Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Two fun ones

I'm not such a great fan of much "modern" Christmas music; too much of it is either kind of banal (don't get me started on the "Jesus shoes" song, which I think is bad theology as well as aesthetically displeasing to me) or the singer makes it all about THEM and what kind of vocal acrobatics they can do (or Autotune can do). Or it's overly sweetened with strings and similar.

I guess of "pop" Christmas music, I like some of the older stuff. I grew up listening to the Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole and Gene Autry (!) versions of Christmas songs. No, I am not *that* old but my parents are, and also, when I was a kid, the few radio stations that went to a Christmas-music format (and at that, as I remember it, it wasn't until mid-December) played them. So it's what's familiar to me and it's what I like.

(A friend once opined that our musical tastes are largely set by what we hear in our youth. That seems correct for me: my parents like classical music and listened to it a lot, they also liked some of the old musicals, and of pop music they preferred the big-band stuff or singers like Crosby. And that's what I tend to prefer now, with a few exceptions, as you'll see).

I guess in the 60s it was a thing to have some of the groups do traditional Christmas carols. What I think of as the granddaddy of this was the Drifters' version of "White Christmas" which makes me smile every time I hear it:

And yes, okay, there are vocal acrobatics in there (Clyde McPhatter could sing higher than *I* can, and I'm a woman). But somehow it seems good-hearted and not overdone: perhaps the difference for me is that there's not a huge backing orchestra there trying to make it MORE than it is, like some of the modern "orchestral" pop songs. I can almost "headcanon" that it's a group of guys in one of their living rooms, maybe with a younger brother playing the Hammond organ in the background, and they're just joking around and having a good time.

(And also, it's a largely-secular song; I think that also makes a difference. Sometimes when singers "overdo" religious songs, to me, it feels slightly sacrilegious, like they are making it all about them)

Another one I like is this one. Another non-religious song:

I guess their record label did a whole Christmas album some time in the 60s? This is probably the only song I know off it.

(I admit I'm not a big fan of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," which I guess is from the same era, and especially not "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," mainly because the original version of it has someone singing whose voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me)

I think I like "Sleigh Ride" because, like the Drifters' "White Christmas," it gives you the impression of people having fun with the song. (Even if they weren't; I've heard that Spector was...not a good person to work with...)

The Ronettes also did "Frosty the Snowman" which is kind of fun in its own way:

And from the same album, Darlene Love doing "Marshmallow World," a song I always found slightly ridiculous (and associated with Dean Martin), but maybe "slightly ridiculous" is good at Christmastime:

I think most of these would be good as background music for sort of a casual drinks-and-snacks Christmas party. (Sigh. The first year I was in my house I did that for my colleagues; since then I haven't had time or the place has been too much of a mess. I wish I were the kind of person with the house-confidence and time to give those kind of casual parties.)


CGHill said...

A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector was released on Spector's Philles label on 11/22/63.

Of the "standards" on the album, I liked "Sleigh Ride" the best, but Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," written for the album, has become a standard in its own right.

Roger Owen Green said...

The Drifters' song is great, but so is this video.