No Rea. No Shaky. No Slade. No Cliff.
Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
There’s no particular rhyme or reason to the list, and I’ll concede that these aren’t all about Christmas. But Christmas hereabouts takes place in Winter, so the two go hand in hand. Alright ? Really, these are just 11 songs (to which you can add the whole of Phil Spector’s 1963 Christmas album “A Christmas Gift For You From Philies Records”) that I most want to listen to at this time of year. This one can kick us off – it’s unchallengeably pretty, a lovely folk round with a disturbing tale nestling at its heart. It’s simply not possible to listen to this and not a) want to be out walking in the snow and b) embarrassingly try to harmonise along.
Christy Moore – Fairytale of New York
It’s really the version taken from his 1994 album “Live at The Point” that I love the most, but this version will do since it’s the first time I heard him play this Christmas colossus. There isn’t anyone in the world who can deliver these lyrics as well as Shane MacGowan – his reading is understandably perfect. Sadly, THAT version also features the woeful Kirsty MacColl. I can listen to it, and I can choose to tolerate her voice, but I prefer to hear Christy sing it all.
The Staples Singers – Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas
There’s no-one quite like Mavis, and I’m not sure any other family singing troupe got such drama and force into their backing vocals. Christmas is undoubtedly a season for Soul. They say “people all over the world forgot about Merry” well, this is the tune to put some bassy joy back into the holidays.
Hurts – All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day
Miserable ? Yes. But it features bells and a belter of a tune. Nothing wrong with some melancholy electro-pop and the video features snow and churchyards. What more could you want ?
Fountains of Wayne – I Want An Alien For Christmas
Without a shadow of a doubt my favourite ever Christmas single. I was livid when this didn’t annihilate all other seasonal hopefuls in 1997 (Spice Girls, again ?). Quintessential Fountains, expertly penned without a scrap of fat on it at just over 2 minutes. The lyrics are beautifully observed, the chorus is a complete knock-out as they crank up the pace, and there’s not an inner child in the house not wishing for the same Christmas surprise as the song ends. This is rocking around the Christmas tree.
Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
A fine concession to more traditional yuletide fayre, although the main reason that I want this song in there is because of this section in old school Rob Reiner classic “The Sure Thing”…
The Handsome Family – So Much Wine
Alcoholism. Break-ups. “I came back for my clothes when the sun finally rose, but you were still passed out on the floor”. I adore the chorus with its many voices of Brett Sparks, rumbling and crooning. One of his finest vocal moments.
U2 – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Just as well I’m also recommending Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound Christmas extravaganza because it’s tough to pick this one above the Darlene Love original. This can be found on the 1987 various artists album “A Very Special Christmas” although I have no idea where I first heard it. Regardless, this song really suits Bono’s voice, especially the less-self-aware version of it he was still using in the 80s. I think his vocal, albeit less pure and technically gifted than Love’s, is the better, the more expressive.
Marvin Gaye – Purple Snowflakes
See above regarding Christmas and Soul.
Tom Waits – Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis
This is in here because at some point during Christmas we are all going to be drunk and woozy, and that is the ambience of this tender, coaxing, lying little letter. I do wonder whether or not Charlie gave her the money.
Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas
It’s solid gold. What a way to go out.