Let's Listen to Meta Four's iPod: Christmas Edition:
The Incredible Jimmy Smith: Christmas '64Jimmy Smith wasn't a jazz organist. He was the jazz organist. He taught himself how to play in the 50's. As you probably guessed from the title, Jimmy recorded this album in 1965, to try to put to music the way everyone was feeling over the sudden arrival of birds on the planet the previous year. (Incidentally, this was also the reasoning behind the title of the reissued LP—Christmas Cookin' —in reference to the discovery that birds tasted great.) Three of the songs feature a trio, with Smith backed by electric guitar and drums, thus giving Smith a bit more of a spotlight for soloing. Five of these songs feature Smith backed by a full big band. Interestingly, there's no saxes or other reeds, just brass (including french horns and a tuba) and the rhythm section. This gives them a bit more of a classical sound than the usual jazz orchestra, but it also reflects the grim economic reality of the times: for obvious reasons, reeds were hard to come by. It would be another three years before the industry recovered to its pre-1964 levels, and poor Jimmy Smith couldn't afford to hire any of the few remaining sax or clarinet (or even cor anglais) players for a simple Christmas album. But in spite of these setbacks, Smith was able to record eight tracks worth of Christmas magic. And that's what Christmas is all about: in the midst of frightening changes and uncertainty about the future, you cling to the stuff that you know to be true and ancient: songs like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "White Christmas" that were written, like, twenty years ago. Twenty years, that's like, forever, man.
Various Artists: Happy Christmas Vol. 2Yes, the first Happy Christmas compilation sold well enough that Tooth & Nail decided to put out a second the following year. SPOILERS: So far, they're up to Happy Christmas Vol 5, which just came out this year. So is it an Even Better Sequel? Sequelitis? More of the same? Less of the same? More of less? Let's listen and find out. MxPx — "Christmas Day" Nothing says Christmas like generic pop-punk. It's listenable. Haha, after my comments about the punk stuff on the first Happy Christmas, and my thoughts on punk in the Album Exchange Club thread, I must totally be coming across as some jerk who doesn't like punk. Sixpence None the Richer — "You're a Mean One, Mr Grinch" Heck yes. Leigh Nash is the exact opposite of whoever it was that sang the original version of this song. But aside from that bit of humor, her voice is really nice, and Matt Slocum's instrumental arrangements are darn near perfect. All Star United — "I Wish It Would Be Christmas Everyday" This is yandere converted into musical form. Listen closely to the beginning. About ten seconds in, someone shouts "I'm so happy!" But he sounds like he's in pain. That's you're warning to stop listening while you still can. In this song lies madness. And the song wastes no time getting weird:
well he just might like to know
he put a great big smile on somebody's face!
you know that sweet Santa Claus is on his way
and the storm clouds paint it dark
then your rosy cheeks are gonna light the merry way!
and they're frozen up my ears,
so we lie by the fire till the heat simply melts them all away!
all along the Milky Way\\
I didn't know it was daddy in disguise.
edited 28th Nov '10 5:57:27 PM by MetaFour
Various artists: Verve Remixed ChristmasIt's Christmas jazz (vocal with one exception), remixed. What I think is interesting that it's electronic music (remixes, after all) but the first bunch of songs don't sound electronic—the Count Basie track sound bluesy, the Ella Fitzgerald track sounds like traditional pop, and so on—like the album is easing the listener into the whole concept. Then they bring out the synth-pop in the second half. I also like that the vocals are mostly left untouched. Mostly. I don't really have commentary on every single track this time: Louis Armstrong — "'Zat You, Santa Claus? (The Heavy Mix)" Something makes me suspect the original multitracks of this song are gone. Because there isn't any actual remixing here; there's some minor cut-and-pasting of the song sections, and some louder drums and electric guitar overdubbed, and that's it. Honestly, the finished product is so close to the original that it almost sounds like they were aiming to improve on it. Which is impossible. Louis Armstrong — "What a Wonderful World (The Orb Remix)" This is great, but why is it considered a Christmas song? Is Christmas the only time of the year that we can get away with being optimistic? Jimmy Smith — "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (Oh No Remix) As I mentioned before, this was my introduction to Jimmy Smith. It made an impression. Having heard the original, I now realize that Oh No basically chopped the song into pieces, and the rebuilt it into... pretty much the same melody as the original hymn, over a rather hip-hop beat. And Jimmy's organ solos really got the shaft for some reason. The last three tracks—Dinah Washington's "Silent Night", Mel Tormé's "The Christmas Song", and Nina Simone's "Chilly Winds Don't Blow"—are the exception to what I said about the vocals being untouched. "Silent Night" and "Chilly Winds" exemplify the "sample one line from the song and build an entire new song off it" approach to electronica. But "The Christmas Song" is more interesting, in that the verses are left alone, while the chorus gets mostly cut out, but a few lines remain, mainly "...know how to fly..." which is repurposed into the song's hook. It actually works pretty well.
