Archive for November, 2015


COMT II: Listen To The Season

The Hunt for New (Christmas)Music:

The second of our traditional rocking -for -the -holidays Christmas Playlists…..Christmas One More Time II. Also, with this list, the practice of adding songs that have a spiritual component–but are not necessarily traditional Christmas songs–begins.

[table]

no,title, artist

1,Merry Christmas Baby, Otis Redding

2,Here Comes Santa Clause, Elvis Presley

3, Sleigh Ride, Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops

4, Santa Baby, Madonna

5, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Gene Autry

6, Linus & Lucy, Cyril Chestnut

7, (Simply Having) A Wonderful Christmas Time, Paul McCartney & Wings

8, Early Christmas Morning, Cyndi Lauper

9, Five Pound Box of Money, Pearl Bailey

10, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), U2

11, Did Ye Get Healed, Van Morrison

12, Christmas Through My Eyes, Gloria Estefan

13, Santa Clause Is Coming to Town, Pointer Sisters

14, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Baby Face

15, A DC Christmas Melody, Destiny’s Child

16, Run Run Rudolph, Bryan Adams

17, Life is Beautiful, Keb ‘Mo

18, All Alone on Christmas, Darlene Love,

[/table]

18 Songs. 1 Hour.

 

 


COMT I Liner Notes

The stories behind great songs can be just as interesting as the songs themselves. Here are some notes on each of the songs included in the COMT I playlist.

First, a short discourse on why Christmas and Holiday music seems magical.  The easy answer is….it’s traditional. Christmas music comes out of the box once a year and when it does, one resonates with the sounds of holiday seasons past, stirring warm memories,  and it’s all good. Music is very good at that—bringing back memories. Five bars into “My Girl” by the Temptations and suddenly you’re back in the fraternity house at a post-game party, squeezing someone tight with one hand and holding a drink in the other. But the resonance of music with memories may not really be the impetus behind our affection for holiday music. Perhaps the real reason is that Christmas/holiday music is a known commodity—my goodness, we’ve been listening to the stuff since we were old enough to recognize sounds—and each year we hear a huge group of new interpretations of Christmas music (every hot recording artist puts out a Christmas album, shamelessly promoted by artist and record company alike) which serves to both enlighten us about the potential of individual expression and to make old songs new. “New water over old stones” a mountaineering friend of mine calls it and I think that sums up the situation pretty well. Herewith, the first playlist..  Of course, the goal is to deliver some old songs done new ways, new songs you might not have heard before, and a few songs that echo the spirit of the season even if they are not truly classified as “Christmas music

And yes, parental discretion is advised.

1. Keb ‘Mo Jingle Bell Jamboree

Keb ‘Mo is a joy—the perfectly soulful voice to start this playlist. He is a multiple Grammy award winning singer/songwriter/performer; his song, “I was Wrong” is a wonderful modern blues classic and this tune is going to be a holiday favorite for years to come. “Jingle Bell Jamboree” is a Keb ‘Mo original and just the song to get you moving early in the morning or keep you at it when the day starts to wind down. Good stuff, from the premier new blues artist of our time.

2. Bing Crosby Let it Snow, Let It Snow

Bing Crosby is engrained in the Christmas Culture, through the song “White Christmas” (and the movie of the same name) and his amazing string of holiday film classics, “Holiday Inn” (the movie that premiered “White Christmas”), “Bells of St. Mary”, and “Going My Way”. Let’s go against form right from the start and forgo the song Bing is most associated with for this  classic Bing tune, done in perfect 1940s big-band style.

3. Dianna Krall Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

No one takes a better album cover photo than Dianna Krall, the ultimate turn-of-the-century club-and-torch singer. As Joe Namath once said, “it ain’t bragging if you can back it up” and back it up she can, with beautiful renderings of the songs from music’s modern era. This version of a Christmas classic finds Krall putting the jazz licks to a holiday standard. In the right hands, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is just devastating. And, Dianna Krall has the right hands.

