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Archive for the ‘Brave Combo’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS 3 (1997).

Sarah had this album on cassette, so I recently upgraded it to CD for her.  There are some good songs on here, but the end kind of degenerates into unpleasantness.  Looking at the track listing of the rest of the Very Special Christmas releases I can;t imagine ever getting (or even listening to) another one.

STING-“I Saw Three Ships”
Sting is back.  Compared to the previous song, this is a delightfully spare version of this song.  And it’s quite nice (and short).

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS-“Christmastime”
I’ve recently realized how much I dislike Corgan’s voice, but I do like his arranging.  This song is quite pretty and his voice is kind of submerged a bit so that’s good, too.

NATALIE MERCHANT-“Children Go Where I Send Thee”
O good Lord.  Sarah and I both like Natalie, but jeez this song is so repetitive and so freaking long.  One verse would have been fine.  But five? Hold crap.  I do like the “one for the little bitty baby” line, though.

REV RUN & THE CHRISTMAS ALL STARS FEATURING MASE, PUFF DADDY, SNOOP DOGGY DOGG, SALT-N-PEPA, ONYX & KEITH MURRAY-“Santa Baby” [NSFC]
Oh boy is this terrible.  A horrible update to a horrible song.  The original is kind of funny, but this is just excessive greed.  At least it mentions a ’98 benz so it is so dated that no one plays it anymore.

NO DOUBT-“Oi to the World”
Gotta say that I love this song.  It’s funny and fun and I would totally put this on a Christmas playlist.  This is back when I used to like Gwen Steafani.

SHERYL CROW-“Blue Christmas”
I don’t like this song and I’m mixed on Sheryl Crow, but this version works pretty well somehow.

BLUES TRAVELER-“Christmas”
I only know Blues Traveler from that one song with the long harmonica solo (I hate that harmonica sound).  But I love this song.  It actually reminds me a ton of Tenacious D (can t you just hear Jack Black singing this?)  It’s fun and really catchy.  I wonder if I need to listen to other Blues Traveler songs.

ENYA-“Oíche Chiún (Silent Night)”
This song is very pretty and I have the single for it.

HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH-“The Christmas Song”
Darius Rucker does have a good voice, but what the hell is going on in this cheesy phoned-in version?

CHRIS CORNELL WITH ELEVEN-“Ave Maria”
This is a nice (if not over the top–but is any version not over the top?).  But for heaven’s sake why is it 6 minutes long?

MARY J. BLIGE FEATURING ANGIE MARTINEZ-“Christmas in the City”
This is pretty much everything I hate in one Christmas song.  Cheesy beats, rambling verses, whiny choruses.

JONNY LANG-“Santa Claus Is Back in Town”
This is pretty close to everything else I hate in one Christmas song.  A blues song that feels like it goes on for 6 minutes.  Good grief.

DAVE MATTHEWS & TIM REYNOLDS-“Christmas Song”
This live version sounds better than the studio version I have elsewhere, but it’s still way too slow and mumbly and way way too long.

STEVE WINWOOD-“Christmas Is Now Drawing Near at Hand”
No one knows this “traditional” song, I’m sure.  It’s a slow English ballad, with no real melody.  I thought it was Peter Gabriel.  I kind of like it.

TRACY CHAPMAN-“O Holy Night”
This is an enjoyable version, understated and kind of weary-sounding.

PATTI SMITH-“We Three Kings”
My daughter rightly said that this version was very weird.  Patti is at her most Patti.  There’s  aton of mumbled spoken word competing with the song.  Even the chorus, which is so wonderfully catchy, is played like a dirge.  And like everything else bad on this record, it goes on for nearly 6 minutes.  CDs were bad for allowing people to sing for too long.

[READ: December 24, 2017] “Tripping Sunny Chaudhry”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story actually takes place on Christmas Eve!

The narrator and her husband head back to New Jersey for the holidays.  Back when she was younger, all the kids would head out to the woods for beers and a bonfire.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS (1987).