edited 4th Dec '10 3:53:08 PM by MetaFour
Various Artists: Happy Christmas, Vol. 3They keep happening! The OC Supertones — "Heaven's Got a Baby" Remember when I said, back in Happy Christmas 1 that I hated Sarah Masen's performance, but thought the song itself was good? This is what I was talking about. The 'Tones go acoustic rock instead of their usual ska for some unfathomable reason, but it's catchy. And Matt Moringsky's voice isn't that good, but it doesn't make me scramble for the skip button like Sarah Masen's did, so all in all I think this is a step up. Relient K — "Santa Claus is Thumbing to Town" Yes. Relient K, this is how you do pop-punk. If you guys could consistently play fast, catchy stuff like this, rather than the watered-down crap on your normal albums, I would actually listen to you. Cadet — "The First Noel" Listen to that flute/synth/synth-flute/whatever solo after the first chorus. It sounds remarkably half-hearted. I think it's very indicative of the entire song, and possibly Cadet's entire career. Bleach — "What We Call Christmas" I know this is a song about Christmas, but it doesn't really sound the slightest bit like Christmas. It's still a good song. Earthsuit — "Wonderful Christmas Time" I said this in another thread (but that hasn't stopped me from shamelessly plagiarizing myself in the past, so I see no reason to stop now) that it sounds like Earthsuit heard the original version by Paul McCartney and decided that it wasn't techno enough. But at least they had the sense to vocoder-ize the vocals so that aspect wouldn't be compared to Paul. Kidding aside, I do like this song Kendall Payne — "O Come O Come Emmanuel" Rather ominous production on this song. Some deep synths and dulcimer add up to something that sounds very dark and empty. Considering the lyrics, ominous is a very good fit. Hangnail — "Do You Hear What I Hear" Yes again. These guys managed to take one of the worst Christmas songs and make is not just listenable, but really darn good. Poor Old Lu — "What Child is This?" Poor Old Lu are classics of the 90's alternative Christian scene, but this particular track was recorded just prior to their 2001 reunion album. The more cover versions of this song I hear, the more I'm convinced that the standard, sappy approach just doesn't cut it. The lyrics are about the dawning realization that a frail, crying, pooping-his-pants baby is also somehow God, who's going to save all of us. This is potentially paradigm-shattering stuff. This song should convey a mood of holy terror, not "Aww, what a cute kid". So, I think this is pretty good, but I think Poor Old Lu's musical approach would have fit better with some other song, rather than this one. Joy Electric — "Mrs. Santa Claus" Warning! Ear worm approaching! Denison Witmer — "A Christmas Song" I knew that my taste in music and overall outlook on life had changed in a fundamental way when, some years after first getting this album, I listened to this song again and not only enjoyed it, but actually thought it was uplifiting (and not a mopey ball of depression, per my initial impression). Ace Troubleshooter — "Have It All" What is this track doing on here? How is this a Christmas song? It doesn't sound like Christmas, and I have to squint at the lyrics to figure out how they relate. Maybe this is actually a b-side from Ace Troubleshooter's album. Oh wait, they say "tis the season" in one of the verses that doesn't count you slackers Starflyer 59 — "I'll Be Home for Christmas" I love Sf59, but this is the weakest of their Christmas offerings. It's still supergreat, but not as supergreat as the rest. Aaron Sprinkle — "A Christmas Song for All Year Round" Ah, yes, the one thing our Christmas music was lacking: annoyingly preachy stuff. It's not like there's any shortage of hymns about the True Meaning Of Christmas; do we really need a song about hoping everyone else gets what Christmas is all about? The hymns generally have better lyrics, too. Skyline Drive — "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" Yeah! Melancholic Fender rock is a great fit for this song. I've never been able to find anything else this band did, which is a pity. There's a band on iTunes called The Skyline Drive, but they really don't sound like the same band. Matt Thiessen and the Earthquakes — "I Hate Christmas Parties" Oh, look at that kooky title, this will be a fun song, right? WRONG Yes, this is Matt Thiessen of Relient K. And it's a pretty good song. And it's part of the reason why I dislike Relient K so much: Matt T has proven that he's capable of writing fun punk songs (see "Santa Claus is Thumbin' to Town", above) and that he's capable of writing good pop songs (this one right here), yet on the albums he persists in writing pop-punk that somehow manages to be less interesting than either of its constituents. And on that note, the album ends. Someone at Tooth & Nail Records hates us, and they somehow got put in charge of the song order for this compilation.
edited 4th Dec '10 5:33:02 PM by MetaFour
edited 4th Dec '10 5:40:41 PM by MikeK
You need to Get Known to get one of those.