Santa Eye for the Grinch Guy, various artists (Mistletunes)
Welcome to our 2003 mix CD. Here's a few words about this year's selections:
"Christmas Is All Around," Billy Mack — Figuring heavily in the plot of the movie "Love Actually," its wretched majesty somehow made it the perfect disc opener for this season. Actor Bill Nighy does a great job of portraying a washed-up rock star both in the film and on this record.
"Can't Stop Thinking About Christmas," Universal Honey — A Canadian band with a heavy retro-Sixties sound, this is from their newest album of the same title. The singer follows footprints in the snow and doesn't like what she sees.
"It's Christmas," James Nicholson — From a 1996 small-label power-pop compilation called Cool Yule, I managed to rustle up a copy of this before the manufacturer ran completely out of copies. This is a snappy acoustic rocker.
"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!," The Fab Four — Making a return appearance because of the proprietor's love for all things Beatles, this tribute group sets the popular holiday song to the arrangement to "Eight Days a Week."
"Santa's Bag," It's Only Roy — From a regional Philadelphia compilation, this act lays a Phil Spector sheen over a classic Beach Boys arrangement on this original Christmas song.
"Valley Winter Song," Fountains Of Wayne — Not actually a Christmas song, it still fits in this collection because of its sincere sentiment and evocation of the season. And because the better-known song from the band's Welcome Interstate Managers album, "Stacy's Mom," definitely didn't fit.
"Jingle Bells," Lisa Loeb — The only singer ever to top the Billboard charts without a record contract (the song "Stay" from the movie "Reality Bites"), her mid-tempo shuffle on this popular carol is an interesting interpretation. (You know, this song doesn't mention Christmas either.)
"Rudy," The Be Good Tanyas — Another Canadian act, the singers tell a sad story about a homeless man through a pastiche of popular carols. From the compilation Maybe This Christmas Too.
"A New York Christmas," Rob Thomas — The matchbox twenty frontman and singer/composer of the Santana smash "Smooth," Thomas steps out alone again with this song originally recorded as a benefit for a New York City-area children's hospital. You can hear bits of his own band, a hint of U2, and the song structure is not unlike Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmastime."
"I Broke My Arm Christmas Shopping at the Mall," Housewives on Prozac — Timely novelty holiday tunes were few and far between this year, but we do have this unintentional tribute to the lady who got trampled at Wal-Mart trying to buy a $29 DVD player. (Although fairness requires me to note subsequent news coverage that indicates the so-called victim may, like Homer Simpson's sister-in-law, have a lucrative hobby filing nuisance lawsuits.)
"What I Want For Christmas," Macy Gray — A little neo-soul makes for a nice change of pace, and this is Macy's first original Christmas song. She previously has recorded versions of "Winter Wonderland" and Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas." I picked this despite the fact that some people, like my wife, find Macy to be an acquired taste.
"Holly Jolly Christmas," Joy Electric — This Burl Ives chestnut gets the electronica treatment for the current day, although it actually reminds me more of early Depeche Mode, circa 1982 or so, during their cheap-synthesizer period.
"(Gimme a) Kiss for Christmas," John McMullan — Another original song, I like this one because I think it could actually catch on in the general market if it could ever get itself attached to a movie or released on a major label.
"We Call It Christmas," Keb'Mo' — The acoustic bluesman occasionally sneaks a Christmas tune into his repertoire, and this one, again, deserves a wider hearing. It's more of a ballad than a blues and the sentiments are universal.
"Little Drummer Boy," Grey Eye Glances — The martial drumrolls of the original version of this holiday song remain a stirring herald to the season, but this Philly band's syncopated, multi-percussion version is an enjoyable approach too.
"Listen to the Bells Ring," Lisa Mychols — More percussion (bells) employed in a stately original holiday ballad, another song with a direct Phil Spector influence. In case you haven't been to other parts of the site, Spector's A Christmas Gift To You is one of rock's all-time classic albums (no. 142 in Rolling Stone's 500 greatest), let alone Christmas albums. Even if he is a murder suspect.
"Santa Came on a Nuclear Missile," Heather Noel — From the American Song-Poem Project, a sort of deranged companion piece to the Billy Mack tune. As Capt. Jean-Luc Picard once said to Cmdr. Will Riker, "Sometimes, Number One, you just have to bow to the absurd."
"Re-Gifting For the Holidays," The Alice Project — I don't know if "Seinfeld" was the first to note the concept of taking last year's unwanted gifts and giving them to somebody else this Christmas, but this girl-groupy ode to the practice is a lot of fun. It must officially be a trend, because the New York Times ran a story about it this year.
"Stay a Little Longer, Santa," Shemekia Copeland — Flirting with the jolly elf isn't a new concept; Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby" is the classic in this regard. But Copeland's sexy addition to the canon is a welcome one.
"I Love It When It Snows!," The Bradburys — A strong rocker that's hard to argue with — unless you don't own a snow blower.
"The Dreydl Song," Another Man Down — Since Hanukkah tracks a little closer to Christmas this year, I thought folks might enjoy this hard-rock version of the traditional song. Taste-tippers will note the bridge on this performance is a parody of Bryan Adams' "Summer of 1969."
"Santa Claus Is Foolin' Around," Bob Rivers — Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" gets a note-perfect parody from the Twisted Tunes maestro to conclude this year's assault on Christmas conformity.
Eras: The Beginning, The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, The Nineties, The 21st Century
Genres: Reggae, Soul/R&B, Rap, Blues, Punk, Surfin' Xmas, Tropical
Novelties: Fifties and Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, The Nineties, The 21st Century
Compilations: Regular Comps, Charity Comps, Soundtracks
Special Reports: Recent Releases, Hanukkah, Miscellaneous