Friday, December 19, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Cassettes: 6 A Mildly Depressing Exploration of Genre Christmas Music

Welcome to the Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks 12 Days of Christmas celebration extravaganza!!! (Don't send me messages telling me that the 12 days of Christmas actually BEGIN on Christmas and end on January 6th, with the Epiphany. I know. But I'm not celebrating that way... so let us quickly move along.)

Along with more famous Christmas albums put out by favorite artists, groups, animated characters, Muppets, or as the soundtracks to holiday films... you will also find your alliterative collections of specific genre-themed Christmas albums. A couple of those that I found (and that looked tolerable to me) were these: 

The first one, Jingle Bell Jazz, is (you guessed it!) a compilation of jazz Christmas music. I think the track that won me over and that made this tape coming home with me an inevitability was Miles Davis's "Blue Xmas" which is not to be confused with the song "Blue Christmas". It is a poisonously pessimistic look at Christmas through the eyes of someone surrounded by the hypocrisy of Christmas in the city. I treasure songs like these almost as much as the heart-warming ones because it reminds us that not all of the Scrooges are necessarily evil... and they aren't always necessarily wrong.

The rest of the tracks on the tape are fun, a lot of them instrumental, and almost all of them livelier, (jazzier!) versions of old favorites. I especially love the scat-CRAZINESS that is "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie".

-Side A-
1. Duke Ellington - Jingle Bells
2. Lionel Hampton - White Christmas
3. Chico Hamilton - Winter Wonderland
4. Carmen McRae - The Christmas Song
5. Pony Poindexter - Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
6. Paul Horn - We Three Kings of Orient Are

-Side B- 
7. The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
8. Lambert Hendricks and Ross - Deck Us All With Boston Charlie
9. Herbie Hancock - Deck the Halls
10. The Manhattan Jazz All-Stars - If I Were a Bell
11. Marlowe Morris - Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
12. Miles Davis - Blue Xmas

Next, the Country Christmas. I'll be honest here, I would NOT have bought this thing if there wasn't a Johnny Cash song included. And it is arguable not even a Christmas song. I have never heard of the story of Belshazar in relation to Christmas before... but it's Johnny Cash singing about a greedy king and a disembodied hand writing in blood. That and Miles Davis's "Blue XMas" and this is one of the darkest Christmas's ever. I love the line "He was weighed in the balance and found wanting," in Cash's deep voice.

-Side A- 
1. Roy Drusky - White Christmas
2. Jean Shepard - O Come All Ye Faithful
3. Del Reeves - I Saw Mommy Dance With Santa
4. David Frizzell - Blue Christmas
5. Billie Jo Spears - Silent Night
6. Bobby Helms - Jingle Bell Rock

-Side B- 
7. Porter Wagoner - Johnny's Christmas Tree
8. Ginny Wright - O Holy Night
9. Patti Page - Holidays
10. Johnny Cash - "Belshazah" (The song is supposed to be "Belshazar" but appears to be misprinted on both the cassette itself and on the liner notes) 
11. Leroy Van Dyke - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
12. Your Country Singers - Sleigh Ride

To be honest, I haven't given many of the other tracks a try (I hunt all this stuff down on YouTube because I indeed do NOT own a cassette player on which to listen to cassettes... I just collect them mostly as objets d'art for the time being. A tape player is actually secondary in importance to the cassettes for me at this time...) so I have no idea if the rest of the tape is charming or grating or both in equal measure. Patti Page's "Holidays" is depressing in an awesome way. It's all about heartbreak... and that sort of horrorshow seems to be a running theme in today's post.

I'll be going right up through Christmas day itself posting, so be sure to join me back here tomorrow for more of the 12 Days of Christmas Cassettes celebration!!! Merry Christmas and Happy Hunting!

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