Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Playlist

May be I'm coming to terms with Christmas now. Its difficult for me because while I manage to get through the rest of the year keeping myself out of distressing sociable situations, Christmas forces you to make a choice. The choice is: join in 100% or be left out utterly and on your own.

Over the years I've managed carve out my own niche. Obviously it was fine when i was a kid and even round my Gran's house as a child I used to go off to be by myself for much of the evening. And this was accepted under the guise that I wanted to see the Christmas Bond film, which was a regular feature of the ITV schedules. I'd sit upstairs in my Granparents' bedroom and watch on their little t.v. and be plied with drinks and snacks throughout. It gave a me a cool (as in temperature) space with reduced stimulus in which to sit, be and think, as well as watch a Bond film (one of the good early ones I hasten to add).

I went through a difficult patch then as a teenager. Found night clubs and that difficult and used to get far too wasted far too early. Mainly because the sociable aspect of this ritual was limited for me, and quite obviously I became much more sociable with alcohol, for a short time. So ended up I getting wasted instead.

Then i met a girl and married so it became a family Xmas. Her family up in the fens. Then friends took me in after she left me, and I had what up till then had been the best  Xmas of my adult life, with the people I had campaigned and protested with during the previous few years. Then came a second marriage, a whole new family, and my own child now, kept me in Xmases for the best part of a decade! Me and S more or less felt the same about xmas so we'd go off and do out own thang more often than not. Our own thang took in Norfolk, staying in our own flat and having friends round, disappearing off to Amsterdam one year or setting up camp in a relative's house for a few days.

God I miss her!

Since then it's been a struggle again. Two years round my parents in Devon before that got too much for me and them! My Dad's 70 now and they are SO set in their ways my presence for more than a couple of days seems to upset them more than please them. Then from 2009 I've been back on my own again. This will be my third solo Xmas since splitting with S. Next year I'm seriously considering going elsewhere, though options are limited as is money!

What's good about being by yourself is that you can pretty much ignore the whole thing and I get some time off work to catch up with "stuff". This year I've been to a couple of works dos, my local cycling do, and I've downloaded a load of Xmassy music so I can at least have a party on my MP3 player!

This is the most engaged in Xmas I have been for at least 4 years. There was that last final disastrous Xmas with S, the 2nd or 3rd most depressing of my life! We were both incredibly depressed that year. A split was inevitable!

And so - to my Xmas playlist.....

I've tried to find stuff a little off the beaten track - the sort of stuff you hear on 6Music played by those in the know, but that never appear on the mainstream compilations, or indeed hear in the shops.

I think I've done pretty well. A lot of the stuff I was after is unfortunately only available on vinyl or CD, and often not available at all, but i found some new stuff.

First off i went to look for festive soul and funk

James Brown
This album is misnamed. While there is definitely funky tracks on there, it appears to be a compilation from across Brown's career and includes much from his pre-funky era. So it might as well have been called Soulful Christmas. But for about £3 it was worth it even if only half the tracks came up to standard.
Having said that, James Brown's soulful stuff can be pretty good too!

Santa Claus go Straight To The Ghetto
Soulful Christmas
Santa Claus Is Definitely Here To Stay
Tit For Tat (Ain't No Taking Back)
Santa Claus, Santa Claus

There's much more to be had from this album, but these are the best tracks.

Bootsy Collins
I think this might be a bit of an overlooked christmas gem:

It's all good.
Chestnuts (AKA The christmas Song)
Jingle Belz
Santa's Coming
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer 

Rudolph is now a funk and soul reindeer. This album is stuffed full of originals and classics radically reworked in the Bootsy Collins funk idiom. You can't go wrong at £7.49 (Amazon). Though I found many of the tracks to be available as free downloads and on You Tube. 

This is an album of mixed quality. Though enough good tracks to justify it's cost.

There's a few Jackson 5 tracks on there. I'm no Michael Jackson fan, quite the opposite in fact, however the ones on here are mostly very good.  Also on here, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, a mental version of "Joy To The World" by the Supremes. the Temptations aren't as good as you'd hope. They seem to be taking Xmas far too seriously and religiously for my taste, though "My Xmas Tree" ain't too bad, if a little sentimental. Marvin Gaye appears too with the marvellous "Christmas In The City". Kim Weston's "Wish You a Merry xmas" is cool in classic Motown diva style.

Then I looked for reggae and ska tracks - harder to find, unfortunately. At least on MP3 anyway.
I consider this to be a project in this space.

finally, though i didn't initially go searching for it - jazz numbers kept coming up - so I selected a few

All of these albums have at least one good standout track on them, sometimes several. i advise you to check them out before buying.

Christmas Jazz

I bought a couple of tracks of this - while I love Ella, the combination of her rich voice and Xmas schmaltz means i can only take her in small doses. Still great though. In small doses. It almost doesn't matter what you buy off this and amazon let's you sample before you buy, which is very helpful. 

Not the Verve, that wouldn't be a very happy Xmas would it? But Verve, the Jazz label. 

I didn't buy the whole album, but a few tracks are worth buying. Ella Fitzgerald's "Rudolph", Ramsey Lewis Trio's "Here Comes Santa Claus", "'Zat You Santa Claus", Louis Armstrong, "Greensleeves" John Coltrane, Shirley Horne, "Winter Wonderland", "Santa Claus Is Coming To town", Bill Evans, a jazz organ version of "Jingle Bells", Jimmy Smith, 

The Ultimate Jazz Christmas

Count Basie's Jingle Bells is sublime, and a must have for any Christmas playlist. But don't buy the album, it's just not worth it. Pick off the 3 or 4 tracks you'll like, at the most, and buy them.

 Finally, more traditional type music:

Plenty of old school xmas classics on here. The album is way cheaper to by than individual tracks so go easy. If you start feeling you want to buy more than 6 or 7 tracks of this album then you may as well buy the whole thing and listen at your leisure. Some of the tracks on here are seldom heard such as Louis Armstrong's "Cool Yule" and Earnest Tubb's "Blue Christmas".

I already have the perennial favourite - the Phil Spector Christmas album. It's a shame I only get to play it three weeks of the year

And this is my rather modest Christmas groceries stash:
The duck is in the freezer!

Happy Xmas!

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