A Merry, Mostly Mellow, Christmas Mix
This year I'm handing out mix CDs along with my gifts. Here's the Christmas Mix I've come up with:
1. Christmastime Is Here (Instrumental) - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
To my mind, the most lasting and welcome addition to the stable of Christmas songs of the last 50 years. I like opening this mellow mix with an instrumental, soft and jazzy piece.
2. "O Holy Night" - Tracy Chapman
Chapman seems an odd choice for this carol, famous as it is for those lung-busting glory notes, but her hushed, reverent take is actually quite beautiful. I ended up with three versions of this song, so I wanted to kind of bookend them, with one as the second song, one in the middle, and one as the penultimate song.
3. "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" - David Bowie and Bing Crosby
I just heard somewhere on-line the story that the "Peace on Earth" part was written in the studio when Bing and David were unhappy with the way the duet of "Drummer Boy" was going. I love that.
4. "Whatever Happened to Christmas?" - Aimee Mann
The melancholy mood continues with this pretty, wistful ballad off of Mann's very good Christmas CD from last year.
5. "Happy Christmas" - John Lennon
The mood picks up a little here with all those kids and the somewhat spirited guitar chords.
6. "Baby, Please Come Home" - U2
And it gets pretty joyous with this spirited, rocking cover, one of the great U2 covers (as opposed to a crappy one - they tend to come in one of those two flavors).
7. "Christmastime" - Aimee Mann 3:21
Needing to take the tempo and mood down a touch, but not wanting to get away from the pop/rock stretch we're in, I turn again to Mann, with this more upbeat number.
8. "What Child Is This?" - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
Time to shift into some jazz, and this uptempo number from the seminal Charlie Brown classic works great.
9. "Sleigh Ride" - Ella Fitzgerald
We go a bit deeper into cool jazz with Ella Fitzgerald doing some cool swing.
10. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" - Band Aid 3:43
We take that energy and push it forward with the 80s charity classic. I get chills every time Bono bellows his solo line.
11. "Silent Night" - Sarah McLachlan
Time to slow things down a bot with this stately, clean version of what may be my favorite Christmas melody ever.
12. "This Little Babe" - Benjamin Britten
And into some classical stuff with this excited, anticipatory carol.
13. "O Holy Night" - Luciano Pavarotti 4:13
And we dive deep into classic tropes - full orchestra and a very traditional, very gorgeous and full-throated rendition of "O Holy Night," replete with huge money notes.
14. "My Little Drum" - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
After so much glorious excess, we need to back things up again, and so we turn again to Charlie Brown and my favorite take on Drummer Boy (sorry Bing).
15. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - Judy Garland
Time to bring back some of that melancholy. "We'll have to muddle through" indeed.
16. "The Christmas Song" - Nat King Cole
We keep the laid-back mood but get a bit brighter with the awesome Cole.
17. "Skating" - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
Let's work with that happy feeling by indulging in a joyous, child-like piece dominating by beautiful falling piano lines.
18. "Winter Wonderland" - Tony Bennett
The joy moves forward with some swinging Tony.
19. "Jingle Bells" - Ella Fitzgerald
And takes a quantum leap with a bursting, fast-scatted, double-time "Jingle Bells."
20. "O Holy Night" - The New Orleans Jazz Band
As we come into the homestretch, we keep the jazz sound, but slow things down some with this beautiful horn version of 'O Holy Night" as featured on Studio 60 last year. Kind of funny that this song may be the most lasting thing to come out of that show.
21. "Christmastime Is Here (Vocal)" - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
And, because I do dearly love my symmetry, we end with the vocal version of the now-classic song.