I’m here with Jeanne, my evil twin, and Nancy, the third Boom Bandit. For any new readers, I should explain. We have been so named because we like suspense, mayhem, and of course, blowing up stuff.
Blowing up stuff in our books. Mostly. Ahem…
Anyway, here we are, and we’re talking about our top five Christmas albums, and some of our favorite Christmas songs.
Tis the season, yaknow?
Yes, I get it. Some people don’t like Christmas music, don’t like being reminded that it IS Christmas, and would prefer not to hear about it. In truth I went through a spell where I felt that way. I was sick to death of the crowds and the money mongering, all to the same melancholy musical backdrop that takes over radio frequencies from November until New Year’s Eve.
Then I watched the film Elf, and something shifted. Partly because in that film, for the first time ever, I heard the song, Baby It’s Cold Outside.
I hear you asking the question. “How could this be, Cassondra? How is it that you could live this long without hearing that song?”
I. Don’t. Know.
I started playing gigs all around the state (singing and playing guitar), when I was fifteen. I started playing piano for money(all over the southeastern United States) when I was seventeen. But that was mostly gospel and country. I grew up in a fundamentalist church. My whole childhood was swallowed whole by gospel, country, classical (checked out from the library) and folk music (albums sneaked out of the attic upstairs, when my mom wasn’t looking). Almost no jazz, or jazz-influenced music at all. I got a hint of Big Band from the Lawrence Welk Show, but that was it. That could be the reason I missed out on the jazzier side of Christmas. The only Christmas music played around our home–or actually, around our town, that I remember–was the kind that centered on the religious. Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…
Santa Clause was comin’ to town, but only in a church-approved sleigh, yaknow?
Granted, Christmas is a religious holiday, for many. But still…where were all of these songs I missed? Merry Christmas Baby, you sure did treat me right…
I have this one memory. I think it was from fourth grade. Each of us had to bring a Clorox bleach jug from home. (For those of you who don’t know, these jugs are opaque white plastic, like the one on the right. We cut the top off of the jug, just at the top of the label, where that ridge is in the picture. We removed said label, turned the bottom half of the jug upside down, then cut holly leaves and berries out of construction paper and glued them onto the front of the upside-down jug, to make a marching-band-style “hat”. Then we had to wear these godawful abominations and stand on a stage, on risers in front of family and friends, while we sang really bad, really depressing carols at the Christmas program.
It. Was. Awful.
Maybe that’s what turned me against Christmas carols to begin with.
Honestly though, when you think about that Baby It’s Cold Outside song, and its real meaning, there’s no mistake. It’s a romance novel in the making. A really steamy one. Our intrepid hero is working his butt off to get our heroine to stay for the night. She’s resisting in a rather ridiculous must-play-hard-to-get fashion. He’s hoping for wild monkey sex, right?
You know he is. I mean, he’s a guy.
In case you haven’t heard the song, here’s one of my favorite versions, from one of the favorite albums I list, below.
My suspicion is that this song was considered inappropriate by a lot of people when I was growing up. Maybe there just weren’t a lot of recorded versions out there. I dunno. It certainly would have been inappropriate in MY house. You know…because of the whole “potential for wild monkey sex” thing. Nothing sexual about Silent Night. Well, maybe the “round yon virgin” thing. But I digress.
Flash forward to adulthood, and to the movie Elf and Christmas music came alive for me again. I started buying albums full of Christmas music from Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and their ilk.
Jeanne grew up in a church-going area too. She sang in the church choir when she was old enough, and of course, carols were the order of the day. But mostly, her favorite thing about the season is that it’s COLD. Baby, it’s cold outside, dear Lord LET IT SNOW in this winter wonderland. This is where our twin thing diverges. I’ll go to a nice warm beach, thanks.
Nancy had her share of carols and Christmas music. About this formative experience, she said, “I sang in Junior Choir. Considering I can’t carry a tune in the proverbial bucket, this was probably more fun for me than for my more gifted choir-mates. Enthusiasm counted for a lot, though, and I was enthusiastic. In high school, I went caroling with friends a couple of times, again hoping enthusiasm made up for being pitch-challenged.”
So for the three of us, carols were the order of the day.
But back to my (relatively) recent discovery of the NON-carol Christmas song…
Many of these songs have nothing to do with Christmas itself. They’ve just become standards of the season. And yet, the newer music is, mostly, my favorite. I still do love the traditional carols though, and I’ve figured out that for me to like them, they have to be upbeat and maybe even a bit jazzy.
So to that end, we give you the Boom Bandits’ Top Five Christmas albums, which will end up being fifteen, since there are three of us. Then again, Jeanne and I are the evil twins of the lair, so we may have some duplicates. Still…although we have a number of evil twin crossovers, we do not always tow the evil twin line.
Cassondra: Anything Manheim Steamroller because they just rock. It’s feel-good music.
Jeanne: Windham Hill’s Winter Solstice. Because of the sheer musicality of it, and this amazing, ancient-sounding stuff you don’t hear on common playlists.
Nancy: The Roches~~We Three Kings. This is a capella, beautiful harmony.
Cassondra: Amy Grant’s Home For Christmas. Just a really warm, easygoing, family-at-home, glass-of-cider album.
