Late Night Christmas

With things being as hectic as can be in my household, it’s the little things that bring home the holiday spirit. Last night, after spending some time shopping with my wife, we collapsed into the couch and flipped on Letterman just in time to catch Darlene Love perform her classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Christmas in New Orleans with Kermit Ruffins

So it turns out December 12th is the date of my first foray into Christmas music this year. It also happens to be the day I put my Christmas lights up – as well as that lit up metallic deer that swivels his head back and forth. Ho ho ho, people!

I trust and hope that a lot of you have been visiting Popdose’s annual month-long immersion into all that is not so good about Christmas music. Jeff and Jason’s Mellowmas series is a required visit this holiday season, so go over and check them out.

As for my family and me – other than daily viewings of Mamma Mia! (we just discovered it, and seriously, we can’t get enough), it’s Kermit Ruffins‘ new Christmas album that is helping us get into that Christmas spirit. It’s good seasonal music like this that helps me shed the layers of stress and anxiety that seem to crop up every December. It’s the Music that pinpoints that part of my brain that absolutely loves the Christmas season – the excitement, the atmosphere, the gathering of loved ones… it certainly helps to have two young daughters bouncing off the walls in anticipation – but it’s also the music that helps me see beyond the dollar signs, and actually enjoy the holiday season.

If you’re from New Orleans, you damn sure know who Kermit Ruffins is. He’s a fixture on the local scene, blowing his trumpet every Thursday night at Vaughns’s, then cooking BBQ for everyone after the gigs. Outside of New Orleans, Kermit may not be a household name, but you’d do yourself good to track down some of his music for some genuine Louisiana flavor.

The Christmas album, Have a Crazy Cool Christmas, has your standard holiday tunes – “Winter Wonderland”, “Silent Night”, “O Christmas Tree”, “Jingle Bells”, “Let It Snow”, “Little Drummer Boy” – all dipped into a jazzy, dixieland, cajun gumbo. And there’s the originals – the title track, and the fun “A Saints Christmas” [mp3] – with the timely Christmas prayer to take the New Orleans Saints all the way to the Super Bowl.

Kermit also takes on this Louis Prima Christmas tune (Prima and the other Louis – Armstrong – are also from New Orleans)…

“What Will Santa Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin’)”


Kermit Ruffins is one of the most passionate and talented New Orleans musicians out there today, so pick up his Christmas record  – and feel good about supporting someone who’s stuck with the Crescent City through thick and thin. And if you’re in New Orleans on a Thursday night, stop by Vaughn’s for some tunes and barbecue courtesy of Kermit.

Buy Have A Crazy Cool Christmas

The Temps’ Silent Night – Merry Christmas

I was searching around for some info about when the Temptations version of “Silent Night” was recorded, and stumbled across a very heartfelt 2004 piece from the Washington Post. Writer Neely Tucker describes his relationship with the song – one of joy and sad nostalgia.

Turns out the song was recorded in 1980, with the post- Eddie Kendrick and David Ruffin Temptations lineup : Otis Williams, Richard Street, Melvin Franklin, Glenn Leonard, and Dennis Edwards (who replaced Ruffins as lead vocalist). In the piece, Tucker describes the origin of the tune:

So this is the part in the story when I tell you how the song was recorded at Motown in Detroit, at the tiny “Hitsville USA” studios on West Grand Boulevard on a snowy winter night back in the day, with the Rev. C.L. Franklin (Aretha’s daddy) doing the arrangements, and I would love to, except for the fact that it isn’t true.

The best Christmas song ever put to disc was recorded off Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles in a couple of hours on a sunny day in the summer of 1980, according to Otis Williams, the only surviving original Temptations member.

“Gil Askey had the arrangements there when we went over to his house, so we sat down and worked out the melody line and vocals,” says Williams, speaking from his home in Los Angeles. “Then we went to the studio. I think it took a couple of hours.”

I certainly recommend you click right here and take some time to read Tucker’s piece. You’ll be better for it.

From the House of Ickmusic to wherever you may be, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas…

The Temptations – “Silent Night” – My favorite version of my favorite Christmas song. Ever.

From Christmas Collection: 20th Century Masters.

Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland

If I knew Photoshop / Image Ready a little better, I would’ve added some sweet wintry sparkles to this picture of Alan Parsons. But it involves things like rasters and vectors and “noise”, and I’m just not up to that level yet.

