Amazing how the late Sharon Jones seems to have sung a perfect song for almost any occasion. Over time, people have forgotten that Woody Guthrie wrote this as a protest song. Sharon restores it to its original purpose.
I've made no secret of the fact that I feel it's time for me to stop buying Christmas albums and CDs and start selling what I've got. I've also told friends that, pretty much, any Christmas music I ever wanted, I have. Outside of an unissued test pressing of a very old Blues recording (30s-40s) and a couple of other equally scarce Blues Christmas records, there's only one single that has eluded my grasp. And it's a fairly recent vintage, too.
13 Stories was an Atlanta based Pop group. They made a huge splash, here in the south, when their song "Beep Beep" was chosen for a regional Ford advertisement. It was a blessing and a curse. It sure got their name and sound out there. But a lot of people found the ad (and thus the song and the group)....mmmmm.....let's say "irritating". Me, I loved it. It was pure Bubblegum Pop, albeit on a gallon of espresso, and the lead singer was a cute blonde in a short skirt. What's not to love? I dutifully bought their debut album, "FunkyPopSexyHouseRap", unaware that it would also be their last.
Near as I can tell, the lead singer of 13 Stories--Cheri D--left (or at least took a break) to pursue other things. She hung out a shingle as a therapist (LCSW) specializing in stress relief. She's married with kids. She's an author, now, too. And she still sings, but mostly in support of Songs For Kids. I suspect there was plenty of overlap between 13 Stories and the things she's doing now. Life is very rarely a straight line. The rest of the group? I'm not sure. Maybe they all "grew up" and got "real" jobs, too.
In 2006, 13 Stories recorded a Christmas song, "Christmas Makes Me Hot". I loved it instantly. The tune was available for a bit as a free download on MySpace. But they had also pressed a small number of promotional (DJ) CD-singles. Got the free download, obviously, and then waited for someone to dump their promotional CD-single on eBay. But no one ever did.
Today, my eBay alert got a hit. Apparently, at some point in the last two years, "Christmas Makes Me Hot" was released as a CD-R single. It's on Amazon (I seriously doubt it was there any earlier than last year because I'm always looking for it). I'm not a fan of CD-Rs--and the price was way higher than it should be...even for a CD CD (for what it's worth, the eBay listing was also a CD-R and for an even higher price). But I had to have it. Had to. Call it finishing up unfinished business. The CD-R single also includes the song "Joy", which is not a Christmas song but more a philosophy of life song. But, really, it's all about "Christmas Makes Me Hot". Buy it, don't buy it...your choice. But, for me, it was an easy choice. Having the song on hard copy--even as a CD-R--makes me feel complete.
For the record we got a big sheet of ice and a very light dusting of snow. Not 10". Not 6". Not 5". Not 2". Not 1". We got a dusting that, at best, would top out around a quarter inch.
If you've got kids, raise them to be meterologists. They get to be wrong every day--on television, no less--and keep their jobs. What a racket.
Let's dig up a couple of "No Snow" Christmas tunes, eh? First up, Nashville based Americana Alt Folkie Stephen Simmons with his late December Christmas song release, "No Snow On The Ground", available at Amazon, Bandcamp and CD Baby.
Of course, there are lots of places on Earth that never see snow at Christmas time. And, when you hear the vaguely Hawaiian sound of this 2016 single from Maureen McElheron, that's what you'll be thinking. But that ain't it (no spoilers). If the name Maureen McElheron sounds familiar to you, it might be because she wrote the songs for the Cartoon Channel's "12 Tiny Christmas Tales" several years back. "No Snow For Christmas" is available at Amazon and CD Baby.
Not sure how we managed to miss this one, but we did. Canadian Dance Pop/EDM band Neon Dreams--and they've been hot recently--dropped "Christmas Without Snow" way back in November. Well, we can't catch 'em all, but I confess I'm a little embarrassed we missed this. Oh, well. Never too late to set things right. Get the Neon Dreams Christmas single at Amazon or iTunes.