I remember when this album came out.  I think it was one of the first Christmas albums in which a lot of very popular musicians contributed to it. Of course proceeds went to charity.  By now, 30 years later, many of these songs are deemed classic enough that you will hear them regularly at Christmas.

Suffice it to say I hated this when it came out.  Now, I have grown to appreciate (some of it) it more.

THE POINTER SISTERS-“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
I really didn’t like this song back then.  I think it has grown on me enough that I just don’t mind it any more and it is certainly a staple.

EURYHTMICS-“Winter Wonderland”
I really like Annie Lennox’s own Christmas album.  This song is fine, it’s a little too 80s sounding, but over all its enjoyable.

WHITNEY HOUSTON-“Do You Hear What I Hear?”
People really like to overdo this song.  This version is okay.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E. STREET BAND-“Merry Christmas Baby”
This is a classic Christmas song by this point, but boy do I dislike the sax.

PRETENDERS-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
This version I don;t thin I hear too much.  Probably because it’s understated and quite nice.

JOHN COUGAR MELLENCAMP-“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
I don’t particularly like this song.  I love the musical style that JCM plays, although I don’t like the way he sings it.

STING-“Gabriel’s Message”
I don’t know this at all, I guess everyone skips it.  It’s rather pretty if you can get past the fact that it’s Sting at his more pretentious.

RUN-D.M.C.-“Christmas in Hollis”
This is an all time favorite.  The song is fantastic and must be heard every year.  I live that I write a Christmas card that goes to someone in Hollis.

U2-“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
I’ve heard this a million times.  I don’t particularly like this song, but I do like this version.

MADONNA-“Santa Baby”
My most hated Christmas song, done by Madonna at her most grating.  Ugh.

BOB SEGER & THE SILVER BULLET BAND-“The Little Drummer Boy”
Can Bob Seger ever do anything that doesn’t sound like him?  I don’t really like this song, but this version is kind of fun given how over the top it is.

BRYAN ADAMS-“Run Rudolph Run”
Never liked this song either.  It’s a lame lyrics to make into a rock n roll Christmas song.  All versions sound basically the same to me.

BON JOVI-“Back Door Santa”
I do not know this song at all.  Is it always skipped because it’s so bad?  Man the synths are awful.  Although it makes me realize just how unfair it was to both Bon Jovi and heavy metal that they were lumped into the same category.

ALISON MOYET-“The Coventry Carol”
I think Alison Moyet is the only artist here who most people probably don’t know today.  Her voice is really great though and this song is very cool.  Not exactly my favorite here, but certainly the most interesting.

STEVIE NICKS-“Silent Night”
It’s entirely possible that Stevie Nicks forgot how to sing on this song.  She seems really flat and then doesn’t even do most of the lead vocals half way through the song.  The “grace notes” are appalling too.

So it seems that the songs that were pretty good have stayed with us, the rest have faded away.  And there are a couple that need to be brought into rotation again.

[READ: December 23, 2017] “How to Be a Slut”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKHOLIDAYS RULE (2012).

This collection is fairly new (a second volume has just come out this year).  It was curated by Chris Funk from The Decemberists.  It’s a nice mix of contemporary bands and classic songs.  The disc is mostly fun–it gets a little bogged down in the middle–and upbeat.

FUN-“Sleigh Ride”
The first time I heard this  had no idea who it was (I didn’t look at the disc).  I actually thought it was a female pop singer.  After listening a few times I’m mixed but favorable on it.  I love the sound effects in the background.  It’s fun, even with the autotune.

THE SHINS-“Wonderful Christmastime”
This is one of my least favorite Christmas songs, but I like this version better than Pauls’s.  It doesn’t sound especially like The Shins to me though.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT AND SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
I love Rufus’ distinctive voice–he does louche so well.  Sharon is somewhat indistinct here but she is well-matched with him.

