Advent 2003 – revisited

The Mystical Nativity (Botticelli)

p { margin-bottom: 0.08in; } In 2003 I put together a mixed CD of Christmas music as a gift for friends and family.  In that same spirit, I offer it now as a playlist.  I wrote liner notes and included artwork in the packaging – it was a whole production.  So here it is, mostly without revision.
In America in the 21st century, we celebrate three different Christmases. One is the Christian festival celebrating the birth of the Savior. Another is a popular holiday celebrating gift giving, family and friends. The third is some combination of the other two.

Too often we take an “either/or” approach to celebrating Christmas. I believe that in modern America, the truly Christian Christmas incorporates elements of both.
Our Christmas is truly a uniquely American celebration. Only Americans, it seems, can merge such disparate ideas as the humble birth of the Savior and the sometimes crass commercialization of the Holidays with little or no sense of irony. Such is the American gift, I think.
As Americans we are comfortable mixing the “sacred” and the “secular”, which explains the ease with which we plop Santa and his reindeer down next to the Nativity scene on the front lawn.
With that in mind, I have compiled this collection of Christmas tunes. What is more American than our Christmas, if not Rock n’ Roll, Folk, Jazz, Country, Soul and R&B? Together these elements create a truly American sound of Christmas, don’t they?
Some are sacred and reverent, some are not. Some are traditional, most are not. All are, I believe, great performances that capture the spirit of our American Christmas. So, enjoy and have a Happy Christmas and New Year!
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I heard the Bells on Christmas Day – City on a Hill – It’s Christmas Time
In religious art, the bell is an object that “calls the faithful to worship, is the voice of God” (G.Sill, A Handbook of Symbols in Christian Art, Simon & Schuster (1996). p. 128
Christmas Time is Here – Vince Guaraldi – A Charlie Brown Christmas
Poor Charlie Brown, he can’t even get Christmas right. So here comes Linus to the rescue, with his reading of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. Without a doubt, the best of the Christmas TV specials. The addition of the jazz score by Vince Guaraldi doesn’t hurt.
Little Saint Nick – the Beach Boys
Santa’s sled is really a Hot Rod, who knew?
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Russ Taff
I just love the feel of this track. You can almost hear the cold wind howl outside as the fire crackles nearby. A nice glass of Gluvine or eggnog and you’re all set.
Blue Christmas – Brian Setzer Orchestra
There’s something bittersweet about Christmas. We all have someone who cannot be with us, that’s why the song strikes a chord with me.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2
Another song of longing for an absent love, except this one is all about the groove, not the lyrics. You can hear/feel Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Originally recorded by Darlene Love.
I’ll be Home for Christmas – Al Green
The greatest soul singer ever.
All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey
This song sounds like it could have been recorded in 1963. Thirty years later, the Wall of Sound and Motown are still impacting pop music. If your Christmas party has this much energy, you won’t need a New Year’s Eve party.
White Christmas – Last Train Home
Washington D.C. Legends Last Train Home take Irving Berlin to the Honky – Tonk.
Away in a Manger – Buddy & Julie Miller
Buddy & Julie Miller are Nashville’s best kept secret. Christians who move freely in the CCM,
country and rock worlds, give a down home feel to this classic. Buddy is Emmylou Harris’s guitar player.
Fruitcake from Hell – Terry Scott Taylor
Where else would a fruitcake be from? From Terry’s EP, “Songs for the Day After Christmas”.
Merry Christmas, Baby – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
The Jersey Turnpike is snowed in, but out the boardwalk a solitary storefront is illuminated. The sound of raw rock n’ roll is irresistible – Merry Christmas from Asbury Park!
The Little Drummer Boy – Jars of Clay
Christian rock stalwarts, Jars of Clay bring their trademark sound to this classic. I still think of the old stop motion animation in the original TV special. Loved that camel!
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – the Roches
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,1
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Wow.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel – Margaret Becker
This is a somewhat dated arrangement, but a powerful performance nonetheless. This song is one of my favorite Christmas hymns. Heavy on the Old Testament imagery.
O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Christmas hymns rock opera style! TSO rocks!
O Holy Night – Leigh Nash (Sixpence None The Richer); Michael Tait (DC Talk)
My favorite Christmas hymn. You just can’t match it for it’s pure poetry. Leigh Nash’s harmonies are otherworldly.
What Child is This? – Roberta Flack
This is so beautiful, it will make you weep, unless you have a heart of stone. Hail, hail the Word made flesh, The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Silent Night – Emmylou Harris
It is said that there exist over 300 translations of this song in the world. If angels can’t sing like this, I don’t want to hear them.
Holy Emmanuel – Terry Scott Taylor
Terry Scott Taylor is the patriarch of Christian modern rock. This track is featured on the City on a Hill – It’s Christmas Time compilation.
Cry of a Tiny Babe – Bruce Cockburn
The best Christmas song you’ve never heard.

 

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