Back to my rant on Celine Dion–if you like her, it’s fine. Not judging. Nor do i mean to single out a single performer as “Everything that’s Contrived and Cheesy about Christmas.” Really, there is a whole gaggle of artists contributing to that cause. I hear Clay Aiken’s “O Holy Night,” and i want to barf more than i want to sing. He literally almost chokes on that low note trying to croon it just right.
Thing is, there are only so many Christmas/holiday songs in the world, and many artists have found that the familiarity of these tunes is the very thing that makes them sell sell sell. Even if they are rendered poorly. So, what makes a new listen a good one, and what makes it a tired flogging of a long-dead reindeer?
Joy. I can’t outline for you what makes Celine’s xmas renderings a pain to my ears, but makes Emmylou’s a quiet celebration of the spirit. But i know it when i hear it. And so do you. That’s why you can like Clay and Josh and Kenny G all you want, even if i don’t. But, that said, i thought i’d do a run-down of my favorite Christmas albums and/or songs. They are not all sacred, they are not all new, they are not all ART. But to me, they all bear witness to the joy of this particular waiting, in that fundamental way that only music can do.
Light of the Stable, Emmylou Harris
“Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” Bruce Sprinsteen (to be found on “A Very Special Christmas” album, various artists)
David Grisman Quintet, Acoustic Christmas Album
of course, Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas
Also, there’s this thing with John Denver and the Muppets. You can never go wrong with Muppets.
And some really great Motown stuff. (Thank you, little Michael Jackson!) Let us not forget the very old school–Handl’s Messiah, giving life to the ancient in timeless orchestration. I could go on and on. But i don’t have to, because you have your favorites too. Point is, this is a season to embody the holy. So don’t let the soundtrack just be the mindless loop that plays at the mall. Listen with intention, and play/sing/dance the things that fill your soul.
Whatever your playlist for the season: if this doesn’t make you want to dance, it could just be that you have no soul. This one’s for you, Misters Grinch and Scrooge. Enjoy…