4. Wham! Last Christmas

Before George Michael was “George Michael”, before he knocked out one great pop tune after another and yes, before he went off the rails with legal issues,  he was the founder and driving force of the pop group Wham!,  best known for the tune and the party-girl favorite, “Wake Me Up Before You Go- Go”. George’s  way with pop songs is undisputed. This song seems to be similar to the piece of piffle that provided Hugh Grant’s income in the hit holiday movie, “About a Boy” ; it’s  one that will bring in royalties from now until the end of the next millennium. On other playlists scattered about the site, there are other versions of “Last Christmas”, but start with the original to appreciate the covers.

5. Vince Guaraldi Trio Christmas Time Is Here

The first time I heard this tune, it was played as soundtrack music for the holiday animated special “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. I was in college, staying in a hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, on a road trip of unspecific mission. When I saw that a “Charlie Brown Christmas” was going to be broadcast that night, I cancelled all plans (before midnight) and stayed in to watch the premiere of a holiday season classic. The show idea was so pure it almost hurt—a simple but complex little Christmas-themed Peanuts animated special, complete with perfect voice casting, dead-on animation, just the right amount of Schultz’s very deep and correct humor mixed with reverence for the season, all done to an incredibly smooth jazz soundtrack by Bay area musician Vince Guaraldi. The result: a show that really was fun for all ages and one of the best selling Christmas albums of all time. Bet you probably have a copy (somewhere).

6. Jimmy Buffett I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Think Key West. Think Corona Beer. Think Steel Drums. Now take Jimmy Buffet’s signature “island sound”, add a classic everyone sings when traveling around the holidays, mix in a bit of seriously plaintive vocal and you have Buffett’s take on a song older than he is. One of the great things about holiday music is how everything old is new again….and this version is ample proof of that.

7.Dwight Yoakam Run Run Rudolph

This is the finest version of the classic “Run Run Rudolph“. The song has been covered by tons of artists (Sheryl Crow, Bryan Adams, The Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett, The Tractors) but most people are familiar with the version by Chuck Berry, who brought it into the mainstream. Keith Richards, of  the Rolling Stones, also did a reggae influenced version. Yoakam is known as a multi-talented country artist (he’s had the most appearances on the “Tonight Show” of any country artist) but his music is never predictably “country” and has a lot of rock influence in his work (which is not easily categorized)..Yoakam is an artist who is unafraid of pushing the edge (his version of The Beatles’ “Things We Said Today” is another classic) and he delivers, again, on his version of “Run, Run“.  Johnny Cash–who knows a thing or two about music–called Yoakam his favorite country singer. You will want to turn this one up loud.  I have zero doubts that this song will become one of your Christmas favorites.

8. Mariah Carey All I Want for Christmas is You.

She is the original Diva. She married her producer and, once she was a certified platinum recording artist, she dumped him. She wears skirts shorter than a yellow light and heels higher than a Sherpa’s consciousness. Bless her little soul, she also has an incredible voice and, when she decides to get after it, the girl can make a tune her own. Herewith, Mariah Carey, in Holiday form, with a seriously rocking version of “All I want for Christmas is You”. The last twelve bars of the song are absolute melodic chaos. Play this one loud. (and feel free to disregard the Justin Beiber/Mariah Carey duet version-it’s not just as great).

9. Ray Charles The Christmas Song

Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis (everyone who did not get kissed at a Christmas high school party when this song–as recorded by Johnny Mathis– was played, please raise your hand…), and Mel “the Velvet Fog” Torme made a living off this roasted chestnut but no one does it better than “the Genius”—Ray Charles. We have a lot of good music and great music trends to thank Ray Charles for—from popularizing a particularly soulful, big-band style of R&B to developing the musical framework for modern country and western music (Charles’ “Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music” revolutionized that genre) but one can get a short course in his special gifts by listening to the way he does a song that has been done a thousand times before.

10. Cher Angels Running

She’s survived TV stardom, multiple plastic surgeries, winning an Academy award, Greg Allman, and the burden of being relentlessly hip. And then one day, she steps outside of being “Cher” the pop icon (one store in New York City devoted one year ALL their Christmas windows to a Cher-theme) and turns in this one for the holidays. The deep voice, perfect phrasing and immaculate production make this one a real and true unexpected gem. Bet you find yourself playing it often and loud.