If you'll allow me a moment of nostalgia, we covered this "No Snow" tune back in our first year...2010. And, honestly, I think it was right about then people started to say, "Hey, this Stubby guy may not be so lame afterall." The fabulous Lola Dutronic (another Canadian band) and "(Another) Christmas Without Snow", still available from Amazon.
And I know what you're thinking. Stubby, how can we miss you when you won't go away? Yeah, I get that. Just winding down is all. In the course of a day, no matter what happens or how late it is or how tired I am, it takes me two hours to unwind before I can go to bed or return to normal or whatever. So you can imagine that, as Stubbys has been here for several years, it might take me a month or so to unwind. Always been tough for me to put my toys away.
Anyway, let's close up with a nice "No Snow" rocker. Celine Rae & The 20-73 are a Dutch band who have largely built a following through YouTube. But their singles "He Said" and "Done Fighting For This" show plenty of promise for a very bright future. "Christmas Without Snow", an original Christmas tune, was released on December 6 and you'll find it on Amazon, which is a wee bit closer than the Netherlands.
Keep warm, everybody.
Went lookin' for new New Years tunes and these are the ones I liked.
The Doo Dah Beasties. OK. First of all, how can you not love that band name? Second of all, the band's got a very pretty woman in the mix. Smile, short shorts, skateboard, balloons, and hauling your old Christmas tree away (she was looking for one just like that, I'm sure). And, third, it's an original Indie Pop tune that's kinda sunny and bright. Kinda says, "Forget the mess that was last year. It's a fresh start!" Of course, it never really is a fresh start, but you let that truth lay there until January 2nd, at least. And, last, the one line that's borderline genius (if you ask me, which, of course, you didn't) is "If, last night, you missed me, it's not too late to kiss me". Hope springs eternal. I love it. A little Twee, but I love it. And, hey, pretty woman in short shorts with balloons. Did I mention that already? Amazon's got your Doo Dah Beasties' "New Year's Day" right here.
Rob Clarke & The Wooltones, a British band that's been around a few years, bring us "New Year New Day". This one's got a nice 60s Hollies/Byrds vibe to it. It's a little more somber than the entry from the Doo Dah Beasties, but it kinda makes sense if you're dealing with a New Year's hangover. The B-side is really cool, too. In fact, "Ashton Labor Club Chariy Bingo Interval" may be my favorite of the two sides. It's basically an instrumental version of the A-side, but with a hip organ and the sound of revelers (or Bingo callers and players) thrown in. And that organ makes a world of difference. Plus the weird title is a feature, not a bug. I'm lovin' the B-side more and more. Let's get that video up here. Hey, isn't that Korla Pandit? They apparently did a Christmas single, too, last year. I think I must have missed it. Same basic 60s Byrds/Hollies sound on "Another Wooltones Xmas Record". But, once again, the flip version is what delights as they go all Garage Psych. I'm gonna have to start paying attention to these guys. Get yer Rob Clarke & The Wooltones fix at either Amazon or Bandcamp. The latter offers limited edition CD singles, if you're a hard copy sort of person.
We lost a lot of bright lights this past year, but Dobie Gray is still going strong and sounding good (though I have to admit...the picture kinda creeps me out a bit; I liked him better with the fro). Dobie first hit the charts in 1963, so that's over half a century of soulful sides from the man. The biggies, of course, being "The In Crowd" and "Drift Away". Dobie released a Christmas album in 2001 or thereabouts, "Songs For The Season", but there's no New Year's song on the album. He takes care of that this year with the single "May I Spend Every New Year's With You". It's a very nice and soulful romantic slow dance number. Might even be a waltz. I was never good at picking that up. But, I'll tell you what. I bet the Beach music people here in the Carolinas will be all over this one. Grab it from Amazon.
