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The Christmas season brings with it holiday music: some quite good, some not so good, and some wonderfully bad. Every wave of popular music brings with it eventual Christmas singles or albums. Singing stars, and others, seem drawn like the wise men following the star. Consider a few examples, but do set your beverage down before listening, as some are inadvertently merry and bright.
We start, of course, with disco. At the tail end of the disco craze, you could expect orchestras to show they are with it. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra did not disappoint, recording a medley, “Hooked on Christmas” in 1981. The Universal Robot Band released “Disco Christmas” in 1977, straddling street cred and sentiment. Then there were the combined efforts of various session musicians and disco labels. Salsoul released the 1976 album whose cover art you see here. I think the Salsoul Orchestra “Christmas Medley” is better than the philharmonic attempt. All of these are better than the perhaps earnest attempt by Charo: “Mamacita, Donde este Santa Clause.” Then there is the album by Mirror Image, a group of studio musicians, turned out Disco Noël with “Silver Bells” as you’ve never heard it before:
The tradition of Christmas novelty tunes goes back a long way, with early examples like Spike Jones & His City Slickers 1948 recording, “All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth).” Joe Diffie’s recent “Leroy The Redneck Reindeer” follows the tradition of Lou Monte and “Dominick The Donkey.” Elmo & Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” is terribly catchy, silly, and possibly obnoxious:
Rap, hip hop if you prefer, has its share of Christmas (w)rapping. Consider Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin.” Of course, the biggest names had to get in on the act. See Run DNC’s “Christmas in Hollis:”
Stars have taken their turn at old standards, with mixed results. Consider Bob Dylan attempting “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” At least William Shatner is entirely self-aware, but what on earth was Judy Collins doing, joining him in “White Christmas?”
Then there is the long line of contemporary songs in various genres, for which your mileage may vary. Elvis Presley’s 1968 live recording of “Blue Christmas” wears fairly well, as does Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run,” provided you like their other music. Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is quite bubbly, while Wham! gives you big hair 1980s pop in “Last Christmas.” José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” is a staple of holiday radio and shopping music. Consider the fun he has with Daryl Hall (Live From Daryl’s House):
In a similar vein, ABBA fans still like “Happy New Year,” although the appeal may not be apparent to others. If you like the Kinks and 1970s rock, you will appreciate “Father Christmas,” else not. At the far edge of this, I think you have to be a hard core Dropkick Murphys fan to appreciate “The Season’s Upon Us.” I found it too misanthropic, and if it catches the family dysfunctions’ fueled by alcoholic lifestyles, the listener is left wondering what the other family members think of the singers.
I leave you with more pleasant fare. Boney M. “Mary’s Boy Child,” popularizing Jester Hairton’s gospel song, is a great sonic palette cleanser after all these offerings:Published in