11. The Drifters White Christmas

The song that Bing Crosby is most associated with is actually done better by the Drifters, a late 50s/early 60s R&B group best known for songs like “Up on the Roof” and “Under the Boardwalk”. This is R&B at its purest, with deep bass counterpoints, soaring acapella style harmonies, and a beach music backbeat. And because everyone knows the song, it only gets better—especially the falsetto solo about two-thirds of the way through the song. Michael Buble’ does an updated version of this arrangement on his 2011 Christmas Album, but you might want to listen to the original first. Get the lastest version you can find; as with most old music, the dynamic range is below par for modern ears if you can find only the original versions.

12. Sheryl Crow & Eric Clapton Merry Christmas Baby

I found this tune lurking within one of the “A Very Special Christmas” charitable CDs. It’s an absolute rocking classic. Take one Sheryl Crow, in fine form and ready to rock, and put her on the stage with the greatest guitarist of the rock era, Eric Clapton, and you have a Christmas song that will make you get up and get down.  The last 24 bars of Clapton’s solo are absolute vintage “Slowhand” and Crow is a good enough musician to know when to step into the frame and when to step out. Sheryl put out her own (first) Christmas album ta few years back and a song from that collection is included on a later playlist, but for now: this will more than do.

13. Gloria Estefan Layaway Love

Gloria Estefan shot out of the Cuban community in Miami like a bottle rocket. Backed by the jumping rhythms and deep production values of “The Miami Sound Machine”, she was the first major crossover Spanish-language female artist. Estefan’s holiday contribution, “Layaway Love”, has all the classic elements of her music:  pop-tune hummability, more rhythmic layers than a Congo line, and her pure, clear, vocals. You won’t ever hear this one on the radio unless you listen to the Hispanic stations.

14. Keb Mo What A Wonderful World

This song is a Louis Armstrong classic and justifiably so, but you’ve heard that version before and maybe haven’t heard this one, which is every bit as good. Keb ‘Mo does it and closes out this playlist, with a version good enough that even Satchmo would approve. Powerful yet tender, beautiful rendered and deftly paced, it’s one of Mo’s best songs.

The lyrics state the case for the season and set the tone for the message: It is a wonderful world. Go and share and enjoy it with your family, your friends, and those in need of a boost, spiritual and otherwise. I believe every one of these songs is available on iTunes, which is where I got them. It used to be possible to put all of these tunes into an “iMix” and you could listen to each and everyone of them (and buy them all with a click) but I believe that capability is gone away.

Please Turn It Up.

 


The Very Best Apps For The Mac

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 10.06.08 AMPaying Attention: It’s the Holiday Season. You’ve been good. You’ve been bad. You’ll be getting  stuff. (“everybody’s getting sumpin'”).  Maybe you’ll getting a new Mac for Christmas. If you do, after it’s unpacked, plugged in, connected, and configured with software, you might want to check out this list of the very best apps for the Mac, from LifeHacker. They’ll not only make Mac life easier, but more fun. Both of which are very good things.

 


COMT I (Christmas One More Time)

The Hunt For New (Christmas)Music:

For over a decade, I’ve been putting together a Christmas playlist.

The goal is simple: Introduce friends to new Christmas music they probably haven’t heard, or old Christmas music performed in a new version by a new artist. In the spirit of Christmas, it’s time to share these lists, all of them, starting with the very first playlist. There are now 10 lists in total and they will be posted every few days starting on November 30th and ending approximately on December 16th.

It’s the season for great music–Christmas and otherwise–so spread the spirit of the season by playing and sharing.

[table]

no, title, artist

1, Jingle Bell Jamboree, Keb ‘Mo

2, Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow, Bing Crosby

3, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Dianna Krall

4, Christmas Time is Here, Vince Guaraldi

5, Last Christmas, Wham

6, I’ll Be Home For Christmas,  Jimmy Buffett

7, Run Run Rudolph, Dwight Yoakum

8, All I Want For Christmas,  Mariah Carey

9, The Christmas Song, Ray Charles

10, Angles Running,  Cher

11, White Christmas, The Drifters

12, Merry Christmas Baby, Sheryl Crow & Eric Clapton

13, Layway Love, Gloria Estefan

14, What A Wonderful World, Keb ‘Mo

[/table]

 


The Hunt for New Music: Mariah Carey sings “All I Want For Christmas Is You”

It’s not a new version. It’s THE VERSION. The most popular Christmas song of modern times. Thank you,  Mariah.