Of course, somebody's always going to have to do "Auld Lang Syne". Quite a few somenodies, in fact. Looking for a nice Folk version? David C. Clements does it up good (and FREE). Looking for a version done in Electropunk Vaporwave style? Yes, we do have that from Kentucky's N64 (and it's FREE). How bout a Gypsy Jazz version? You'd be hard pressed to come up with better than the version from Lost Fingers (NOT free, alas). Stick with it, they really start to cook about a minute in. How 'bout some Ambient Chill Electro Pop? Rie Sinclair and Lea Cappelli have just what you're looking for (and FREE). It's actually a fairly nice arrangement, though it wouldn't be my first choice. Celtic Folk? Try this one on from Siobhan Owen (NOT free, alas). Shoegaze? Josh O'Hara has just what you need (FREE). Just going through some of the new ones is all. The one I liked was the Indie Pop version from The Daybreaks. For some reason, they're calling theirs "Auld Lang Silent Night", but there ain't no "Silent Night" in there...just "Auld Lang Syne". The Daybreaks single is also at Amazon (look, I know these things are everywhere, but I don't have the energy to go looking everywhere; if you hate Amazon--and there's no reason you shouldn't--I'm sure you'll find these things at iTunes or CDBaby or, hell, CD Universe...throw them a bone).
What's that? A new Rock N Roll "Auld Lang Syne"? You mean I didn't mention one up above? Oh, well, try this one on for size. Not even sure it is "Auld Lang Syne", but that's the title Patent Pending put on it and that's good enough for me. Patent Pending is a Pop Punk band from Brooklyn and "Auld Lang Syne" comes off their 2016 holiday EP "Season's Greetings". You can find this one on Bandcamp (and, yeah, Amazon).
But the best of the 2016 New Year's songs has to be the one from Superchunk front man Mac McCaughan. You've seen it on the other blogs and websites, I'm sure. And it deserves every bit of the attention it's getting because it is the one and only new New Year's tune that's looking for a pony in the crap pile of a year that was 2016. A little silver lining to go with the massive cloud we got stuck with. Just trying to shed a little hopeful light on the year ahead. Mac's song is a free download at Bandcamp and comes in a clean version and a Parental Advisory version. I'm usually touchy about language--trying to run a family blog, here--but only the Parental Advosory version is going to exorcise the demons of 2016. Closing out, this morning, with Mac McCaughan and "Happy New Year (Prince Can't Die Again)".
While other Jewish a cappella groups were doing take-offs on the Hip Hop musical Hamilton, Shir Soul demonstrated that they actually have a handle on popular culture by directing their Hanukkah take-off at Pentatonix. And these dudes are on fire! That's not a metaphor. Check near the end of the video. Who's on extinguisher duty?
To whom it may concern: Yeah, we've all heard of Hamilton. I'm sure its great. But the vast majority of people in this country have never seen it and probably never will. We'll wait for the movie. But anyone who hasn't heard or seen Pentatonix must be living in a cave (hopefully with enough oil to last a little over a week). And what was with all that colonial garb in a Hanukkah video anyway? OK, the painted dreidel eyelids are kinda creepy. But seriously. Pop culture, by its nature, is something derived from a widely shared experience. While Hamilton may have a 100% satisfaction rate, it it still an experience a very small percentage of Americans have shared. Just sayin'. (Just call me Mr. Coffee.)
Anyway, Shir Soul has long been a favorite around here. And this year's single is included on their new CD, "Holiday Shir". The album contains tracks for other Jewish holidays, too. But, in addition to this year's "Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah" MashUP, "Holiday Shir" contains some of their previous Hanukkah singles, "Dreidel", "Lift Yourself Up" and "Timeless As The Stars". Always wished Shir Soul would put these beauties on a hard copy CD and now they've done so. Hanukkah Harry must have gotten my letter. You can get the CD through CD Baby (Amazon only has the digital version).
Of this year's a cappella offerings, I think this is my favorite. The Y-Studs went the popular song route, performing a Hanukkah song to the music of the Chainsmokers ("Don't Let Me Down" and "Closer"). "Don't Let Me Down" has got the "drama" of some of the better Hanukkah remakes of popular tunes, and the vocals are top notch. Y-Studs is short for "Yeshiva students" as the group was born at New York's Yeshiva University. Among the Jewish a cappella groups, the Y-Studs are the new kids on the block (though definitely not the New Kids On The Block......not that there's anything wrong with that). "Don't Let Me Down" is available through Amazon and iTunes.
