a Christmas song. But it sure is good. Thanks to Tom for sending these my way.

Intro/Jingle Bells/For You

Blue Christmas

Run, Rudolph, Run

November 12, 2007

Save Us All from Santa’s Power

Where I live, there’s a big debate on our Craigslist Raves and Rants section about whether or not parents should tell children that there is a Santa Claus. Some argue that the story will disappoint the child when they actually discover the truth—and by truth, I of course mean the elaborate system of mall Santas who work with the real guy. Others say that Santa is a symbol of capitalism and that he isn’t Christian. This debate is ridiculous—and I’m trying my hardest not to sound like Bill O’Reilly and his made-up war on Christmas. Is this what our society has come to? Extremists on both sides of the political spectrum laying out their case against Santa Claus? And we wonder why children no longer have imaginations, why they’ve become dependent upon technology, why Gap make “My Li’l Slut” t-shirts for adolescent girls. Why do kids need to grow up so fast? Santa Claus was one of my fondest memories as a child—and I believed until I was nine. Some kids made fun of me—but, while I probably knew Santa didn’t exist, I wanted to believe that he did. And I still do.

In the Bleak Mid-Winter – John Fahey
I’ll have a longer post in December about the history of this song. But until then enjoy John Fahey’s always incredible guitar work. He released several Christmas albums—all acoustic, all played by one of the last century’s best musicians.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman – Pedro the Lion
It’s sparse and acoustic—oddly haunting yet strangely warm.

This Christmas – Donny Hathaway
Donny Hathaway wants to “carol through the night” with his lady this Christmas. This guy was one of the best R&B singers in the 1970s and, tragically, he died all too young.

A Root’n Toot’n Santa Claus – Tennessee Ernie Ford
When I was in second grade, we had to take music class (yes, remember the days when public schools encouraged creativity and the arts?). Our teacher led us all in a rendition of Ford’s classic “Sixteen Tons” every single week. It wasn’t until years later that I heard the song again—and by that point, my former music teacher had been fired and was found face-down drunk on a street in town—when I wondered what kind of fatalistic and depressing music our teacher had played for us. Luckily, this Christmas tune isn’t nearly as dark.

November 11, 2007


Still reeling from the Buckeyes inability to get the job done yesterday. Still, it's Michigan week, which is a season unto itself. And, if we beat them, we will be Big Ten Champs (again), will have beaten them 4 straight years, and be on our way to the Rose Bowl. Not bad for a team most people picked at no higher than 4th place in the Big Ten.
Some 'non-Christmas' songs today. Ones that remind me of winter. This seems to be a theme in many conversations, so here are a few of my choices.

Great Lake Swimmers: I Will Never See the Sun

I will find any reason in the world to post this band. One of my favorites. This off their first, breath taking, album. This album sounds like that transition from fall to winter. This song is an example of that. Go buy it. Go see them live.

Pretty sure this album came out in late fall... At least whenever I listen to it, it reminds me of this time of year. Slowly becoming my favorite Radiohead album.

Ok, I will transition away from the depressing non-Christmas songs to plain old depressing Christmas songs now.

Probably one of my favorite Christmas songs ever.

That's where I'll end it. Props to JV for digging up some great new (to the blog) tunes. I hope to do the same in the very near future. It's exactly 6 weeks away. Damn.
Go Bucks! PC

A Pre-War Christmas

An eclectic mix today that certainly won't be for everyone. However, lovers of pre-war (WWII) blues music will enjoy. I didn’t fully embrace this music until 2001, after I saw the film Ghost World. Since then, I’ve grown more and more fascinated by this time period, reading up on everything from the great Mississippi Flood of 1927 to people like John Fahey and Alan Lomax, who culled the southeast portions of the United States for long-lost albums and singers. Most modern music doesn’t hold much interest for me, and I keep going back in time to find something that speaks to me—eventually, I’m going to travel all the way back to silence. Since I’m only 26, many of my friends think that I’m strange. But pre-war blues just blows me away. This was during a time when record companies had no idea how to make a profit and they would record next to anything. What remains are crackling wax imprints of our old, weird America.

All of these tracks, except for Blind Willie McTell, come from compilations put out by Dust-to-Digital, including their phenomenal Goodbye, Babylon box set and a holiday themed comp, Where Will You Be Christmas Day?

