Again, the Coming of the Light

Welcome to Dana, a new blogger for EOR, who has this to say about himself: I've worked for Multnomah County Library for fourteen years.  I play C-melody sax and plan to blog some about our great sheet music collection. I also worked in record stores here and in the Twin Cities and wrote about music semi-professionally in a former life.

At most branches they only come out once a year, and fly off the shelves once they're on display. Given the constraints of a (largely) set repertoire and seasonal appropriateness, how many Christmas CDs does one need for a truly Happy Holidaze? Yet, IMHO, great Artists have no problem putting their personal stamp on shopworn seasonal fare. And there's still plenty of time to place holds and get things right on time without having to revert to the Orthodox/Julian calendar. So here are a few suggestions to help you explore some of the many approaches to music making found in our libraries under the call number CD Xmas.

Phil Spector's Christmas Album, a/k/a A Christmas Gift to You (1963). Yes, I know he's nuts and in prison and deservedly so. Nonetheless, this is arguably the greatest rock 'n roll Xmas album ever, indisputably the most imitated. It was pulled from its scheduled release (in 'the States', not the UK) because of president Kennedy's assassination, which no doubt blunted its initial impact (by the next year, everything had changed in popular music). The infamous Wall of Sound is applied to standard seasonal fare and one original, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", which got Darlene Love in the Hall of Fame and on Letterman every year forever. Crystals, Ronnettes, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, not to mention the Wrecking Crew and various hangers-on, were roped into playing sleigh-bells so they could have enough on the track without having to overdub.

Brothers of the Baladi, A Time of Peace (1999). At first blush it may strike your ears as strange to hear these oh so familiar tunes done up in Middle Eastern instrumentation.  But last time I checked, that's where that Little Town of Bethlehem was. You know, where all this Christmas stuff started.  And after you get used to it, it just sounds good.

John Fahey, The New Possibility (1968). The late steel string guitar guru had any number of holiday platters on offer, but he got it (most strikingly) right with this, the first one. definitely a different perspective -- stark, austere, bracing as a blast of cold air, traditional carols are here made new again by taking them back to what was presumably their original sense of wonder and awe.

Boston Camerata, Medieval Christmas (1975). When you get good and tired of the usual mall muzak, set the Wayback Machine for your favorite century/era/epoch and there you go. Everything olde is new again. If this is nostalgia for you, someone needs to call the Guinness Book.