Well, not really. I don’t hate Christmas. (Though, I’m actually more of a Festivus guy.) I do, however, hate a good deal of holiday music. And I really despise the increasing commercialism of the holidays, which is now set to videos of stampedes on “Brown/Grey Thursday”, or “Black Friday”, or whatever other color the marketplace tries to foist upon a formerly wholesome holiday which once celebrated being thankful, and now celebrates credit card debt.
But that’s another topic for another blog. This one’s about music, right? And my above rant smacks of Charlie Brown’s frustration with the commercialization of Christmas, which conveniently leads me to the one holiday album I can bear to listen to not only during the holiday season, but all year long.
Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas is undoubtedly my favorite holiday album, and quite possibly my favorite jazz album, period. It’s tasteful, excellently-played, and perfectly captures a certain ennui I always seem to feel around the holiday season – that feeling an adult gets when they look back on holidays past, and think of all the family and friends who’ve passed on.
It’s also the only holiday album I’ll occasionally reach for throughout the year. It’s not overly adorned with sleigh bells, or any other sonic crutches that alert you to the fact you’re listening to a HOLIDAY ALBUM! Only the vocal version of “Christmas Time Is Here” meets that criteria, and can easily be excised from any post-December playlist.
And, what a song “Christmas Time Is Here” is! The longer, instrumental version is simply one of the most beautiful compositions ever written. An easy, breezy melody played with that slowly swinging, slightly maudlin vibe Guaraldi mastered so well. This is the perfect soundtrack to a hot beverage, fireside…as nourishing to your mind and soul as that beverage and warm fire might be to your body.
Along the same line, there’s also one holiday song above all others that I don’t mind hearing over and over.
Karen Carpenter’s voice is just so warm, and there’s more of that ennui I spoke of earlier. I’ve co-opted the lyrics for my own needs – the person or people she’s singing of yearning to be with, for me, are those deceased family and friends I miss every year at this time.
There are others by the Barenaked Ladies (including a real, non-novelty song for Chanukah, imagine that!), Harry Connick, Jr., Donny Hathaway and more that hit the mark for me as well, and I’ve compiled them, plus Guaraldi and the Carpenters into a Spotify playlist for you all:
For me, these songs wash away all of the Mariah Careys, the Elmo & Patsys, the Band Aids and Singing Dogs each and every year.
Merry Christmas, Darlings.