Continuing our holiday-centric posts, Dan is here with some stellar soundtrack recommendations for all of your upcoming festivities. He's sort of a secret Christmas music connoisseur. --Lisa
As a Jewish fellah, I didn’t grow up with Christmas music. But as connoisseur of rock and roll arcana, I have developed a fondness for the genre, classics and oddities alike.
The challenge of creating a playlist for your holiday party is that you want to include enough sentimental favorites to kindle the ol’ Festivus spirit without descending into hokeyness. Even the most diehard hipster doesn’t want to hear your collection of obscure dub and Krautrock when the weather outside is frightful. But is that an invitation to snuggle up with Michael Bublé’s Swingin’ Kwanzaa or A Night in the Manger with Seals & Crofts? I say, no, it is not.
With this in mind, here is a holiday party play list that balances fond memories, cool curios, and just the right amount of corn. Confession: A few of these tracks can be found on Elton John’s Christmas Party, which much to my own surprise, is one of the best Christmas comps to come out in recent years. I don’t own it myself, though, because I would have to break my No John Mayer Under Any Circumstances rule. What’s next? “Your Body Is a Winter Wonderland”? Blech.
Hope this is useful. For the love of god, stay away from the caroling cats!
1. James Brown—Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto, available on 20th Century Masters – The Christmas Collection: The Best of James Brown
2. Run-DMC—Christmas in Hollis, available on Greatest Hits
Because Christmas isn’t just for the reindeer sweater, giant-bow-on-a-Lexus crowd.
3. The Funk Brothers—Winter Wonderland (instrumental)
4. Marvin Gaye—Purple Snowflakes, both available on Motown Christmas: Playlist Your Way
The Funk Brothers were the legendary backing band behind Motown’s greatest hits. As for Marvin and his purple snowflakes…he just saw things the rest of us can’t see. [note from Lisa: I really love this song. Just sayin'.]
5. Darlene Love—Marshmallow World, available on A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector
6. Elvis Presley—Santa Claus is Back in Town, available on Elvis’ Christmas Album
Representatives from the two undisputed Greatest Christmas Albums of All Time.
7. The Beach Boys—Santa’s Beard, available on Ultimate Christmas
8. Brian Wilson—Christmasey, available on What I Really Want for Christmas
These aren't radio staples like “Little St. Nick” and “The Man with All the Toys.” Maybe at the North Pole.
9. Bing Crosby & David Bowie—Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy, available on Bing Crosby’s Christmas Classics
10. Magnetic Fields—Mr. Mistletoe, available on Distortion
We now enter the more eccentric portion of our program.
11. Rufus Wainwright—Spotlight on Christmas, available on Elton John’s Christmas Party
12. The Kinks—Father Christmas, available on Come Dancing with The Kinks: The Best of The Kinks 1977-1986
Two great songs that just happen to be about Christmas. The latter is about a Santa-for-hire who gets mugged by the poor kids in the neighborhood. Ah, holiday cheer.
13. My Morning Jacket—Xmas Curtain (live), available on Okonokos
14. The Band—Christmas Must Be Tonight, available on Islands
Is the MMJ song even really about Christmas? Not sure. Let’s pair it with this track by their heroes in the Band just to be safe.
15. Willie Nelson—Christmas in Prison, available on Songbird (itunes version)
16. Elvis Costello & The Chieftains—St. Stephen’s Day Murders, available of Mighty Like a Rose (Expanded Edition)
The dark side of the season. Nothing like an Irish air about poisoning the dinner guests to brighten up your caroling repertoire.
17. Don Byron—Dreidel Song, available on Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz
18. The Klezmatics—Hanukkah Dance, available on Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hannukah
Where my Jews at? Did you know Woody Guthrie married into a Jewish family, moved to Coney Island, and wrote lots of Hanukkah songs? You did? Know-it-all!
19. The Pretenders—2000 Miles, available on Learning to Crawl
20. Keith Sweat—Be Your Santa Claus, available on A Christmas of Love
The former is only the greatest Christmas song ever recorded. The latter is…not. But hey, it’s been a long hard year. Treat yourself.