So, you say you've been looking for a holiday music mix that blends just the right amounts of the traditional, the bizarre and the sublime? That it's of extreme importance to you that your holiday party be graced by the same tunes as holiday parties hosted by the CSP staff all over the world? Well, look no further. This, the first in what will become a regular series by the folks here at CSP, is the definitive mix of holiday music for 2005, as chosen by CSP staff writers.
Click on the song name to grab it from iTunes, or (for those songs which are not available through iTunes) from wherever we were able to find it. Oh, and Happy Non-denominational Holidays, from all of us at Clark Schpiell Productions.
Christmas Time is Here
Vince Guaraldi Trio
A lovely song. Only blockheads don't like this one.
For my money, this is the most beautiful Christmas song going. Sweet, slighly melancholy -- brilliant. Plus, it reminds me of Christmas as a child like nobody's business.
Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Cynicism and hard truths are rare qualities in holiday music, likely because holiday music is intended to help set the proper tone for dealing with family and fellow shoppers during the holiday season, a mix of bland optimism and pallid sentimentality. Lennon's song is the philosophical counterpoint to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"... "And so this is Christmas, and what have we done" indeed. Many versions have been recorded since its release in 1972, some fine, some less so. I recommend the original, although The Alarm have an excellent version on their Raw album if you dislike choruses of children or Yoko's vocal stylings, positions which I find thoroughly justifiable.
Another classic and something to wish for this season.
I'd forgotten how much I liked this song until I listened to it again. Please, all you blowhards out there screaming about the "War on Christmas," take a deep breath and, though I know it pains you to encourage hippies, even dead ones, listen to this song. Really listen. Isn't there something you could be doing with your time this holiday season that serves your religious beliefs better than fighting to change the signage at your local Target store?
12 Days of Christmas
Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters
My older sister Amy was kind of a hard-ass in high school, listening to songs by Judas Priest, Motley Crue and the like. However we had a Christmas album with greats like Bing Crosby and Dean Martin. We would put on this album and be inspired to act out the 12 days in a charades-like manner. For that brief moment in time, my sister would cease to be the bad-ass, "I'll Kick Your Ass if You Touch My Billy Squire Album" sister and became a hysterically funny, leaping, flailing lunatic.
Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto
'Cuz when James Brown isn't beatin' down hoes with the butt of his shotgun, he's busy rockin' my ass. Sucka.
Roses are Red
In 8th grade, I listened to the Wham! version over and over, singing every word with emphatic emotion. The Roses are Red version allows me to continue to do so as an adult with much less embarrassment about my taste in music.
I clearly have a much less developed sense of shame than Michelle does -- I'll stick with the original Wham! version, thank you. George Michael and Andrew Ridgely forever!
The Little Drummer Boy
Harry Simeone Chorale
In the spirit of the season, I'll make a confession: I usually loathe choral music; something about a bunch of retards in robes singing with that mouth-dropped-open earnest-as-an-altar-boy look just makes my lunch revisit my trachea. But a light drumbeat, spare instrumentation and a chorus of talented folks taking on this haunting and stately classic is just too much for me to resist. I wore a groove in one of my parents old records listening to this tune as a kid; I couldn't find the exact version, but this is in the same vein and terribly moving.
I, too, love "The Little Drummer Boy" song that joseph and I used to listen to as kids. joseph is younger than I, so his memory is a bit off. This song was not on LP but on 8-track. I fondly remember sitting in front of the hi-fi with headphones listening to this and other favorite holiday songs on that 8-track over and over during our Christmas break from school.
A sassy, jazzy, fun Christmas tune that I can groove too. I think Macy's is using it this year though, which ruins it a wee bit for me ... ah well, it's still a favorite!
Driven Like the Snow
Sisters of Mercy
Ok, ok, perhaps this isn't a traditional holiday song. It is a Christmas time song for me though. Driving the back roads in North Dakota late at night during Christmas vacation. Snow falling heavy all around. The headlights shining off of the snow making everything outside of the beams a white curtain. A song that remembers those days and wish for them sometimes.
