My top Christmas songs, kind of

2011-12-09T12:00:00Z My top Christmas songs, kind ofBy RICK CHASE, Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
December 09, 2011 12:00 pm  • 

I've been listening to Christmas music since mid-November with no apologies. I always rationalize starting the season with Esquivel's "Merry Christmas from the Space Age Bachelor Pad" by saying that I am working on a column. But the truth is I really enjoy holiday music.

This year I decided to further justify my guilty pleasure by tracking my iPod for the most played songs.

Mavis Staples' theme to the movie "Christmas Vacation" was the clear winner. It's a quality item, Clark, and a great way to begin your old fashioned Griswold family Christmas.

Taking the second slot surprisingly is "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" by Chicago. I admit to a bias having seen them 10 times in concert. Still, this version of a seldom recorded song really rocks.

Viral internet sensation "The 12 Days of Christmas" by Straight No Chaser edged out The Muppets rendition from their 1979 television special with John Denver. Sorry, Miss Piggy.

"Marshmallow World" and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" by the Rat Pack's Dean Martin add a dose of ultra-hip swagger to the holiday proceedings.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" by jazz master Vince Guaraldi yielded "Linus and Lucy." The television special and soundtrack have been a favorite annual tradition since 1965.

"It Must Have Been Old Santa Claus" written and performed by Harry Connick, Jr. is the swinging story of a doubting youngster who gets a surprise ride in Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve.

"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town/Santa Man" (Medley) from Manhattan Transfer is simply a wonderful gift from best jazz vocal group in the world.

Speaking of Santa heading to town, Gene Autry always owned that song. But, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band have been performing their live version for around 30 years. My iPod says it's a tossup.

A knockout version of "Ave Maria" from the always soulful Aaron Neville gives me chills every year.

A sultry "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from Diana Krall edged out the classic Judy Garland version from the 1944 movie "Meet Me in St. Louis" this year. That's saying a lot since Garland's version has always been the definitive performance.

With apologies to the Harry Simeone Chorale and their time-honored 1958 recording, the winner in the "pa rum pum pum pum" category is the "Peace on Earth/ Little Drummer Boy" duet by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. In the late 1970's you could not get much more edgy than this multi-generational duet.

"From Atlantic to Pacific, gee the traffic is terrific" was Perry Como's warning in "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays." It became the signature song on his many holiday television specials and remains timeless.

Rolling Stone magazine voted 1963's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love as the greatest rock and roll Christmas song of all time. Her annual performances on David Letterman's television show have become a tradition.

"Santa Baby" by Marilyn Monroe sound-alike Cynthia Basinet is the best version since the song was introduced by Eartha Kitt almost fifty years ago.

From the surfing era of the early 1960's the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick" along with Brian Wilson's recent harmony-filled solo version of "Joy to the World" both made the list.

"Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" from Brenda Lee is still tops as is "Jingle Bell Rock" from Bobby Helms.

"In The Christmas Mood" from the Glenn Miller Orchestra proves that the modern day band still preserves the big band sound and the harmony styling of that bygone era.

You'll nod your head in agreement with the lyrics, "Brother we don't agree about the government or where to put the tree." It's all tongue-in-cheek in "Christmas Pics" from Canada's Barenaked Ladies.

Sure, my list contains no tales about grandma getting run over by a reindeer or anything to do with dogs and cats performing "Jingle Bells." But, I do include satirist Tom Lehrer's ode to Christmas where he concludes, "Hail our dear old friend Kris Kringle, driving his reindeer across the sky. Don't stand underneath when they fly by."

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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