As the man behind the Alan Parsons Project, and the man who manned the controls in studio for Abbey Road and Dark Side of the Moon, Mr. Parsons is clearly not someone to be messed with. But Jason Lytle and his now defunct band Grandaddy had some fun with him in this holiday ditty.

Jason’s web site has shown promises of his first solo album sometime in 2008, but the clock is ticking, and there is no word from Mr. Lytle. So enjoy this. And if you don’t have The Sophtware Slump, go get it!

GrandaddyAlan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland (mp3)


Santa Boss is Coming to Town

No holiday season on Ickmusic (and we’re in our 5th!) is complete without some holiday Boss. Give me the two Bruces (Cockburn and Springsteen), and it’s enough to ride me through the holiday season for sure – enough to ride me through a lifetime, come to think of it.  Here’s a nice little collection I stumbled across a few days ago, featuring some holiday-style Bruce through the years.

It’s followed by Bruce and the Band’s appearance on Conan, back on December 12th, 2002. Bruce is in a giving mood, handing out a blow-up doll for Max, and a George Foreman grill for Conan – two items sure to warm any cold winter’s night.

Bruce Springsteen
Santa Boss Is Coming To Town

1. Jingle Bells (Christmas Holiday Night, Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ – 12/18/2000)
2. Blue Christmas (Christmas Holiday Night, Convention Hall, Asbury Park – NJ 12/18/2000)
3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town [mp3] (Winterland Night, Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA – 12/15/1978)
4. Merry Christmas Baby (Nassau Night, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY – 12/31/1980)
5. The Wish (Freehold Night, St. Rose of Lima School, Freehold, NJ – 11/8/1996)
6. Pilgrim In The Temple Of Love (Sydney Night, Capitol Theatre, Sydney, Australia – 2/12/1997)
7. Run Run Rudolph (Christmas Holiday Night, Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ – 12/18/2000)
8. Deck The Halls (Jingle Bell Night, Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ – 12/7/2001)
9. Jingle Bell Rock (3:38) Jingle Bell Night, Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ – 12/7/2001)
10.Christmas Baby Please Come Home (Jingle Bell Night, Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ 12/7/2001)
11. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Christmas Holiday Night, Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ – 12/18/2000)

Ickmusic’s Friday Five: December 5, 2008

I've got a feeling we're not in Shuffle anymore.

Welcome to the first week of our “Holiday Edition” of the Friday Five!

As we wind down to the New Year the last four editions of the Friday Five will be shuffled from my vast collection of Holiday music. I encourage everyone to play along and spin up some holiday cheer. With the holiday season being short and the duress of the current economic climate being ever present we could all use a little lift in spirits.

For those who have not joined in the Five, here’s how it works: … I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes and share my five with a bit of insight for each track.

Then it’s your turn! Just share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments and see what your fellow readers are listening to as well.

Here are this week’s tracks:

1. The Jackson 5 – Up on the Housetop (from Now That’s What I Call Christmas, Volume 3)

My wife and I were discussing the irony of the bevy of Jackson-related holiday tunes just the other day. I do love this track though.

2. Chuck BerryMerry Christmas Baby (mp3) (from Rockin’ Little Christmas)

As much as I dig this track, “Run Run Rudolph” is far superior. I will say, however, that Springsteen‘s cover of this is on my “Top 10 Recent Christmas Songs”.

3. Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Time Is Here (instrumental) (from A Charlie Brown Christmas)

Nothing captures the holiday ‘feel’ better than the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

4. Andy Williams – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (from Now That’s What I Call Christmas, Volume 3)

I realize it’s the pangs of nostalgia that endear these tunes to our collective conscious but some of these songs are so earnest and true that it’s hard to deny their timelessness.

5. Dean MartinBaby It’s Cold Outside (mp3) (from Christmas With Dino)

Dean Martin was one smooth motherf**ker. Proof positive is the cover of the record that this classic is originally from A Winter Romance where we see a picture of Deano holding a lovely young lady while throwing the “how you doin'” look to another philly nearby. You can clearly deduce that he’s bringing both of these birds back to his chalet for martinis and a three way romp.

Now it’s your turn, what’s getting you in the holiday spirit?

