I always like to select bizarre and offbeat seasonal songs for the column in the spirit of what we do during regular columns. This year I searched far and wide, as it gets harder each year as the obvious weirdo tracks got used up in the last four years of the column, so this requires more digging than usual. I thought having lookalikes Kenny Rogers and Mike McDonald in the same column was a lucky break. Also, finding a Zombies Christmas song was inspiring. I always include a Chanukah song and this year Barenaked Ladies were the providers. And so on and so forth and scooby doobie doobie as Sly so aptly put it...
Happy Holidaze and we'll be back with the Top 25 most appreciated tracks from the 2014 columns on January 2.
1. "Christmas With You Is Best" — The Long Winters (2:20)
The Long Winters is a band/haven for singer/songwriter/guitarist John Roderick. There is a constant turnstile in this band with Roderick scheduling when the train will leave the station (Seattle) and who will be on it. Lyrically speaking, this is one of my favorite Xmas songs and it has never been in the column before. ENJOY!
Guess which version of the band this is and win a Schwinn (not really)... Do they even make those bikes anymore?
2. "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" — Elvis Presley (2:16)
Every once in awhile, it’s good to listen to Elvis and remember what an amazing singer he was. Here, he shows off his blues understanding to great advantage. A one-of-a-kind, Elvis (Costello doesn’t count here) is back in town.
3. "Mary, Did You Know" — Kenny Rogers and Wynonna (3:00)
This comparatively modern Christmas song has been recorded by many. I like this version because nowadays people forget what great singers they both are and this shows them both off to great advantage.
Were Kenny Rogers and Michael McDonald brothers that somehow got separated at an early age? And were Wynonna and Ashley sisters that didn't get separated at birth?
4. "Chanukah Blessings" — Barenaked Ladies (2:49)
There’s gotta be a Jewish person in there somewhere...
5. "Christmas for the Free" — The Zombies (4:04)
They write ‘em, they play ‘em, they sing ‘em and it seems that, just like their name, they live forever.
Although they can't face each other, (Al) Kooper and Colin (Blunstone) discuss masturbatory techniques backstage. Note each other's right hands and aged attempts to feign meaningful hairstyles
6. "Very Merry Christmas" — Dave Barnes (2:45)
A very tasty singer-songwriter whom I have been downloading for years. Always has great sounding tracks as well. Nice guitar parts here.
7. "Touch the Hem of His Garment" — Al Kooper (4:04)
So there I was, in 1972, in Doraville, Georgia at Studio One in the dead of night attempting to sequence my forthcoming album, Naked Songs. Imagine my surprise when I found I was one song short and the album was due the next day. So ace engineer Rodney Mills miked up the piano, organ and my voice and I sang this old gospel goodie (in ONE take) originally recorded by The Soul Stirrers when young Sam Cooke sang lead. I rekooperranged it on the spot and added background vocals to the choruses. It took us 90 minutes to do the whole thing. It felt right on that album and I thought it would fit well right here 44 years later.
Here is a photo from around the same time this track was recorded. I sho don't look like dat no mo. (See photo from track 5 — ya think Ryan Adams stole this hairstyle?)
8. "Little Drummer Boy" — Kenny Burrell (2:37)
Kenny was an early guitar influence on me and I always enjoyed how calmly he played the melody here and then how bluesy and stanky he got in his solo. This was recorded in 1966 from an album on Cadet Records called Have Yourself a Very Soulful Christmas. Love the brass, of course, arranged by bassist Richard Evans.
9. "This Is Christmas" — Luther Vandross (3:28)
This is Christmas, but this is also the late Luther Vandross and I like to remember him any time I get ready. A wonderful person and a galvanizing singer.
10. "Children Go Where I Send Thee" — Michael McDonald (4:06)
Michael is still with us and what a pair of pipes he has always had. This is a full-on version with a huge choir and orchestra and these people are jammin’ in style. I couldn’t find the credit at press time, but I'm guessing the female lead vocal might be Twinkie Clark, who is also a formidable organist. At any rate, nobody is following THIS track. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We will take off for the holidays next week, but we will return on January 2 with the 25 most appreciated tracks from the column in 2014.