It's that time of year where I like to search out some seasonal tunes for you. I like to go for the obscure tracks as there are so many of the others out there. It's always hard to just whittle it down to ten, but here are the ones I selected for this year. I also wanted it to be a week early so you could get the ones you liked and play them at your party or dinner or just around the house a week or so before Christmas. They all have their fine points. Have a great holiday week!
Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.
We apologize to our readers/listeners who are trying to enjoy the playlists via mobile devices like iPhones/iPads and are finding that they can't; these are, unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control. At present, Grooveshark is not compatible with those operating systems, and in order to stream the playlist, you will need to use a PC or Mac.
1. "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing" — Steve Ouimette (2:03)
Steve was born in 1968 and probably grew up on Van Halen. He provides soundtracks for all those video games where you play along on cardboard guitars. If you like heavy metal Christmas hymns, this is right up your alley. He made an album in 2010 titled EPIC, from which this was noticed. Steve, I can’t recall if Ouimette before.
2. "The Bells of St. Mary's" — Aaron Neville (2:26)
I use that phrase, every now and then, about how certain singers could “sing the phone book” and it would be entirely listenable. Just now I was thinking of having them all sing the phone book for the city I live in. I could produce it and play the instruments and ... oh, never mind. Mr. Neville, you would only have to sing my Social Security number.
3. "Winter Wonderland" — Booker T & The MG’s (1:51)
The band that recorded this track is survived by Booker T Jones and Steve Cropper nowadays, but it is still an insurmountable hearing loss. Listen here, y’all.
4. "Deck the Halls" Medley — Cluster (4:02)
Amazingly, these are all Italians from Genoa who could fool you with their Americanized (when they wanna) voices. They have captured the American spirit of Christmas and don’t mind laying it on the line for you right now. Look at their picture and listen to their voices. Definitely deep dish with lotsa peppers.
If you’re a hair/clothing designer call this group immediately. They’re looking for someone before they play both coasts.
5. "Purple Snowflakes" — Marvin Gaye (2:34)
Just discovered this recently and I thought I was a Marvin scholar. Motown made poor Marv sing Christmas lyrics written to one of his lesser (but still GREAT) singles called “Pretty Little Baby.” Second rate lyrics abound on the remake and how many people out there have actually seen purple snowflakes who aren’t lighting designers? Marvin was one of the few singers who could tolerate record company shenanigans like this. I also discovered I don’t own a vinyl or CD copy of "Pretty Little Baby" and this track is pretty damn distorted ... BUT Marvin rooooolz!
6. "Funky New Year" — The Eagles (2:14)
The Eagles didn’t need the record company’s persuasion to record a makeshift holiday track. I bet they were surprised this didn’t go top ten in whatever decade it was originally unveiled. Nowadays it’s probably a collectors' item in Japan.
Find Tim Schmidt's missing moustache and win Irv Azoff's personal menorah!
7. "O Come All Ye Faithful" — Mary Mary (2:24)
Two sisters who consistently top ten in the R&B field go back from whence they came and do the modern gospel thang. I dig it.
8. "White Christmas" — The Isley Brothers (2:44)
Ron Isley is another one of those phone book singers but he shows you how he can do his thang to this chestnut and miraculously make it his own. Wotta voice!
9. "Tidings" — Israel & New Breed (3:56)
Trust me. It’s not THAT Israel (the state). The state of Israel Houghton (pictured below) began when he was born in the state of California in May of 1971. He has won armfuls of Grammys, Doves and all sorts of awards throughout his illustrious career. This is some high-end stuff; beautifully orchestrated and sung with the spirit of the lyrics blasting forth. I love presentations like this — and it all started with Andrae Crouch, who invented Modern Gospel Music the year Israel was born.
NO SNEAKERS! Black leather footwear is a must for New Breed. Obviously, Israel is the one with the skull cap on.
10. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" — Straight No Chaser (3:20)
Named after a Thelonious Monk composition, these folks are really not afraid of any musical permutation — and with a strong sense of humour, they attack all sorts of musicalities and lyrical concepts. They also sing amazing selections that one thought were only reserved for the greatest singers on Earth. What does that tell you?
See you next week with the Top 25 audience favorites from all the columns of 2013. Meanwhile, happy holidays to everyone and may God bless you one and all in these continuously troubled times we live in.
Comfy non-leather kicks are pre-req for groups like this.