PAUL McCARTNEY-“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”
This might be the only disc I have where someone covers a song by an artist on the disc.  His version of this is way too slow.  But I am intrigued that he says “some holly and some mistletoe” (Because he’s vegetarian).

BLACK PRAIRIE featuring SALLIE FORD-“(Everybody’s Waitin’ for) The Man with the Bag”
I typically don’t care for this song, but I love this bluegrassy version.  It’s stomping and fun (and Chris Funk plays on it).

THE CIVIL WARS-“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
The Civil Wars are downbeat folk artists but, man, their voices together are so lovely.  Their harmonies make this song essential despite the less than upbeat rhythms.

CALEXICO-“Green Grows the Holly”
This song sounds so wonderfully Calexico.  I love it and would even have assumed it was an original of theirs if I didn’t know better,

AGESANDAGES-“We Need A Little Christmas”
I’m torn about this song.  They modify the delivery and I think I like it.  It’s also pretty infrequently played so it gets extra points.  But it feels like a real downer when you can hear the lyrics so clearly.

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY-“That’s What I Want for Christmas”
I don’t know who this is. And I don’t really care for this song which is kind of slow and ponderous even if the message is a good one.

IRMA THOMAS WITH PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND-“May Ev’ry Day be Christmas”
This is big brassy version of the song which sounds like it could be quite old with Thomas’ husky voice.

HEARTLESS BASTARDS-“Blue Christmas”
I dislike this song to begin with, so making a countryish version certainly doesn’t help.

ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER-“Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me”
So this song is interesting with its strange chord choices and themes.  And it would be great if it were like 2 minutes long.  It seems to end quite naturally at that time, but then some vibes come in and the song gets all slinky.  That would be fine except it just repeats the same line and vibes section for 3 minutes!  WTF Eleanor?

FRUIT BATS-“It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”
It drives me nuts the way this guys says Creeesmas.  Why does he say it like that?  It’s crazy.  And I can’t get past it because he says it a bunch.

Y LA BAMBA-“Señor Santa”
This song is more or less “Mister Sandman” but sung with the lyrics of Mister Santa.  There’s a wheezy accordion and the great accented voice of the lead singer Luz Elena Mendoza.  I love this and more artists should invent songs like this for the holidays.

PUNCH BROTHERS-“O come, O come, Emmanuel”
The Punch Brothers are awesome and this version of this song terrific.  Chris Thile sings wonderfully as he gets that mandolin worked up.  I love that they turn it into an opportunity to stretch out some, too.

THE HEAD AND THE HEART-“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
A terrific duet with the unmistakable voice of Charity Rose Thielen.  This is a sprightly and fun song and they do a great job.  I love the way she sings “maybe I’m crazy” and the vamping at the end is fantastic.

ANDREW BIRD-“Auld Lang Syne”
Andrew plays some high-spirited violin and sings briskly.  There’s a kind of countryish feel to it, which is quite different for this song.

Overall this is a good collection to add.  Nothing offensive or off-putting and maybe just one or two duds.

[READ: December 21, 2017] “The First Day of Winter”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BRAVE COMBO-It’s Christmas, Man (1991).

This is one of my all time favorite Christmas records.

I love that it plays around with the styles and tempos of traditional songs and yet it remains very faithful to the spirit of the holidays

Brave Combo is a band who likes to have fun, and they certainly do that here.

This record may have been the first time I’d heard “Must Be Santa” (Polka) back in 1991, and their version is peppy and wild.  In my mind it is the accurate version.  There’s lots of fun percussion and crazy sounds.  It’s got a klezmer beat and a conga session at the end.

“Oh Christmas Tree” (Samba) is a 3 minute nearly all instrumental wild version. The vocals come in about 30 seconds from the end to zip through it.  “It’s Christmas” [Cha Cha] I love this song.  It is catchy and fun and is just the epitome of Christmas to me.

