Local girl sings Christmas

Here’s a find: what Rolling Stone considers 40 Essential Holiday Albums. The author is obviously wrong. He did not include Bette Midler’s 2011 album “Cool Yule”. Here’s “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” yet another Irving Berlin composition. It was written in 1937 for the musical “On the Avenue,” starring Dick Powell and Alice Faye.

Not every Christmas song is secular

Here’s a case in point. “Angels We Have Heard on High” is performed here by a cover band called “Foxes and Fossils.” They have three young ladies who sing exquisite harmony, and it’s shown to their advantage with this song.

The song itself is a loose translation of a French song, “Les Anges dans nos campagnes,” with English lyrics by James Chadwick, a Roman Catholic priest and Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle in the 19th century.

Look up the Foxes and Fossils channel on YouTube. You won’t regret it.

In the country for a moment

The Ventures play a rousing version of “Sleigh Ride” on their 1965 album “The Ventures’ Christmas Album.” The band inspired untold numbers of guitarists in its time and was among the first to use fuzz-tones and special effects to enhance its guitar sound. While three of the original band members have died and the fourth has retired, the band continues to tour, especially in Japan where it is extraordinarily popular.

City Suite, Part Three

Mary Chapin Carpenter sings “Christmas Time in the City,” from her “Come Darkness, Come Light” album. It was released in 2008, so I’ve been promoting it for 10 years and will probably do so another ten, if I live that long. It’s a beautiful album, half original compositions by Carpenter, some with guitarist and co-producer John Jennings. The other six cuts are traditional but seldom heard on commercial radio or Muzak.

Dreaming of Snow

I haven’t posted this in a while (not since 2015, to be exact), and I’d forgotten how cute the cartoon is. The animation was done by cartoonist Joshua Held back in 2002. The song was performed by The Drifters on their 1954 Christmas album.

Here’s an interesting note about this version:

“We wanted to do something different with ‘White Christmas’,” Bill Pinkney said in his autobiography, Drifters 1. “We did it in a ballad-with-a-beat version that became a big hit. Atlantic [Records] wondered what composer Irving Berlin would think. He surprised everyone when he gave our version his blessings. He really liked it and he contacted Atlantic with a letter of congratulations.”

For a more extensive history of the song please see my 2018 post.

Jingle Bells

Yeah yeah, I know. Silly song, nothing to it, right? Well, listen to this instrumental arrangement by Roy Clark, the extraordinary guitarist who died last year.

The song was written by James Lord Pierpont and first published in 1857. Oddly, it was originally intended as a Thanksgiving song, but it evolved. The historians theorize that “jingle” was meant initially as a verb: shake or rattle the reins on the sleigh in order to make its presence known to other sleigh-drivers.

O Christmas Tree

We picked our 4-5′ Douglas fir up yesterday. We used to get 5-6′ ones, and it’s amazing how much weight that extra foot adds.

Here’s “O Tannenbaum.” From Wikipedia: “The modern lyrics were written in 1824 by the Leipzig organist, teacher and composer Ernst Anschütz. A Tannenbaum is a fir tree. The lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas, or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir’s evergreen quality as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.”

This video version just appeared this year, and there’s quite a story behind it. During the 2015 Big Band Holidays concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Aretha Franklin was a surprise guest. She played and sang this without warning either the orchestra or the host, Wynton Marsalis. Watch the musicians in the background.