Moving on from the a cappella, Indie Folk, Rock, and Jewish music artist Julie Geller challenged herself, several years back, to write an original Hanukkah song every year. I believe we're on year 5, now. Sometimes, the songs are available for sale, sometimes as free downloads, and sometimes, we just get the YouTube video. That's the case this year with "Rekindle The Light". This is another case where I hope Julie will, at some point, gather her Hanukkah tunes together for a hard copy CD. If the Killers are the template, we may have to wait another 5 or 6 years. Until then, here's the video for "Rekindle The Light" from Julie Geller.
Big Hanukkah wrap-up tomorrow. And it's New Year's Eve to boot. We'll see if we can't give 2016 the send off it deserves (everyone, stand by to flush your toilets...that's the send off this stinkin' year deserves).
A little late tonight.
You can have a Rock N Roll Hanukkah...if you want to. Sure, you'll likely start with The LeeVees. And throw in some Meshugga Beach Party. Some Macaroons and Yule Logs. A track or two from Sam Glaser, Poppa's Kitchen and "Hanukkah Gone Metal". A few loose tunes like Velouria's "Til Next Hanukkah" and The Goblins' "Ha-Ha Hanukkah". Don't forget Lorna did a tune or two. Maybe you're even fortunate enough to have the great Indie CD, "I Made It Out of Clay". But you're still not quite there. Let's see if we can help out.
As it happens, we got a new EP this year from Eve Rising, a side project of Indie Rocker Holly Montgomery who got a bit tired of singing "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel". The EP, "Book Of Our Tribe", can be found at Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes (digital only, thus far, though Amazon offers a CD-R). Let's check out another Hanukkah tune from Eve Rising.
The Indie Hip Hop Pop Rock group SHTAR, based in Jerusalem, has given us some great Hanukkah tunes in years past. This year's "Ma'oz Tzur" (not the tune you know) carries a message of unity and against exclusion and bullying. The song doesn't seem to be available for purchase or download anywhere. Below the video on Youtube, it says that "this ans all other SHTAR music" can be found at the group's website. But all I see is a bunch of links, none of which lead to a download or purchase site for this song. If it were Christmas music, it generally wouldn't even be mentioned on this site. I don't do streams as a rule. Hanukkah music gets a break because of it's scarcity.
Here's one that goes back a few years, but it's got a nice Indie Glam flavor without alienating fans of mainstream Pop. Glittering Prizes for Jonathan Toubin. Glittering Prizes seems to have been a one-off that consisted primarily of Will Berman and Alix Brown and "One Night Of Hanukkah (With You)" was dedicated to Jonathan Toubin, apparently ill at the time, with all proceeds going to Toubin. Toubin is a well known and popular New York DJ (killer Halloween mix on Soundcloud available for free download). He's got a wicked collection of obscure records (including plenty o Soul) that he spins, though I'm not sure what his Christmas/Hanukkah gigs consist of. "One Night Of Hanukkah (With You)" is available on Bandcamp for a single Washington (one dollar).
I do apologize for the lateness of this post. I go over all of the videos and tunes I "hoarded" and, yes, I have them bookmarked, but the quality isn't nearly as strong as past years. 2014, man, that was a good year for Hanukkah tunes. This year, not so much. Some really good stuff, like the Gibbonses on Day One, but a lot of mediocre music. It's forcing me to go back and see what oldies we might have missed. Probably should have stuck with one song a night. Anyway...
