A Guide to Holiday Music That Doesn’t Suck

Courtesy of www.tumblr.com

Courtesy of www.tumblr.com

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.

2 thoughts on “A Guide to Holiday Music That Doesn’t Suck

  1. Candace

    This is absolutely fabulous. I especially love Nancy Wilson’s and Tom Waits’ offerings here. I manage to avoid a lot of sap during the holidays by playing Vince Guaraldi and other jazz renditions of holiday music like Satchmo’s LPs and the occasional renditions of Tchiakovsky’s “Nutcracker” — both the traditional and the not so trad versions.

    I am hoping you had a great time of it this season. There’s nothing like eating out and listening to music from other countries rather than the latest edition of “White Christmas”. It was okay then… but not so much now. And those stupid novelty songs were never okay. Ever.

    1. Adam Tawfik

      Hi Candace,

      Thanks for your lovely comment as always. I hope you and Tia had a fabulous holiday. Jazz interpretations of Xmas songs are the best…Jazz is the best period. White Christmas is a terrible song that doesn’t need another cover, period.


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