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This past Thursday I found myself back at Whiskey John's playing with Tamin' Thunder. This time I got to replace their guitar player, Lorne, who was in Jamaica (it must be nice to go somewhere that's warm). Now it is official, I have played every instrument in this band at one time or another. I joked with Ilse, the lead singer, and told her she was next.
The night was also a bit of a celebration for the band as they just received hot off the presses their debut CD. The CD is entitled Good As Gold. The album is made up of 10 original titles which showcases the band's talent of playing great straight up Rock music that we don't find much of these days especially with a female lead singer. Nowadays you would over-produce the album and layer it with machines and computers (the poison to music). These guys do not do this. Real musicians playing music, what a concept. Again the album is great and I send out my congratulations. For those reading this click on the picture. It will take you to their website. If you have time check them out.
It looks like we are coming to the end of 2011. As I write this I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. If you don't celebrate Christmas then Happy Holidays, and I wish everyone a Happy New Year.
It is exactly one week before Christmas. Myself, I am looking forward to a break from teaching and getting a chance to relax and catch up on a few other things. This time of the year a music teacher finds himself teaching Christmas tunes to all his students. With that I decided to share with you my top 10 favourite Christmas albums. One thing I find is that nowadays everyone has a Christmas album out. Record companies, in my opinion, are just trying to find another way to make money. So the market is flooded with Christmas albums, but there are only so many Christmas songs that have been written which means multiple versions of everything. What I tried to do isp ick albums that had a bit a variety along with classic albums one should not go without. Also I am a rocker at heart and a few toe-tappers are included. So without further ado, here are my TOP 10 FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS ALBUMS.
10. What’s In The Bag? - Chuck Leavell
Chuck Leavell is probably one of the best Rock piano players today. Some of his playing credits include Brothers and Sisters (Allman Bros.), Eric Clapton Unplugged, and he is the current touring piano player for the Rolling Stones. Chuck first recorded a few song for a Christmas card for friends. A record exec received a copy and got Chuck to record a full album. Includes a few traditional Christmas tunes, but the stand out track is the Cajun flavoured original Hey Santa.
9. Christmas - Colin James & The Little Big Band
A lot of the popular Christmas tunes we sing today were written in the 40’s and 50’s when the Crooners (think Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, etc.) were the hit makers of the day. So playing these songs with the background of an authentic big band is just a natural fit. Canada’s own Colin James puts his spin on 11 Christmas classics which will get your feet moving. My favourite track on this set would be Cool Yule written by Steve Allen (he had a variety show back in the 50’s similar to American Bandstand). This song may not be as well known as other Christmas songs which can make the listener happy to hear something different for a change.
8. Light Of The Stable - Emmylou Harris
My Mom had a cassette version of this album and would play it during the holidays. So it brings back memories of the good times that my family had during this time of year. This CD is expanded with extra tracks and includes some of the best Bluegrass and Country pickers around (Ricky Skaggs and Albert Lee). Also lending their beautiful voices to Emmylou’s angelic vocals are Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstad, Willie Nelson and Neil Young.
7. Christmas Caravan - Squirrel Nut Zippers
Back in the late 90’s Swing was in vogue and many Swing bands emerged from this revival. Squirrel Nut Zippers was one of them and back in 1998 they released this album. What I like about it is that they wrote 6 new Christmas tunes for this album which are just as good as their traditional counterparts.
6. A Charlie Brown Christmas - Vince Guaraldi Trio
Who hasn’t watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special when they were growing up. In my opinion a tradition that ranks up there with putting up a Christmas tree or hanging the stockings with care. The music is unforgettable. My favourite scene was everybody dancing on stage to the music of Schroder on piano, Snoopy on guitar and Pig Pen on stand up. The song performed was Linus and Lucy.
