I honestly don’t think that there’s anybody who is impartial to Holiday music - either you love it or you hate it. I tend to lean toward the latter (years of working retail will do that), but I’m not a total Grinch about it. There are some outstanding songs, time-worn favorites, under-the-radar hits, and bonafide classics that I do enjoy - as long as they’re not over played. Here is a list of songs and LPs to help you ring in the season, all of which are great (unless otherwise mentioned) and available for your downloading pleasure on Freegal. Use your library card to download up to 5 songs per week, free and with no due dates. Happy Holidays! - Mark (Downtown)
The Kinks - “Father Christmas” This overlooked classic is, hands down, the best Christmas song ever (in my opinion, of course). With a scorching guitar riff and a top-notch vocal melody, this classic is thankfully absent from every seasonal playlist you hear in the shopping mall or on radio. That’s a good thing.
The Waitresses - “Christmas Wrapping” With its chanky guitar and catchy horn section, this bittersweet “wrap” song is one of my favorites, despite its recent overuse in TV ads. Sometimes you just want to be alone during the holidays, and The Waitresses understand your dilemma.
The Sonics - “Don’t Believe in Christmas”This blast of bah-humbug from the ‘60’s may be a little reminiscent of Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” but I won’t hold it against them. A perfectly spiteful two minute track to get you in the festive spirit.
Chet Atkins - Christmas with Chet Chester Burton Atkins was an absolute monster on the guitar. Listen to his distinct chordal harmonics on “White Christmas”, his dexterous fretwork on “Jingle Bell Rock”, and the best version of “Silver Bells” by anyone ever, including Bing Crosby.
Various Artists - A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector Long before he was pulling shotguns on unsuspecting studio engineers, Phil Spector pioneered the sound of the ‘60’s, overseeing The Ronettes, The Drifters, etc. Although this album is a bit overplayed (to say the least), it is still one of the best Christmas albums of all time. “Sleigh Ride”, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, and “Marshmallow World” are standouts, but the whole album is terrific.
Various Artists - Underground Garage Presents: Christmas A Go Go Stevie Van Zandt (rhythm guitarist for Bruce Springsteen) had his own radio show years ago wherein he played classic garage songs and Nuggets-inspired underground hits. This is a heaping dose of holiday hipness, which includes the previously mentioned Kinks classic, as well as seasonal fare from The Ramones and The Electric Prunes.
Fishbone – It’s A Wonderful Life EP The SoCal funk/punk/ska band Fishbone released a four-song Christmas EP back in 1987, which has long gone out of print, yet the tracks were thankfully included on their 1996 career retrospective. The title track, along with songs like “Just Call Me Scrooge” and “Slick Nick, You Devil”, represent some of the coolest below-the-radar seasonal songs out there. Hyperactive, diverse, and totally goofy fun, to liven up even the most depressed during the holidays.
Other notable favorite albums:
Bob Dylan - Christmas in the Heart
Low - Christmas
Vince Guaraldi - O Tannebaum
South Park - Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics
El Vez - Merry MeX-Mas
Asleep at the Wheel - Lone Star Christmas Night
Various Artists - Rare & Unusual Christmas Songs
Various Artists - The Classic Christmas ‘80’s Album
Not-so-favorite, but hilarious and irreverent:
The Partridge Family - A Partridge Family Christmas Card Although the Brady Bunch beat them to the punch for novelty TV show tie-ins, this cheeseball collection of caterwauling from David Cassidy/Danny Bonaduce/et al. is a perfect way to annoy your friends and loved ones while you spike the eggnog. They’ll never know what hit them.
Twisted Sister - A Twisted Christmas Live No hair metal band was more anthemic than Twisted Sister, capable of engaging throngs of people into yelling along with their classics like “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” - which makes this strange marriage of rebellious spirit and traditional yuletide all the more perplexing. A great album for drowning out the treacle.
Jim Nabors - Jim Nabors’ Christmas Album The recently departed Jim Nabors possessed one of the strongest baritones out there, and he put it to great use on this collection of holiday standards. But it’s his interpretations of the not-so-standards that make this LP worthwhile; “Go Tell It On the Mountain”, “In a Humble Place”, and “Christmas Eve in My Hometown” are so over-the-top, totally corny, and loaded with saccharine back-up vocals, that it’s hard to imagine a better soundtrack for your next ugly sweater contest.
Other ironically hip albums:
New Kids on the Block - Merry, Merry Christmas
‘NSYNC - Home for Christmas
Kenny Chesney - All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan
Bette Midler - Cool Yule
Liberace - Merry Christmas with Liberace
John Schneider - White Christmas
Wilson Phillips - Christmas in Harmony