Christmas at the Gap

Yes it’s crass commercialism at best but I’ll be damned if this years Gap holiday campaign isn’t brilliant. It’s funny, catchy and doesn’t necesarily beat you over the head with the merchandise.  Rainn Wilson and Selma Blair turn in a topsy-turvy take on the Frank Loesser classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. It’s definitely kick started my late blooming holiday spirit. You can catch the rest featuring The Dixie Chicks, Janelle Monáe, Jon Heder and many more at the Gap site, but here’s my favorite…


Christmas with Bruce Cockburn (or in my case, a remedy for the Holiday Blues)

How in the holy frijoles is it December already? And why do I get the same stressed, panicked feeling every year? And why do I harbor such resentment against those who get their Christmas shopping done early (or prance gaily around their yards stringing up their lights the day after Thanksgiving)?

*deep breath*

The truth is, when I put myself in the mindset of how much I enjoyed the holidays as a kid, I can actually get some of those warm, good time-y feelings back. And having two little kids adds to the fun too. But man oh man, the stress returns every year, as sure as the commercials.

Music, of course, is the key to bringing back some of that positive holiday energy. Since 1994, this collection of tunes has steered the way (or the sleigh, heh). I taped this special off the radio that holiday season. I’ve said this all before, but Bruce Cockburn is a warm, comforting musical presence in my life, and listening to him sing these great songs and play the guitar like only he can – well – it’s better than a fridge full of nog.

Now, Nanci Griffith joins Bruce here, and sings some songs of her own (“Wexford Carol”, “Grafton Street”, “Going Back to Georgia”, etc.). But it’s the Bruce tunes that resonate with me: “Shepherds” opens the show, and has always been a song that pops into my head throughout the year, for some reason: “Glooooooria, in the hiiiighest.” I’m not heavy into the religion, mind you, but when Bruce sings, I’m a believer; “Deer Dancing Around a Broken Mirror”, a spirited and lush instrumental tune; “Huron Carol”, a song written in the 1600’s by a Jesuit missionary to the Huron Indians, and sung in the Huron language. Bruce gives a wonderful introduction, and reads the English translation beforehand; and of course, two favorites of mine: “I’m Gonna Fly Someday” and “One Day I Walk”. Sublime.

Enjoy. And hey, happy holidays, eh? Oh, and always a reminder for you fellow Yanks that haven’t heard of Bruce from the great white north – it’s CO-Burn. Co sounding like So. Ho ho ho.

“Christmas with Cockburn”
The Columbia Records Radio Hour, 1994

Shepherds [mp3]
Wexford Carol (Nanci Griffith)
Brave Companion of the Road (NG)
Deer Dancing Around a Broken Mirror
I’m Gonna Fly Someday
Grafton Street (NG)
Going Back to Georgia (NG)
One Day I Walk / Intro to Huron Carol
Huron Carol [mp3]
Mary Had a Baby

Santa Smokes Mistletoe! Christmas with Rotary Connection

A guest post coming to you from reader & fellow funk brother # 1, Jshua…..

Happy Holidays Brothers and Sisters (or as I like to say–Happy Holy Daze….)

But I digress….

Today’s topic of discussion comes from the legendary Rotary Connection, who discovered way back in 68′ the secret behind Santa Claus’ is….


Actually, it makes all of the sense in the world.

1) Living at the north pole.
2) Riding HIGH on his sleigh.
3) Leaving milk and cookies for him (aka the munchies).
4) His JOLLY behavior.

Think about it ( I mean, really think about it and tell me I’m wrong…)

Three points of interest which makes this particular song/album/and legacy of interest.

1) Sidney Barnes is the lead singer on the cut, and is also the one of the legendary songwriting partners of George Clinton and the Parliafunkadelicment Thang Inc, a huge part of the “northern soul” movement. Never mind the stuff that he did at Golden World.

2) That female voice is the legenday Minnie Ripperton and if you’re not familiar with her, you should be! Start with Come to my Garden (1970) with the Ramsey Lewis Trio as the backing band (featuring a very young Maurice White on drums).


3) Charles Stepney (arranger, composer and producer) – Now, if y’all don’t know about Charles, then you wouldn’t know that Charles is the secret behind Earth, Wind & Fire, period. Check out every Rotary Connection album and the first Minnie album and you’ll find out why Maurice (as EWF alumni would suggest) was the quarterback and Charles was the coach of that band until his untimely death in 76′.

But then again, never mind me….I hope you enjoy the music.

– J

Rotary ConnectionPeace at Last (mp3)

Buy Peace.