5. Go Tell It On The Mountain - The Blind Boys Of Alabama
Testify! With one of the great Gospel vocal groups around. Also includes an array of special guests. Stand outs include: Last Month Of The Year, I Pray On Christmas (with Solomon Burke), Away In A Manger (with George Clinton and Robert Randolph) and the title track (with Tom Waits)
4. Jingle All The Way - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The movie was maybe on the cheesy side for some, but I still thought it was good fun. The soundtrack outshines the film itself. There are other Christmas compilations out there, but none compares to this one. First you get the Brian Setzer Orchestra reworking some Christmas classics such as Jingle Bells and So They Say It’s Christmas with Lou Rawls (he was the guy who sang on the Garfield TV specials). Next you have some true traditional holiday favourites, The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole) and Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helm). Then we get some great Blues Christmas tunes, Run Rudolph Run (Chuck Berry), Merry Christmas Baby (Charles Brown) and my favourite Back Door Santa (Clarence Carter) - this song was even sampled back in the 80’s by Fresh Prince (of Belair) and DJ Jazz Jeff, just don’t remember the song.
3. Christmas - Chris Isaak
One of the best Christmas albums out there from all these new recording that I talked about before. Recorded during the heyday of the Chris Isaak Show. (I wish this show would be available on DVD. Probably the best show about musicians out there.) The album is a great mix of holiday songs featuring his great voice (in my opinion the closest thing we have to Roy Orbison today) and his band who were part of the TV show.
2. Boogie Woogie Santa Claus - The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Out of all the big bands that came out of the late 90’s, the Brian Setzer Orchestra emerged as the most popular and still around to this day. I think it is because guitar is the featured instrument and not the horns. Of course I am a guitar player which would explain my bias, but he does have a shelf full of Grammy awards… This album rocks from beginning to end, with Brian’s dazzling fretwork and the huge wall of horns behind him.
1. Elvis’ Christmas Album - Elvis Presley
Growing up you could count the number of vinyl albums we had on one hand, and this was one of them. How we got this album is still a mystery to me. Not hearing the King Of Rock ‘n’ Roll during this time of the year would just not be Christmas for me. The album is long out of print, but several CD re-issues are available. There is one called Christmas Peace which includes all of Elvis’ Christmas recordings. But I will warn you to stay away from the Elvis Christmas Duets album. Horrible, just horrible, in fact they should have been ashamed of putting out this re-recorded album. Only the original Elvis will do.
It has been a couple of weeks since the last entry, but things have been quiet. I was gigless this weekend again but had plenty to do.
Being December it was time to get ready for the Christmas season. On Saturday we put up the tree and spent the evening admiring it while kicking back and watching a couple of movies. The first was Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. I never saw this when it first came out and it was part of the multi-disc set of Superman movies I had so I thought why not. In my opinion, it was the worst of the bunch. I found that it had some holes in the plot and they decided to try and use dialogue to explain things after the fact. Watched some of the deleted scenes and they were a bit better than the movie itself.
The next movie was The American with George Clooney. Didn’t think much of this movie before watching it, but I was pleasantly surprised. It is a bit slow but I did not mind, I enjoyed the journey. In the DVD extras the filmmakers said that they were trying to make it like a modern day western in the tradition of a Sergio Leone (Good, Bad and the Ugly) which can explain the slow pace of this film. Also the backdrop of a rural town in Italy makes this a spectacular movie to watch for its scenery.
On Sunday it was the Tuneology Christmas recital. It is good to see the kids you are teaching giving it their best shot and performing in front of an audience. I also have fun performing with them. Had two violin students playing jigs and reels and two guitar students that we paired up with drummers. I played bass and sang. The event was a success and I am proud of my students’ achievements. I've included a couple of photos of the event.
After the recital it was off to the mall to finish my Christmas shopping. To sum up the experience, parking was horrible, inside too crowded, but luckily I was able to finish my shopping. The evening was a whole lot better. Got together with Malcolm (a friend and bass player) and we headed out to Southside Johnny’s for their Sunday night jam. Malcolm and I have played together on and off for a couple of years and know each other, but we were both surprised on how the house band’s drummer was able to keep up with what we were doing. Don’t remember his name but I liked his drumming.
My next blog will feature a list of my favourite Christmas albums, stay tuned. Also check out my gigs page. I just picked up a date with Tamin’ Thunder along with the next Salty Dog gig for 2012.