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A Quirky Eclectic Christmas Mix (2012 ed.)

December 21st, 2012 · 3 Comments

'Christmas on the Moon,' performed by Troy Hess

[Image: “Christmas on the Moon” (1970), recorded — perhaps even written — by four-year-old Troy Hess]

Welcome to this year’s installment of what’s become an annual series here.

Once again, I’ve added ten songs to the bottom of the previous years’ entries. As before, these artists and numbers appear, back-to-back, in the following playlist:

— 2008: —

  1. Peter Robbins et al.: dialogue from A Charlie Brown Christmas
  2. Anonymous 4: Hodie Christus Natus Est
  3. Waverly Consort: Three Spanish Villancicos – Dadme Albcrecias
  4. Perry Como: Home for the Holidays
  5. Mannheim Steamroller: Joy to the World
  6. George Winston: The Holly and the Ivy
  7. Celtic Woman: O Holy Night
  8. John Denver and the Muppets: The Twelve Days of Christmas
  9. Al Hirt: Nutty Jingle Bells
  10. The Roches: Deck the Halls
    — 2009: —
  11. Charlotte Church: Mary’s Boy Child
  12. Madeleine Peyroux/k.d. lang: River
  13. George Winston: Variations on the Kanon
  14. Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops: The Toy Trumpet
  15. Eartha Kitt: Santa Baby
  16. Mannheim Steamroller: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  17. Celtic Woman: The Wexford Carol
  18. The Brian Setzer Orchestra: Jingle Bells
  19. Jimmy Boyd: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  20. Cumberland Gap Reunion: Silent Night
    — 2010: —
  21. Sam Phillips: Cold Dark Night (lyrics)
  22. Elvis Presley: Blue Christmas
  23. Loreena McKennitt: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (may be my favorite addition to this year’s list…)
  24. The Chipmunks: The Chipmunk Song
  25. Frank Sinatra: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  26. London Philharmonic Orchestra: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
  27. Tony Elman: Winter Creek
  28. Sara Groves: Toy Packaging (lyrics) (…and this may be my favorite for grins)
  29. Harry Belafonte: Mary’s Boy Child
  30. Ray Conniff Singers: Ring Christmas Bells
    — 2011: —
  31. Ralph Marterie and His Band: Dig That Crazy Santa  Claus
  32. Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song
  33. The Indigo Girls: It Really Is (A Wonderful Life) (lyrics)
  34. Johnny Mercer and the Pied Pipers: Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
  35. Dean Martin: Baby It’s Cold Outside (also see the wonderful American Songwriter writeup on the story of this song’s composition [thanks, Jules!])
  36. Ferrante and Teicher: Sleigh Ride
  37. Bo Dollis & Wild Magnolias: Shakana Santa Shake It
  38. Neil Diamond: Silver Bells
  39. Taverner Consort, Choir, & Players (Andrew Parrott, conductor): Branle de l’Officiel (Ding! Dong! Merrily on High)
  40. George Winston: Carol of the Bells
    — 2012: —
  41. Michael Tilson-Thomas & Philharmonia Orchestra: The Nutcracker (Overture)
  42. Vince Guaraldi Trio: O Tannenbaum
  43. Troy Hess: Christmas on the Moon (And don’t worry, it’s not just you: no one else seems to understand the lyrics (other than the refrain), either.* America’s Singing Souvenir Troy Hess was four years old when he recorded this in 1970. )
  44. Barbra Streisand: I Wonder as I Wander
  45. Frank Sinatra: Jingle Bells
  46. Al Hirt: Ave Maria
  47. Art Neville: Christmas Gumbo
  48. Ella Fitzgerald: Frosty the Snowman
  49. Dean Martin: I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  50. Choir of King’s College, Cambridge: Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht

(Note: The playlist goes automatically from start to finish, once you click the little Play button. To fast-forward to the next number, once a song is playing you’ll find a little fast-forward button to the right of its progress meter. And a fast-rewind to the left, for that matter.)

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Last year, I added the option of listening to just the current ten-song list, without having to fast-forward to it through earlier lists. And while I was at it, I gave RAMH regulars the chance to use their secret right-bracket decoder rings, to listen to the playlist later without even visiting here. (As I said then, I know — this isn’t exactly the sort of thinking to encourage return visits…) That seemed to work out pretty well, so here we go with this year’s selections only:

[2012 only

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For me, one of the charms of Christmas music is the way it calls to performers: across musical genres, across cultural and ethnic lines, across language barriers. It seems that almost every performer of popular music — at least in the US — simply cannot get all the way through their careers without recording at least one Christmas song, video, EP, and/or album. The quality is mixed, naturally, just like the quality of performers in general. Interestingly, these little side projects sometimes become the work the performer is most known for. (Hello, Chip Davis and Mannheim Steamroller! Hello, The Blenders!) If they do several such recordings, chances are that one or more of tunes are original. And finally, there’s the category of not-quite-original and not-quite-cover versions…

Singers/Songwriters/All-round performers Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have adopted the stage name She & Him for their particular brand of easygoing indie pop; their 2011 album, A Very She & Him Christmas, was one of the most-downloaded holiday offerings that year. One song in particular held a certain amount of advance buzz: for the 2003 film Elf, Deschanel’s character had sung a little bit of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” while taking a shower — as the title character (played by Will Ferrell) sits on a bathroom counter, transfixed. She & Him included the full number on their Christmas album last year; this year, they added an animated video for it.

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* Well, to be fair, someone almost certainly knows what the lyrics are: a Detroit band called The Go (whose lineup sometimes included Jack White) actually covered “Christmas on the Moon” in 2007. Only one — oneYouTube video features this recording.

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jules // Dec 23, 2012 at 10:33 am

    LOVE!

  • 2 The Querulous Squirrel // Dec 26, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Growing up Jewish, I always felt really left out with Christmas music playing everywhere. Then there was a politically correct period where they stuck in a couple of really, really bad Chanukah songs. The Christmas carols win hands down.

  • 3 John // Dec 28, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Every year when I do this playlist thing, I think of you. You must have blogged about that Christmas-music alienation at some point; at any rate, I knew you’d experienced it, and would be hideously embarrassed if you (or anyone else) were made uncomfortable by this tradition here. I make a conscious effort to keep bringing the musical selections down to earth, as it were: not letting them get too unchangingly reverent.

    In a way, Christmas music is like (as they call it) elevator music — at least for me. Because of my own childhood and adolescence, I know many of the lyrics well enough to “sing” along, in my head; but when the songs are playing repeatedly (in malls, in the car, in the headphones) eventually it all just becomes very pleasant (perhaps because very familiar) sound: melody, harmony, rhythm, a variety of instruments and vocal ranges and styles.

    …all of which, on re-reading, simply masks the gods’ honest (and embarrassing) truth: I don’t know anything about Chanukah music, good or bad. I bet, though, that if there were enough money in it, there’d be no discernible difference in the quality!

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