A brief guide to holiday music.
By Michael Henningsen
NOVEMBER 24, 1997: First off, it's not all cool. In fact, holiday music for some is as welcome a seasonal addition to their lives as gout. Truth be known, most Christmas music embodies the very soul of commercialism--how many versions of the same old carols do we need to hear in a lifetime? The answer, of course, is plenty. And with annual regularity. Because, while most holiday tunes amount to little more than the pinnacle of cheesedom, they also serve to get us in the spirit of the season. It's amazing to me that so many holiday-based recordings are made and released each year. For this piece alone, I was charged with sorting through upwards of 30 releases, most of them new. What follows is a Christmas "wish list" of sorts, seven (that's the Lord's number) records recommended to offer a diverse cross-section of the best of musical holiday cheer. Deck your stereo!
RIYL = Recommended If You Like ...
RIYL: Well, Elvis. And everything you eat chicken-fried.
Sounds Like: The King had too much time on his hands. But this one's got 24 tracks, including some rocked-up versions of the classics as well as several more contemporary songs.
Makes You Feel ... : Like the world is a much simpler, crime-, hunger- and worry-free place than it really is--the ultimate denial record
Best Song: C'mon! "Blue Christmas," for Christ's sake!
Worst Song: "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
Biggest Selling Point: "Christmas Message From Elvis/Silent Night"
Cheese Factor: Kraft Singles
RIYL: Overcast skies and Irish whiskey
Sounds Like: The IRA is on vacation
Makes You Feel ... : Relaxed and reflective
Best Song: "The South Wind" by Paddy Glackin and Micheal O' Domhnaill
Worst Song: They're all quite nice
Biggest Selling Point: "Boasts an all-star line-up"
Cheese Factor: Sharp cheddar
RIYL: Liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck
Sounds Like: A Superfly holiday
Makes You Feel ... : Like a natural woman
Best Song: "I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus"
Worst Song: "Santa Baby"
Biggest Selling Point: Whole lotta woMan
Cheese Factor: Whiz
RIYL: Tejano music, Mojo Nixon and Willie Nelson
Sounds Like: Christmas in July
Makes You Feel ... : Like there's still a God ... and a Santa Claus
Best Song: "X-Mas in Jail" and "Silent Night" featuring Don Walser and Willie Nelson
Worst Song: "Feliz Navidad" featuring Tish Hinojosa and Ray Benson
Biggest Selling Point: The perfect accompaniment to barbecue and Shiner Bock
Cheese Factor: Head
Sounds Like: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Makes You Feel ... : Like having another glass of wine
Best Song: "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and "Winter Peace"
Worst Song: "Starbright" featuring (ugh!) Kenny Loggins
Biggest Selling Point: That whole "I'm a sensitive Alan Alda-type" thing
Cheese Factor: Brie
RIYL: Steel Drums and lounge kitsch
Sounds Like: An excuse to smoke dope on Christmas Eve (as if you need another one)
Makes You Feel ... : Like you're on a cruise
Best Song: "Joy to the World"
Worst Song: "Away in a Manger"
Biggest Selling Point: There's nothing quite like it
Cheese Factor: Cream
RIYL: Lots of drama and curious, sweeping arrangements
Sounds Like: The environmental activists are at it again
Makes You Feel ... : Responsible, like Smokey the Bear
Best Song: "Oh Holy Night" by Suzanne Ciani
Worst Song: "Adeste Fideles" by Suzanne Ciani
Biggest Selling Point: Love your Mother
Cheese Factor: Cheese is dairy which is from animals which is cruel. Somehow.
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