I still don't think your Rock N Roll Hanukkah is going to be complete without dipping into Judaica that isn't specifically related to the holiday itself. The now defunct JDub label was great for that. With groups like Golem and Girls In Trouble, Soulico, The Sway Machinery, and The Balkan Beat Box, I can't think of a domestic label that did more to bring Jewish music into the 21st century. Artists like the LeeVees, Matisyahu and The Macaroons were launched by JDub. The JDub recordinds of these artists are still available, lots on those "thrown together compilations" that seem to over-populate Amazon. "(These Are The) Good Old Days" by Hip Hop Klezmer artist DJ Socalled was initially released a decade ago but still sounds ahead of it's time. This is one I've actually used in a Hanukkah mix and you can find it on "Hot Tracks For Hanukkah" (to name just one spot). This is not a collection of Hanukkah songs, but an album of Judaica from the JDub label thrown together the year after the label folded.
As we just discussed, your Rock N Roll Hanukkah, by now, has the numbers, but may not be strong from start to finish. To round out your mix, you should probably consider a tune or two that is neither Judaica nor Hanukkah related, but might contain an image or theme that fits and will keep people partying, minds on the holiday, without being related. In doing this, stay away from well known artists and tracks. Nobody is really buying that, oh I dunno, "Eternal Flame" by The Bangles is a Hanukkah tune (I know it isn't Rock, but it's the first song that came to mind). No. You want something like Bosco Delrey's "Baby's Got A Blue Flame". Yeah, that's the ticket. Grab it on Amazon.
Fourth night of Hanukkah. Hump night, we call it here. We're halfway through this thing. Might as well deal with some of those a cappella groups. This year, we get dueling Hamilton Hanukkah MashUps. I'm giving the Maccabeats first crack at this thing since theirs was out first. Their's is called "Hasmonean". Not available for sale or download, of course, cause that's just how they roll.
I'll bet you didn't know the ancient Greeks and Jews dressed in English and American colonial garb. OK, now here's Six13 with their Hamilton Hanukkah MashUp. Their's has the virtue of being available through iTunes. And they include an introduction from President Obama. I'm sure the hate mail from Trump supporters is on it's way to Six13 as we speak.
OK. The point goes to Six13. At least they kept the Hip Hop spirit of Hamilton in tact. Still not digging the colonial garb, though. Makes zero sense.
I don't know about you, but those didn't do much for me. I need a pallet cleanser. And I have just the thing. Take it away, Hanukat.
And it's a free download to boot! Go Hanukat, Go Hanukat, Go! Go Hanukat, Go Hanukat, Go!
We'll see if we can't crank this up a bit tomorrow. Shalom. Go Hanukat, Go Hanukat, Go! Go Hanukat, Go Hanukat, Go!
We told you Kyra Goldman would have a new Hanukkah song and video out on December 24, and she does, though the video was released a few days earlier. "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" (A Great Miracle Happened There) is a theme of the Festival of Lights, and there have been lots of songs written with that title in the past 15 or 20 years. Still looking for the one that catches on, I guess. In Israel, the expression is Nes Gadol Haya Po--a great miracle happened here. Just sayin'. Kyra's single is available from Amazon and other digital vendors. Footage for her video was shot in Israel during her recent trip there.
Of course, we're still waiting for the BEST "Nas Gadol Haya Sham" to be professionally recorded and officially released. That would be this one from 2014 (featuring Aimee Mann, Susanna Hoffs and Ted Leo).
See. Now you know that would be a huge hit. I mean, for centuries, Hanukkah has been three songs--"Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" (a kid's song), "Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages)" (a religious song), and "Hanukkah O Hanukkah" (the closest thing to a popular "hit" in the Hanukkah song book). You can add "Sevivon" (also about the dreidel, btw), and "Mi Y'malel (Who Can Retell?)", if you like. But where are the modern Hanukkah classics? So far, we've got Peter Yarrow's "Light One Candle" and Adam Sandler's "The Hanukkah Song". Is Hanukkah destined to become an a cappella holiday? Well, that's kinda sad. I'll toss in a vote for The Elemeno Pea. Who's with me?
