Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Music That Doesn't Suck

Hello folks! It's the holiday season, and we know what means: godawful Christmas music played everywhere. It's always the same lame songs done in a halfassed fashion. Either that or an artist's original composition that's even worse. My love of the farty synth on Macca's "Wonderful Christmastime" is the result of a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. The next time you're at a holiday party and they play that shit, commandeer the stereo and put these selections on.

Miles Davis, "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern"

The whole song is just one long critique of holiday consumerism with some fantastic Miles Davis trumpet playing underneath it. A real palate cleanser after having been subjected to the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick" for the hundredth time.

Free Design, "Close Your Mouth It's Christmas"

The jazzy late 60s sophisti-pop sound won't freak out the squares but it's just weird enough to give a change of pace to your holiday guests. I've had it in my head all day long today.

James Brown, "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto"

You can never, ever go wrong with the Godfather of Soul, of course. He put out some great Christmas music, but this is probably my favorite. There's a whole subgenre of Christmas music about imploring or forcing Santa to redistribute the wealth to poor children. This song is among the best of the type.

Otis Redding, "Merry Christmas Baby"

Speaking of soul music, Otis Redding could cut a Christmas track, too. I love this one both for his typically sweaty delivery, but also for Booker T's holiday organ sound. Why on earth this song isn't played at the malls instead of the lame "Jingle Bell Rock" is totally beyond me.

Jimmy Smith, Christmas Cookin'

And speaking of the organ, if you want a whole Christmas album to put on, I'd recommend Jimmy Smith's. He does some jazz versions of holiday standards, but the organ gives it an especially Christmas-y sound even if the music itself gets really far out at times. One of the few Christmas albums that actually feels fresh and original.

Reece Shipley, "Santa Miss Those Missiles"

If you REALLY want to get real far gone listen to this track, a fine example of the lunacy of the Cold War.

Ernest Tubb, "I'll Be Walking The Floor This Christmas"

Ernest Tubb reconfigured his biggest country hit, "Walking the Floor Over You" into a depressing holiday tune. As we all know, the holidays can bring sadness and dredge up bad memories. Rarely do the songs blasted out in waiting rooms and grocery stores go to those places.

Tom Waits, "Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis"

Speaking of sad Christmas songs, there's always this Tom Waits gem, one of the greatest portraits of ordinary despair ever painted in a song.

Bessie Smith, "At The Christmas Ball"

Before the nineteenth century's cult of domesticity, Christmas was less about family time and more about making merry and having a ball. That spirit still lives on in the people who get blitzed at their company holiday party. My favorite song for THIS Christmas spirit comes from Bessie Smith, Queen of the Blues. Basically this song is about wanting to go out on Christmas and tie one on.

King Curtis, "The Christmas Song"

I'll end on a sweeter note, though. King Curtis could wring emotion out of the sax like no one else, and it's a damn shame that he's not a household name. If you want to kick back in front of the fire with some very heavily spiked egg nog this is just about the most perfect thing.

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