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December 22nd, 2010

GOOD Christmas Music!

 
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I realize that in my last post, I might have come off as kind of a grump… exams and papers will do that to you.  Not that I take back anything that I said regarding the importance of Advent or the true awfulness of the song “Last Christmas,” but when I hit the “Send” button on my last paper of the semester this past Saturday, the holidays began for me!

Still, after my last post I do feel the need to prove that I am not a total Mr. Potter.  In fact, it’s because I like Christmas music so much that I can’t stand when it is co-opted in order to give second-rate musical artists a shot towards achieving some “American Idol” style mediocrity.  So with that in mind, I would like to offer what I will be playing on my iPhone this holiday season!


Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGVNzgUxE-g
Made me proud to be Gen X!  Modern, fun, and reverent… not an easy hat trick but the Canadian artists pull it off.

Jack Skelington: What’s This?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuWD-mSUtrU

“This children are throwing snowballs… instead of throwing heads!  There’s frost in every window, and absolutely no one’s dead!”  This song from The Nightmare Before Christmas has humor with a very classic feel.

Pink Martini: Do You Hear What I Hear?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqqsO_nLeig&feature=artist

I actually downloaded this song while writing my last post on Advent… and this version is so good it’s been on repeat on my iPod.

Los Straighjakcets: Deck The Halls

http://www.amazon.com/I-Deck-The-Halls/dp/B002TNFP38

Got it off Amazon’s free MP3 giveaway on Black Friday.  A fun twist!

Harry Connick, Jr.: Must Have Been Old Santa

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rb1_OeH07PQ

Too many artists simply mail in Christmas albums as a way to capitalize on their lack of ability to create hits; it’s a sad attempt to be relevant.  But every time Harry Connick Jr. releases a Christmas album, I buy it; if the promise of God’s eternal salvation does not make you glad for the birth of Christ, maybe this album will tip the scales for you!

Ray Conniff: Medley: Let It Snow! / Count Your Blessings / We Wish You A Merry Christmas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7nVroAPa-o&feature=fvst

My parents used to play this as we decorated the house.  It’s cheesy, but cheesy is not always bad… as my friends will tell you!

Darlene Love: Marshmallow World
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9GQ8rfW7AU

On November 22, 1963, perhaps the greatest Christmas album of all time was released; it was also the same day that John F. Kennedy died.  Consequently, the genius of A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector was initially missed.  Thankfully, in subsequent years the album was rediscovered and the music has been a holiday mainstay ever since.
Every, every, every song on this album is fantastic.  I picked this one so other songs would have a chance to make the list.  Don’t just take my word for it; Rolling Stone ranked it as 142 on the list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The Pretenders: 2000 Miles
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NryNYGzTEHA
I found myself missing someone in the middle of Mass in the not too distant past.  And as I thought of this person, I realized that 2,000 miles could mean a lot more than physical distance,

Dave Matthews: A Christmas Song

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=estgBGmkF58

One of the few Christmas songs that actually covers the life of Jesus after he was born.  Not bad for a self-confessed agnostic.

Bruce Springsteen: Santa Claus is Coming To Town

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yErhglOXIxM

As a native of the great state of New Jersey, the holidays do not offically begin until Bruce declares that the “Wind is whipping down the boardwalk!”

Andy Gullahorn: I Will Find A Way
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBJEzwE-8Mw
A song that is either about God reaching out to us… or the journey all of must make at least once in our life to those who appear to be unreachable.  A really nice meditation about what Christmas should be once all of the exterior traditions and trappings have cleared.

Nat King Cole: THE Christmas Song

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__kQ1PCP6B0&feature=fvsr

I’ve tried to include songs that do not get overplayed.  This song still qualifies because it can never be overplayed.

Brian Seltzer Orchestra: Angels We Have Heard On High

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1slhJWUPjzs

Simultaneously fun, thrilling, and even a little sacred… but not too sacred for this Stray Cat. Bu this song if you do not own it.

Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney: Count Your Blessings

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFUaFSry30w

From the movie White Christmas… which is the only reason why it’s included in the Christma-only radio station play list.  Yet it’s not a bad standby… and it has a good message.

They Might Be Giants: New York City

http://www.amazon.com/New-York-City-LP-Version/dp/B003A98DKW/ref=sr_1_25?ie=UTF8&s=dmusic&qid=1292994797&sr=1-25

I have a pet peeve about certain songs that purport themselves to be Christmas songs.  For example, just because “Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music makes a tangential reference to snowflakes and sleigh bells and all of a sudden, it slipped into the Christmas canon like some
However, the song “New York City” is where I will admit to being a hypocrite.  But this song FEELS like New York City at Christmas time, just as much as Silver Bells does.  Because everyone IS your friend in New York City!  Especially during the holidays!  Just don’t make eye contact…

Rent Soundtrack: Seasons of Love

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8iTeDl_Wug

Again, this is not necessarily a Christmas song, but it is a great New Year’s song… but since it asks us to mark 525,600 minutes with the moments we love, it’s not that off of the mark.  Plus it IS a great New Year’s song.

Squirrell Nut Zippers: Christmas in Carolina

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nivsq8Heh1c

I assume that Christmas in Carolina is great, but I cannot say for myself.  I more included this because one of my sister’s is going to be away for Christmas for the first time visiting her husband’s family.  It’s still a good song even if your sister is not spending the holiday in North Carolina.


That’s my list.  It is not all encompassing, but I think I have some good mix of the secular and religious in here.  Feel free to comment on your favorites… and Merry Christmas!

 
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The Author : Fr. Tom Gibbons
Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
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  • William Grogan

    If you want to hear good Christmas music, listen to medieval hymns and songs of the season. These really do it for me. That said, there are few Christmas songs and melodies that I don’t like, even the above mentioned “Last Christmas” has its place.

  • Lindsay

    I first heard Dave Matthews Band’s “Christmas Song” while absentmindedly listening to all-Christmas radio. I heard, “Take this bread and think of it as me,” and whipped my heard toward the radio in amazement. I was stunned and delighted. How many Christmas songs do you know that mention the Eucharist AT ALL?

  • Alison Jacobs

    British favorites include songs by Slade and Wizzard as well as ‘Stop the Cavalry’ by Jonah Louis (?) and ‘Fairytale of New York’ by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, much missed as the 10th anniversary of her death has just passed.

  • Shawn Murphy

    Good list.

    I also enjoy The Verve Pipe’s A Home Made Holiday and Sugarland’s Gold and Green album. They both get me in the mood for the season.

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