Let's kick it off with a rundown of the Black Friday Record Store Day releases to watch for.
Honestly--to me--about the only release I'd be hunting for (if I had a participating record store within driving distance) is the Nick Lowe/Los Straitjackets album that we mentioned a while ago. But there are a few vinyls that other Christmas collectors might want to stalk.
I'd have to say one of the more interesting Black Friday exclusives is Eazy E's holiday opus "Merry Mutha****** Xmas". (Spellings of the key word vary, but it's not a word I like to see on the blog in any case). I don't have my books handy but, though it was included on a 1992 EP, my recollection is it was serviced to radio Christmas 1991 (which is weird because no radio station could possibly play it). You can find the song on YouTube, but be warned, it contains every foul word you don't want your kids to hear and some you probably haven't heard yourself. Not for the faint of heart. The late rapper, one of the members of NWA, was a bit of a trailblazer and this was likely one of the earlier rap Christmas tracks to go all out in perverting as much of the holiday as possible. A bit of trivia for you: a young will.i.am, later of the Black Eyed Peas, was part of the group backing Eazy E on the Christmas record. The Priority Records 7" will be limited to 2000 copies.
A pair of 10" may also be of interest. Big Star's "Jesus Christ" gets the 10" treatment in a limited edition of 2000. And Capitol will reissue the Les Paul & Mary Ford EP "Christmas Cheer". That's also limited to 2000.
Sons of Old Town is a collective of Nashville Indie, Alternative, and Folk artists. "X-Mas Extravaganza, Vol. 1" features some of their number collaborating on 3 original songs of the season and all coming together on 1 traditional carol.
For me, the highlight was John Davey's "Home In A Midwest Minute", which explores the mixed feelings of heading home for the holidays. Musically, it recalls a stripped down Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. "The 12th Day of Christmas" from Wilderness Alive (aka Peyton Rodeffer) struck me as a bit down beat for where my head is at right now, though the music is nicely Alt Rock-ish. Cory Taylor Cox contributes some Yuletide fun with "Holiday Optimism", about a dude pulling out every trick in the book to try and turn his personal Scrooge into a Christmas fan. It's so crazy, it might just work. Alex Ingram gives us some nice banjo work on that track. All join together on "Here We Come A-Caroling" which is true to the intent of the carol without sounding ancient. All in all, its great fun.
The 7" was limited to 200 copies and you have to figure less than half that number remain. You can order "X-Mas Extravaganza, Vol. 1" on vinyl via Bandcamp. If you prefer, you can get it in digital download form. But c'mon, who passes up translucent green vinyl for a handful of mp3s? Just sayin'. And you can learn more about the Sons of Old Town collective at their website.
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – The Light of Christmas Day
Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
Otis Redding – Merry Christmas, Baby
Bob Dylan – Girl from the North Country
Sting – Soul Cake aka “A Soalin”
Nina Simone – To Love Somebody
Bob Dylan – If Not For You
Molly June & Wes Hutchinson – Little Drummer Boy
Sixpence None the Richer – Carol of the Bells
The Dodos – Companion
Sarah Jarosz – Ring them Bells
Tamika Lawrence, Molly June & Wes Hutchinson – O Holy Night
Nick Urata – Fear of Silence
Enter Bill Murray. Wait, what? Yes, Bill Murray. Well, indirectly. As Murray and company were scaring up some tunes for his December 4 Netflix special, the French rock group Phoenix asked if they could cover the song for the special. Phoenix did get permission, it appears, but it also inspired Mike Love to give the song a proper run, himself. It was released November 6 and you can pick it up at Amazon and other on-line retailers.
I almost don't want to mention this one because our friend mojochronic did essentially this (or similar) years ago (though his mash-up was instrumental--so it was the same, only different). But Lez Zeppelin, the all female Led Zeppelin tribute band, has released a Christmas track for 2015--"Mystic Snowman", which itself is a mash-up of "Stairway To Heaven", "Greensleeves", "Carol of the Bells" and "Frosty The Snow Man". I can't deny it's pretty cool in its own right. And how often do you get a nearly 8 minute Christmas rock song for 99 cents? Check back with me, though, after Christmas, because I can see this popping up on everybody's mix disc this year. And that'll have me melting away.
Speaking of mojochronic, a bit of potentially sad news, by the way. While he may change his mind, djBC said over the summer he felt it was time to bring the curtain down on the Santastic mash-up series. He felt everyone was now using songs that had already been used in the series. At that time, he was contemplating a Best Of this year (this being the 10th year for the collection) and then no more. I'll be over here, crying in my beer.
If you want to find some good Christmas singles this year, it looks like you're going to have to journey beyond the Internet big box stores. Over on Bandcamp, Michigan's Retro Pop outfit The Hangabouts have a sweet holiday single. I know not everyone who comes here likes their holiday sweet, but you can always grab me with a pretty little winter Pop song. And The Hangabouts have two--"Christmas Is The Time" and "Snow Is Falling". Worth a listen for you and worth a purchase from me.
Now here's the sort of single that floats my Christmas boat. It's Pop enough to be Pop, Jazzy enough to be Jazz, Soulful enough to be Soul, and different enough to be different (and I like different). We get a little funky piano work from Pete Levin in there, too. This is Kathy Ingraham's "We Three Kings Of Cool". And cool it is. Put this in your Christmas pipe and smoke it. I've heard it said there's a CD-single of this out there, somewhere, but I haven't been able to track one down. Yule find the mp3 at Amazon or CD Baby.
"Deck The Halls" from The East Side Singers and the Chris McDonald Jazz Orchestra officially released October 3. Like last year's holiday single, this "Deck The Halls" arrangement originally appeared on a 2004 album, "This Holiday Season" (whether or not its the same recording, my ears aren't good enough to say). Doesn't matter. If you don't have it, Stubby says pick it up. Here's last year's "Snowed In For Christmas" to give you some small idea of how wonderful Chris McDonald's work is.