Hey, if one day's worth of oil can last eight, why can't there be a popular Hanukkah song? It could happen. You know, the writers of the best loved Christmas songs were Jewish. Maybe we need some Christian songwriters working on Hanukkah songs. Here's one. Beckah Shae is a CCM Worship artist who released her second Christmas album, this year, "Let It Snow". And, this time, she included a Hanukkah song. OK. Not much imagination with the title. "Hanukkah". We'll work on that. But at least it sounds somewhat contemporary. You can get the album here or grab the song at Amazon.
I'm gettin' a bit tired. My Christmas Eve post may have to wait for Christmas morning, yo.
Is the sun down yet? I think it is. It's Christmas Eve AND the first night of Hanukkah. How cool is that? I've been hoarding videos over the past month or so. We'll get to all those a cappella groups. But I'm going to start right off with my pick of the best new Hanukkah recording of the year. Unfortunately, it isn't available for purchase or download, which I think is just a shame.
This song comes to us from The Gibbonses. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because they gave us a fine "Merry Christmas Baby" last year (still free at their website, by the way). I think its safe to say they've topped that this year. The Texas based husband and wife couple play Roots music of all kinds, so I just say they're Americana. Last year's holiday spin was a soulful strut and, this year, they're giving us something we get far too little of--a Country Hanukkah song.
As it happens, this is "THE Hanukkah Song", the one Adam Sandler gave us on SNL. But The Gibbonses do the best version I've ever heard. Better than Adam, even. And that's because they treat it like a real song, not a cute throwaway, and they wrote lyrics that aren't just a list of Jewish people (though there's a little of that). The video is great, too, but you can only see it at their Facebook page. But we can post the stream, and that's what we're gonna do.
I've hoarded enough that I'm going to have to share at least two a night. I'm going to stick with the best of this year's new Hanukkah releases (so, hey, you won't have to come back cause it's all downhill after tonight (maybe, maybe not).
I have a pretty good Hanukkah library at this point because I work at it. I also happen to love Jazz. I love good Jazz. And I love good Hanukkah Jazz. There's some out there. Some very serious and deeply cultural. And some just swings. We got a new Hanukkah album this year from the Eyal Vilner Big Band. And it's a winner. When Kenny Ellis cut "Hanukkah Swings" in 2005, he got a lot of press. So did Erran Baron Cohen in 2010 with "Songs In The Key of Hanukkah". I've barely seen any mention of "Hanukkah" from the Eyal Vilner Big Band. And it's a great record--harkening back to the glory days of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, The Boswell Sisters...but it's Hanukkah music. If you're building a library of Hanukkah music across the genres, I think this is one you should get. You'll find it at CD Baby (Amazon only has the digital). Here's the familiar "Sevivon" done Big Band style and featuring the flute of Itai Kriss.
We've done Country and Jazz. How 'bout a little Punk Klezmer to round out the first night of Hanukkah? Yes, I said Punk Klezmer. Golem is the master of the form and they've been together since 2000, performing more and more original material as time has gone on. The lyrics are in English, Yiddish and Russian, mostly. They were with the Jdub label for a number of years, until the label folded in 2011 (I do miss Jdub). Their 2014 "hit" "Freydele" may well be their best known song. And, if you follow the lyrics (well, as much as you can follow), Freydele is a maydele who plays with her dreydele. Strictly speaking, that doesn't make it a Hanukkah song. But you can dance to it, so why not? You can get the tune pretty much wherever you get your downloads, including Amazon.
I had a lot of things I wanted to do here today. Plan, oh, F or G was a piece on the things I haven't had time to talk about. But it turns out I don't have the time to tell you about the things I haven't had time to tell you about. (Is that irony or.....) Anyway, still busy on the Free Page, so there's that. And here's a video completely without any action. But it's funny. Well, I think it's funny. It's called "Ho Ho Ho (It's Your Mum)" and it's by Australia's Sallow. And you may not want the young kids to hear it because Sallow is spilling all the beans about Santa ("It's Your Mum") and pulling no punches in doing so. By the way, it's free, as are Sallow's earlier Christmas singles, at Bandcamp.
I love Christmas, music, and cats. What more do you need to know?