Perhaps many eons ago there was a glorious time when the world wasn’t overrun with Madison Avenue’s unrelenting push to make Christmas (or if you insist on being PC, “The Holidays”) come 264 days a year, bringing yuletide stress to people across the globe in an endless quest to have the perfect gifts for everyone.
One of the things that keeps me a shut-in in winter is the generic playlist of Andy Williams’ “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas,” and a slew of maudlin Bing Crosby covers of stale Christmas ballads, that get played at every American place of business. I believe that some really groovy holiday music can make Christmas infinitely more enjoyable. The good news is that these songs are pretty easy to find, (please take note of this businesses).
Let’s get our Christmas groove on.
Traditional Xmas ballads don’t have to be the sappy borefest that they usually are. Nancy Wilson’s warm, vivacious mid-tempo ignites fresh air to Vince Guaraldi’s oft recorded standard, “Christmastime is Here.”
The Pointer Sisters’ passionate and adrenaline-inducing gospel rendition of “Silent Night” knocks all the slow-burning lullaby versions out of the park.
Here’s another one because The Pointer Sisters are the bomb.
As a rule of thumb, Christmas is more interesting in places other than Bethlehem, such as New Orleans or Hollis as Louis Armstrong and RUN-DMC prove.
If you have the patience, prepared to be transfixed by Duke Ellington’s intricate symphonic jazz composition “The Three Black Kings.”
If you’re looking to spice things up with something pessimistic, Tom Waits’ sarcastic interpretation of “Silent Night” bookending the acerbically grim “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” is tailor made for you.
Before Sarah McLachlan had a bestseller with Wintersong, an album that featured less traditional holiday songs, June Christy did it first, and did it better. Her 1961 album This Time of Year, which features all original songs, is one of the most underappreciated gems of the season. “Christmas Heart” is indicative of the album’s Zen and humanism.
Did I leave anything out? Give me your holiday playlist.