(don't laugh...) This isn't so much a favorite song as it is a completely manic-high version of the classic. My mom loved the Streisand Christmas album and as much as it was universally despised in my household, this song threw me into fits of giggles.
Pokemon Christmas Bash
There's a war on Christmas, all right - perpertrated by Pokemon and his snarling band of pocket evil-doers. Playing this record backwards, I can distinctly hear "Snorlax is dead. Long live Snorlax" Sq-sq-squaggle.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
This version is lovely and melancholy and reminds me why James Taylor's music is absolutely timeless. The man's voice never ages, never corrodes, and makes a soul-less girl like me feel something.
Merry Christmas from the Family
Robert Earl Keen
White Trash Superlative. This song is at once endearing and hilarious.
(Carrie prefers the Jill Sobule version) This song is the antithesis to a Rockwell painting, but shows a more realistic side of family gatherings.
Fairytale of New York
This is a song about a bleak and hopeless Christmas. Sometimes I view Christmas that way and this song is apropos. Kirsty MacColl's voice coming in after Sean MacGowan is a wonderful uplifting note. I usually laugh at the dark humor of the song.
White Christmas (alternate take)
Released on the CD version of "Ella Wishes You a Swingin' Christmas," Fitzgerald's slowed-down bluesy take on this standard has that perfect sip-a-warm-mug-of-something-and-slip-your-arm-over-your-honey-while-watching-the-snow-fall atmosphere that can make the season more than just a crass ganglion of travel headaches and unwanted sweaters and turn it into something that resonates, something that matters. No mean feat. Thanks, Ella.
John Popper & Eric Clapton
It's John Popper and Eric Clapton. Figure it out.
Santa Claus vs. Dave Matthews
The Prince of Darkness vs. the man in red. I'm not sure what Eli has against Dave Matthews, but I'm sure he deserves it. Maybe I'll actually see the Monolators live again someday.
A Holly Jolly Christmas
Burl Ives makes a cool snowman. How does he move without legs? Crazy.
Okay, so the only real connection this song has with Christmas is the opening line ("It's coming on Christmas/we're cutting down trees"). Still, it shows up on almost every Christmas collection, and a handful of really good covers (Indigo Girls, Robert Downey Jr., etc.) have been made of it. Why? Because it is simply an awesome song.
Christmas in Washington
A song about heroes. A Christmas prayer for great Americans from the past (Woody Guthrie, Emma Goldman) to come back and save America from it's current state. I know if I could get anything I wanted for Christmas it would be to have some of the great voices from the past to come back and speak out about the crap that is going on now.
The Christmas Song
Nat King Cole
Simply the best.
I'll Be Home for Christmas
Over the past 14 or 15 years I've spent many Christmasses abroad. Growing up in the Dakotas, Christmas for me was always a wonderful wintry time with family, ham and turkey dinners, great presents, and claymation TV specials. My first Christmas away from home, in 1991, was in Taiwan. There Christmas is only a commercial opportunity (like Valentine's Day in the US). I had to work that day and Christmas dinner was a plate of fried rice and boiled dumplings (there is much better food in Taiwan, but I very nervous about trying new things in those days). It was such a depressing period and a friend of mine wouldn't stop singing (ironically) "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Written in 1943 (at the height of WWII), this song was understandably a huge hit with GIs far from their families. Bing Crosby's original version is still the best, but for a modern rock cover, check out Matchbook Romance's version at www.ourmedia.org/node/105290.
The Who Village Choir
How the Grinch Stole Christmas has always been my favorite Christmas special. I can't help but smile when I hear this song -- my heart's only one size too small.
Cheesy, light, fun and irresistibly Paul. And I love Paul.
Whenever I think about Christmas, the first song that pops into my head is always "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney. I mention this song somewhat reluctantly, however, as it's certainly not the best song ever. Even as someone who grew up as a rabid McCartney fan, I think this song sounds like it could have been written by a lobotomy patient (for the most part, the simplistic lyric "we're simply having a wonderful christmastime" is repeated over and over for about 3 and a half minutes). However, it has stuck in my head since it was released as a single in 1979. It has actually seen a resurgence in the past few years with covers done by artists including hip-hopper De La Soul.