Monday, December 22, 2008

Three to Consider: Hidden Holiday Treats

I am still happily preoccupied with seasonal activities (and less happily still dealing with work too close to the big day). So here is a lazy offering to fill the time let's take a look at a new category--holiday tunes that appear on regular albums as opposed to included on entire holiday albums. They just sort of pop-up on these albums.

In many cases, I am not a big fan of these as they seem terribly out of place to me. For instance, one of my all time favorite jazz artists is Dexter Gordon and one of my favorite tunes of his is "The Panther" which is on the album with the same title (it is also the reason our big black and white cat's name is Dexter). Anyway, in the midst of this album comes Dex's version of "The Christmas Song." It is a great version and, in fact, leads off a nice jazz holiday compilation album I have . . .  but it is totally out of place there.

Now this is surely part of my over-the-top rules about holiday music which shall never be played before Thanksgiving our after New Year's Day (really, that is enough isn't it?). Of course, as with all hard-and-fast rules, there are exceptions and here are three of mine. The key to all of these very different tunes is that they all work as holiday songs and as songs on the albums they appear on.

First up, we have The Waitresses with "Christmas Wrapping"--and this is a bit of stretch since it was first released as an EP, but I have it where I suspect many do which is on their Best Of album. So we find it mixed in with other holiday favorites such as "I Know What Boys Like" and "They're All Out of Liquor, Let's Find Another Party." And yet, it works--perhaps cuz it is so eighties danceable, who knows.

Next we have an absolutely beautiful retelling of the Christmas story from Bruce Cockburn. No sap here, just a great storyteller putting his spin on a narrative that has been told a million times. I love, in particular, how he characterizes Joseph as the miffed-jealous partner and how Mary sets him straight. "Cry of a Tiny Babe" sits in the midst of a great Cockburn album Nothing But a Burning Light which is held together by a theme of searching for the character of a man's soul (and for Bruce, I do think it is about a man's character), which is perhaps why this fits so well.

And last, we have Chrissie Hynde singing "2000 Miles" from the Pretenders Learning to Crawl album. This tune is really a song of love and longing, but the use of Christmastime as a place-holder for happier times and the snow imagery make it a fine holiday tune, although it also serves as a wonderful closing tune to this album.

Christmas Wrapping
Cry of a Tiny Babe
2000 Miles


Lisa B. said...

I am really loving the Bruce C. Christmas album you recommended earlier. The Pretenders song is one of my absolute favorites, off of one of my absolute favorite albums. Thanks for these tips.

CPS said...

Yeah I love that Pretenders album as well--been listening to it this week, mainly because of this post, which makes me realize that I associate that album not just with college, but with Fall semester and even more with the end of that semester--but that is a whole other post about undergraduate years, College Roommate and trips on I-75 in Ohio many years ago!