Sunday, December 25, 2011

Santa’s Grab Bag

Merry Christmas!

Here's another Post Of Christmas Past. This time, it's a collection of holiday tunes from various sources.

“Thanks For Christmas” Few bands can match XTC when it comes to crafting clever lyrics and indelible melodies. “Thanks For Christmas” stands out on New Wave Xmas, a Rhino various artists compilation that also includes “2000 Miles” by The Pretenders and “Christmas Day” by Squeeze. Introduced with some triumphant horn playing, “Thanks For Christmas” finds XTC using gorgeous harmonies while creating scenes like Santa’s reindeer resting after a hard-working Christmas Eve and ecstatic kids decorating trees.

“Come Around” Appearing on Mindy Smith’s 2007 My Holiday CD, this tune evokes vintage Bangles with ringing guitars and layered vocals as it calls on children, women, and men to celebrate Christmas by worshiping together.

“George Bailey” A lot of current holiday songs mention It’s A Wonderful Life, but Brooklyn-based singer-bass player Carolyn Sills goes them one better by devoting an entire song to Frank Capra’s put-upon hero. Set to an inviting arrangement that mixes twangy Country & Western music with a bit of the 1960s girl group sound, “George Bailey” merrily whisks us off to Bedford Falls. Sills notes that the character won her over as a kid. “George Bailey, I’ll love you ‘til the day I die,” she sings on the chorus, echoing the words of Mary Hatch. “Every Christmas Eve, you make me cry.”

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” The Pretenders recorded this gem for the 1987 charity LP, A Very Special Christmas, and it remains one of the best versions of this popular standard.

“What’s This?” A musical sleigh ride from the soundtrack of Nightmare Before Christmas, this fully orchestrated song has quick rhymes and clever imagery. “What’s This?” follows Jack Skellington through Christmas Town as he discovers a holiday that’s completely foreign to him. Jack, of course, is more accustomed to the gross and ghoulish trappings of his domain, Halloween. “What’s this?” he continually asks in amazement as he encounters snow, caroling, gifts and elves for the first time.

“Winter Wonderland” The 1994 CD A Hello Dave Christmas With Friends aimed to raise funds to help children afflicted with or affected by HIV/AIDS. Imagine your car breaking down on a deserted country road while you’re driving to some party on Christmas Eve. You walk to the nearest open venue, which happens to be a rustic bar. Hello Dave is onstage and has the local townsfolk up and dancing to its Country & Western versions of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Silent Night,” and other classics. “Winter Wonderland” rocks to the loping bass lines played by Willis Potocki and some spirited harmonies from vocalist-guitarist Mike Himebaugh and vocalist Paul Bolger.

“We Wish You A Merry Christmas” Acoustic Christmas, released by The Daugherty McPartland Group in 1996, celebrates the holidays with an easy going vibe. Tim Daugherty’s fluid piano playing takes center stage throughout the CD, but Dennis McPartland on percussion, Bob Thompson on saxes and flutes, and Jim Munro on bass are also impressive. People who enjoyed Vince Guaraldi’s score for A Charlie Brown Christmas will find a lot to like here, and in fact, “Christmas Time Is Here” is included on Acoustic Christmas. “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” is both classy and fun, and like all of Acoustic Christmas, the perfect soundtrack for a friendly, holiday get-together.

“Double-0-Santa” The 2002 holiday compilation 50,000,000 Elves Fans Can’t Be Wrong lives up to its title with a variety of fun tracks, and “Double-0-Santa” by the Boston based band Seks Bomba is one the best. This lounge tune mixes the concepts of a Secret Santa and a secret agent, with humorous results. “Mistakes are bad for business, says the man called Father Christmas, AKA Double-0-Santa,” vocalist-guitarist Chris Cote reveals over a slinky guitar and keyboards arrangement. Santa isn’t too cool accept snacks, but it should be understood that he likes his “egg nog stirred, never shaken.”

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