Gettin’ Ready for Christmas Day – Rev. J.M. Gates
This three-minute sermon has a transfixing affect on the listener. There’s a repetitive, marching syntax in the words. Undoubtedly purposeful on Gates’ part, perhaps to remind sinners of what punishments await in Hell. Historians note that this style of preaching was one of the first blocks that eventually lead to rap music.

Papa Ain’t No Santa Claus (Mama Ain’t No Christmas Tree) – Butterbeans and Susie
The banter between these two comics is classic. They started performing together in 1916 and married the next year. Many of their lyrics were filled with double entendres that the FCC probably wouldn’t even allow on network television today.

Christ Was Born on Christmas Morn – Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers
Here’s what Matthew Perpetua of the Associated Press said of this track back in 2006: “It's hard to imagine that anyone has released a better compilation of Christmas music in the past twenty years than Dust-to-Digital's Where Will You Be Christmas Day. The disc collects 24 tracks from a variety of genres. All were recorded in the United States between 1917 and 1959, generally alternating between devoutly religious carols and secular selections that often celebrates the holiday from the point of view of the destitute and derelict. The music is raw and unpolished, and invariably overflows with humanity whether the song is festive, melancholy, spiritual, or some combination of the three. This particular cut from the Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers was recorded back in 1929, and celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ with a rollicking tune that evokes rowdy patrons living it up at a speakeasy on Christmas Eve.”

Christmas Morning Blues – Kansas City Kitty
This 1934 track is definitely not a free-spirited and happy song—there are references to murders and death bells. Not much is known of Kansas City Kitty or the piano player.

Holy Babe – Kelly Pace, Aaron Brown, Joe Green, Matthew Johnson, and Paul Hayes
This thing swings for seven minutes and is a choral masterpiece.

Cold Winter Day – Blind Willie McTell
Here’s another one of those songs that’s got nothing in common with Christmas besides the season. But McTell is just a force to be reckoned with—as is the Bob Dylan song named after him. When I listen to this, I can hear the wear in McTell’s voice—he’s been out in many cold winter days.

Death Might Be Your Santa Clause – Rev. J.M. Gates and His Congregation
Gates was pastor of an Atlanta church for several years, though his legacy has been saved on records. He began recording for Columbia in 1926—however, the label didn’t sign him to an exclusive deal. By the end of the year, he had recorded 48 fire and brimstone sermons for several other labels.

November 10, 2007

Santa's Saturday Sack

College football is still going strong. Santa (and PC and me) is taking a break from the workshop today. So, here’s a short bag of goodies.

Frosty the Snowman – Fats Domino
Sing it Fats. And twist.

Morningtown Ride – The Seekers
Nothing like some good 60s folk rock. See yesterday’s discussion about songs that might not be Christmas song, but are lumped into the season nonetheless.

The Christmas Waltz – Peggy Lee
A beautiful version—Peggy Lee’s voice is amazing and serene in this.

Thanks to Kat for sending along this link. This Seekers track was new to me this year, though I could have sworn that I heard a Christmas version. Turns out there is one. Here's the video.

November 09, 2007

Hung Like a Horse with Care

A little stocking full of jams...

The Flaming Lips: Christmas at the Zoo

My Morning Jacket: Xmas Time is Here Again

Canned Heat: Christmas Blues

Jackson 5: Santa Claus is Comin to Town

Joni Mitchell: River

I'd post more but Bobby Bare Jr. is in town and I need to start drinking.

Why Can’t Every Day Be Like Christmas?

According to Wikipedia (so take it with a grain of salt!), many stations in the U.S. didn’t start their now popular all-Christmas playlist until after the September 11, 2001 attacks. That year, many stations switched to all-holiday programming from Thanksgiving through Christmas. The format change proved a hit with listeners and now hundreds of stations across the U.S., from mainstream pop and country to adult contemporary, crank out the Christmas tunes each year. Honestly, I don’t remember if that’s the case or not—I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and had to listen to some god-awful wretched radio stations. The worst among them was WMRF—somewhere hovering above the Earth is their radio signal, no doubt playing Three Doors Down, The Calling, and any other drivel that they thought was popular in the late 1990s. But each year on Christmas Day, they played only holiday songs. Still, most of them sucked and they’re the kind of songs that won’t be featured here—sorry, no Band Aid, no Wham, no songs about Christmas shoes, but maybe some Billy Squier and Elton John. It is stations like WMRF that ruin Christmas music for many people. Thankfully, all of you have discovered music blogs.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town – The Harmony Grits
A smokin’ version of the classic—this one explodes in drums, backup vocals, and an impassioned lead that sounds like he’s pleading for Santa. For goodness sake!