“Corrido Navideño” [Ranchera]  This is a mellower song, sung in Spanish.  That’s an unexpected change, but Brave Combo celebrates all kinds of musical styles.  “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts)” [Ska] is upbeat and dancey and so much fun.  Although the vocals at the end are a bit understated for the rhythm.
“Christmas In July” They have some fun with the lyrics: “bells on the ice cream truck” “Rudolph the sunburned reindeer.”  “Have yourself a merry, steamy Christmas.”  It’s fun, fast and dancey.  “Please Come Home For Christmas” is a bluesy song.
“Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah” [Hora]  This is fast and punky and a wonderfully jazzy version.
“Frosty The Snowman”  This is a short jazzy version of the song with horns taking the vocal melody.
“The Little Drummer Boy” [Guaguanco]  I love the various styles of drums which makes this song more vibrant to me than many other versions.  It feels calypso to me.  “Santa’s Polka” [Polka] This song is outstanding, funny and sweet.
“Feliz Navidad” [Cumbia] The album kind of slows down a bit at this point.  This is a little too slow for my tastes, especially given the wonderful faster versions that are out there.  It’s not bad it just sounds like it’s designed for older people.
“Ave Maria”  This is a pretty operatic version of the song.  It is just acoustic guitars and the singer’s lovely operatic voice.  It is completely out of place on this disc.  If anything it should have gone last, right?
“Buon Natale” [Waltz]  I never realized how strange this song is until I listened closely to this fun, upbeat waltz.
Far away across the sea
In sunny Italy
There’s a quaint little town
Not a clock has been wound
For over a century
They don’t know the time or year
And no one seems to care
And this is the reason
The Christmas season
Is celebrated all year
“Jingle Bells” is only 45 seconds long and it is zippy and minor key in a klezmer sort of way.  A jolly fun way to end the disc.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Dogs of Cuba”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

Read Full Post »

herevilleSOUNDTRACKBRAVE COMBO/BOB DYLAN-“Must Be Santa” (1991).

bob dylanBrave Combo is a fun band that mixes more styles in one album than most bands do in their career.  While they primarily play polka, the also play everything from folk to rock to klezmer.  This song is an old song from Mitch Miller, but Brave Combo speed it up and spice it up with clarinets and fun instrumental frills.  It’s fast and furious.

And if that wasn’t strange enough, Bob Dylan covered the song–and clearly covered the Brave Combo version when he made his Christmas album in 2009.  Although Brave Combo didn’t write the song, Dylan’s cover is certainly in the polka style and he includes lyrics that Brave combo added:

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

Dylan singer faster than I’ve ever heard him.  It’s a hoot.  And the video is really funny too.

[READ: January 3, 2012] Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite

I saw this book on the library shelf and the tagline (“Boldy Going Where No 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl Has Gone Before”) made it sound like a lot of fun.  Upon reading it, I can see it’s not quite what thought it was.  It turned out to be much cooler.  This also proves to be the second book in this series, although you don’t need the first book to appreciate this one.

Mirka, an orthodox Jewish girl has been grounded (for fighting a troll with a sword.  Her stepmother, sick of her hanging around, offers to play Mirka in chess.  If Mirka wins, her punishment is over.  As with everything Mirka does, she is too brash, too hasty, which means that she will not win.  But her stepmother takes pity and allows her to go outside–if she stays out of trouble.  But because she is willful, Mirka runs right back to the troll.  The troll, angered at being defeated by such a stupid girl (his insults at her are great), creates a meteorite and sends it hurtling towards the town of Hereville.

Mirka consults with the witch who helped her defeat the troll in the first place and the witch changes the meteorite into a girl who is the exact copy of Mirka.  Although indeed, not an exact copy for Metty as she comes to be known is smarter, neater and better at basketball.  Mirka thinks it would be great to have this twin around to help with chores but Metty winds up eating all her food (they can’t both be in the same place at once) including the big feast at Shabbos and making her look bad.   (more…)

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