Jeanne: Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas–It’s jazzy and fun and it’s got my absolute favorite, O Holy Night, with someone who can hit all the notes crisp and clear.
Nancy: Joan Baez~~Noel. Lovely voice. Folk music delivery of various carols.
Cassondra: James Taylor’s At Christmas. This is from 2006. There is not a bad track on this cd. If I started naming my favorites, I’d name almost every one. I’d never heard In the Bleak Midwinter until this album.
Jeanne: Anything Manheim Steamroller. They just rock. (Cassondra: I see the evil twin thing starting)
Nancy: The Homecoming Orchestra~~Christmas Baroque. This is brass renditions of traditional carols. This was one of those bargain bin purchases.
Cassondra: Amy Grant~~A Christmas Album (her first one). I love most of the songs, but the top ones are Tender Tennessee Christmas, Breath of Heaven, Grown Up Christmas List, and Emmanuel.
Jeanne: Amy Grant~~ A Christmas Album–Ahem…Notice the exact repeat of my evil twin’s opinion…verbatim….I love most of the songs, but the top ones are Tender Tennessee Christmas, Breath of Heaven, Grown Up Christmas List, and Emmanuel. And yes, I am serious. We scare each other at times.
Nancy: Manheim Steamroller~~Christmas Extraordinaire. Fabulous Orchestral renditions of holiday favorites. Heavy on brass. (Cassondra: I’m getting the idea that Nancy likes brass. Hmmm..and we all like Manheim Steamroller. Which is kind of cool.)
Cassondra: Rod Stewart’s new Christmas album~~Merry Christmas Baby. The songs We Three Kings and Auld Lang Syne are worth buying the album for, but you’ll like the others too. Stewart is an icon for a reason. And he has some wonderful duets on here.
Jeanne: Handel’s The Messiah–You just can’t beat the sheer magnificence of this choral performance. My father loved opera, so he had Handel’s The Messiah on the stereo a lot, and I grew up singing it. It’s still one of my favorites.
Nancy: Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra~~Christmas at the Pops. I mean, come on. It’s Arthur Fiedler. It doesn’t get better than that. (Cassondra admits that she has to agree, and likes this album too.)
Okay, okay…we can’t do this without some honorable mentions:
Jeanne’s new current favorite is Blake Shelton’s brand new Chrismas CD. In particular Oklahoma Christmas. (Cassondra: Just the name makes me want to buy it.) A second honorable mention goes to BoyzIIMen’s Christmas Interpretations, and in particular, their version of Mary Did You Know. The bass on that song is so deep and resonant. You just wouldn’t know they were that good until you hear this song. Third is Take Six’s He Is Christmas–I love this a capella group and their incredible sound.
For Cassondra: Anything from the Rankin Bass Claymation Christmas shows like Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer, Silver and Gold–anything by Burl Ives. The soundtrack from The Muppet Christmas Carol. Martha Stewart’s Christmas collection. This is a compilation, of course, but it’s an easygoing grouping of jazzy favorites, and is perfect for fixing dinner with a glass of wine, or eating dinner with friends and wine, or relaxing by the fire with wine…ahem…
Nancy: There’s this album my parents got as a gas station giveaway, back when gas stations had to care whether you bought your gas from them or someone else, but it’s on vinyl, so I never get to play it anymore. :-/ It’s called This is Chrismas. I really like the various artists and styles.
Cassondra: OH…A favorite song I MUST mention is Trisha Yearwood’s version of Mary Did You Know. It’s haunting, and like Amy Grant’s Breath of Heaven, makes you think about what that time must have been like for Mary and Joseph, outside of the idealized manger scene. A pregnant young virgin, trekking cross-country and the man who was taking care of her, who must have had some serious “are you freaking kidding me?” moments when he was taking the whole thing on faith, based on the word of some shimmery dude who poofed into his room out of thin air. Bandits and buddies, now that’s a romance novel, complete with conflict, and if we tried to sell that story to editors, they’d say, “No way. That would never happen.”
So, Bandits and Buddies,
Tell us YOUR favorites.
Do you have a favorite Christmas Album?
A favorite Christmas song?
Do you like traditional carols, or the newer, jazzier, FUN Christmas songs?
Or do you put on the dark shades and stick in the earplugs and listen to classic rock for six weeks, waiting for the whole thing to be over and done with?
Do you celebrate Christmas at all? Or do you celebrate Hanukkah? Or perhaps another holiday? If so, is there special music attached to the midwinter celebration or holy day that you love?
And as long as we’re mentioning the movie Elf, what’s your favorite Christmas movie?
Be sure to come back to the Lair on December 13 when we kick off the annual 12 BANDITA DAYS OF CHRISTMAS!Prizes and recipes every day!! Roosters. Starbucks goodies. Books. Dragons. Books. Cookies. Godiva. Books!! (By Banditas and friends like Dianne Love, Sabrina Jeffries, Marquita Valentine, Liz Carlyle, JD Tyler, Lydia Dare, Deb Marlowe, Addison Fox and many more!) You know you want the cookies, for sure, so come home to the Lair for the Holidays!Who knows, you might win something, and you’ll be guaranteed to have fun!!