If Every Day Was Like Christmas – Elvis Presley
One of the best Christmas albums every recorded, right up there with Phil Spector and The Beach Boys. This beautiful lead-off track reminds you (in case you ever forgot) what a great voice the King had in his prime. And of course, it would be a wonderful world if every day was like Christmas.

I’ll Be Home on Christmas Day (Alternate Version) – Elvis Presley
Not to take anything away from the regular version Elvis sings, but this alternate is a treat. A great bluesy groove adds quite a bit. In fact, the only thing this shares with the original is the title and lyrics. In my opinion, it's the definitive version of the song. Love that key change half-way through. Reminds me of the man’s fantastic output before his stint in the service.

Christmastime Blues – Trainwreck Riders
So, there’s some debate about what actually qualifies as a Christmas song. Obviously, the three songs above, directly reference the holiday. However, there are lots of others, like “Christmastime Blues,” that might not be what you consider a true-blue Christmas song. A famous example of this is Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December.” Though it was included on a Haggard Christmas album, the song is about a man who loses his job amidst a recession and makes a passing reference that “Daddy can’t afford no Christmas this year.” Some critics say that this isn’t enough to classify as a Christmas song. I think that’s hogwash. Sadly, not everyone enjoys prosperity and happiness this time of year, and Haggard’s song exemplifies that (don’t worry, we’ll be posting in a bit). And so does this tune by the Trainwreck Riders. While its references to the holidays aren’t overly obvious, it’s about spending the holidays alone.

But what do you think? What classifies as a Christmas tune? And what doesn’t? For some reason “My Favorite Things” by Rodgers and Hammerstein is played this time of year—that always confused me. The movie Love Actually does a great job at mocking artists who only try to record that Christmastime number one hit.

Repost Request:
77 Santas – Gayla Peevey

November 08, 2007

Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day

What a great season it’s been thus far. We’ve had more visits in just the first than week than we had all season last year. It’s been wonderful. The comments have also been much appreciated. That’s what Christmas is all about—bringing people together, whether that might be at your family dinner table or through the blogosphere. With that said, I’d like to send my best to our friends over at Bongobells. They’ve dealt with some hard times recently—you can read about it on their site. Here’s hoping the season finds them, and everyone, in the best of places.

As I compiled the songs for today’s post, I realized that nearly all of them are a little downbeat. It’s a cloudy, cold day here in Virginia and the songs fit the atmosphere today.

Please Come Home for Christmas – Charles Brown
Here’s an example of why people hate the typical Christmas tunes we hear on the radio. Each year, stations drag out the boring, uninspired Eagles version of this song. And, if you only listen to mainstream radio (and I suppose people still do), you’d only know of that version and be missing Charles Brown soulful and mournful rendition. This is by far my favorite version of the song. We have another one done by The Uniques that we’ll post this season.

Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day – Brenda Lee
Yet again—everyone knows “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” which is a fine tune. But Brenda Lee recorded lots of Christmas songs. Don’t let those soaring strings and backup vocals fool you—much like “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home” this is a deeply melancholy song.

Christmas Is Just Another Day for Me – Ernest Tubb
The Texas Troubadour lamenting the “gloom around [his] Christmas tree.” Tubb’s voice was unmistakable. He actually mocked his own singing style. He told an interviewer that 95% of the men in bars would hear his music on the juke box and reply to their girlfriends, "I can sing better than him," and Tubb added that they would be right. But of course, we know that’s not true. The rip of this song features a skip toward the end for some reason.

Christmas Eve Can Kill You – The Everly Brothers
The brothers never sounded more like Simon and Garfunkle than on this 1972 track. It’s relentlessly depressing and might verge on parody if their vocals didn’t play it so straight. It should be no surprise that the song was included in a now out-of-print compilation called Bummed Out Christmas which featured such other downbeat holiday songs as “Santa Got a DWI” and “Somebody Stole My Santa.”

Call Collect On Christmas – Del McCoury
This one comes courtesy of Brendan over at The Rising Storm, one of my favorite blog sites on the net. I had never heard this track before but it just might take the cake as the saddest on this list. This comes from 1974’s My Dixie Home. As Brendan noted, it doesn’t sound like a “typical” Christmas song. But it certainly sounds like the best of bluegrass.

Coming up in the next few days, I’ll try to dig back through my CD collection and post a few pre-war blues tracks.