The Etiquette of Christmas

Paying Attention: It’s Official: the Christmas Season is on. There are ground rules and just in case you didn’t get the memo, here’s a refresher course. to the guidelines to what should be (but often isn’t), the most polite, kindest, generous, and thoughtful time of the year. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll have a terrific holiday. And  If you don’t? It won’t be much of a holiday for you (or your friends).

 

1. Holiday Cards matter. Sending out Holiday Cards is a very small task but has a very big effect. It’s a way to let people that think you have forgotten about them know that you haven’t forgotten about them. Make a List. Pick some cards. Send them out. It’s a good thing. Plus….the Christmas stamps are always very, very cool.

2. Take care of those who take care of you. You know who we’re talking about: the guys who do your lawn.  The service writer who cuts you a break on getting your Porsche fixed. The bartender who always gets you a  drink, even in the middle of a mob-sized crowd.  The dry cleaning lady who has a security clearance. The garbage team that takes all your trash away, even when you pile up too much of the wrong thing.  The neighbor who watches your place when you travel. Look after them because they look after you, and…it’s the right thing to do.

3. Decorate. Put up lights, hang a wreath, decorate a tree. Find some poinsettias and put them out. Make your house or home or ranch or condo reflect the spirit of the season. If you don’t join in– and the rest of the neighborhood is all in–then you run the risk of being judged a grinch for the holidays and perhaps beyond. Decorating at this time of the year is not necessarily religious-centric, it’s season-centric. Do it. You’ll feel better. And so will everyone around you.

4. Spend a little bit of time learning how to wrap a package. Why not? It’s time, right. So learn to do it right. There’s a video on how to wrap a Christmas gift at the top of  this post (and YouTube has a lot more of them). And yes, of course you can spend some money and have them wrap the gift for you at the store but….wrapping presents is an excellent way to get fully into the season. Plus–it’s a skill you really need to master.

5. Party. You have every possible reason to party at this time of the year(end of the year, the Holidays, office gatherings, friends gatherings, family get-togethers, bonus time, whatever), so get out there and do it. And…consider having a party of your own. Invite a few friends or a lot of friends over, serve some good wine, appetizers, and a lot of good music and host until you drop. It’s THAT time of the year. Do it. Just be careful and don’t overdo it. Party. It’s a part of the season. Go all in.

6. Reach out. You have friends from way back when and way back there. Once they were in your life just about everyday and now…maybe not. But they’re still important to you. Reach out and tell them. Re-connect. Re-establish a friendship that is timeless. There is no better time of the year to do it than the Christmas/Holiday season, so reach out. You’ll be very, very glad you did.

7. Charity. Give to others, causes, special organizations, shelters, The Salvation Army, your school. It’s the right thing to do. Do it because you can and do it because you should. And do it with the right attitude: you are in a position to help others who are not so lucky. Share.  At this time of the year, in particular, it means a lot to give.

8. Help. Someone. Some cause. Some place. It can be as small as opening a door for someone with an armful of packages or as big as donating a needed piece of equipment for a playground. But Help. it’s a form of giving that works 24/7/365 and one that everyone needs to practice. Do it. Helping is essential to humanity.

9. Embrace. Get engaged with a group, a movement, a charity. Take up a cause or a challenge, embrace it, support it, go all in, and see where it leads. To create a  better you  and a better set of things that you believe in. Get after it. Now.

10.Moderation works. The Holidays offer plenty of chances to over-indulge. Don’t. Don’t overspend, over-drink, over-flirt, over-act, over-talk, over-reach.  Don’t. No is a very reliable form of quality control. Don’t exit the holidays with a crisis that you created because you got out of control–that defeats the whole idea of the season.

 


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