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Feedback with Lizi von Teig: Top 7 Christmas Songs

 

“Snoopy’s Christmas” – The Royal Guardsmen

In December 1914, ceasefires commenced spontaneously across the Western front. The horrors of industrial warfare had worn the soldiers down and they desired something resembling peace for Christmas, particularly the Germans who held the holiday dear. In December 1967, the Royal Guardsmen, the British band that wrote songs about Snoopy’s aerial duels with the Bloody Red Baron wrote about what would’ve happened if Snoopy and Baron von Richtoffen had been there. Sure, it’s cheesy as hell, but that’s kind of what endears it to me. It gets right to the soul of Christmas by portraying a dinner between two martial rivals in a war with no heroes.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” – Otis Redding

A wonderfully upbeat, jaunty and jangly song, Otis Redding’s “Merry Christmas, Baby” may be lyrically vapid, but the musicianship is impeccable. The organ riff and guitar licks are unforgettable, while the horns punctuate the verses with exceptional efficacy and the vocals are, obviously, stunning. The breakdown in the middle of the song to declare that “Santa came down the chimney” is startlingly effective at keeping the otherwise monotonous song engaging. Shout out to the Bruce Springsteen cover that appears on A Very Special Christmas, a compilation of A-list rock stars’ Christmas songs, which features the Big Man’s sax with exceptional power.

“It Feels Like Christmas” – A Muppet Christmas Carol

It was surprisingly hard to narrow it down to one Muppet song. In addition to the other brilliant songs in A Muppet Christmas Carol, like Michael Cane’s “Thankful Heart,” Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem did fantastic covers of “Run Rudolph, Run” by Chuck Berry and “’Zat You, Santa Claus?” by Louis Armstrong on different Christmas compilations made by Disney. But, ultimately, there’s only one song that feels like it’s the right mix of cheery and peaceful that captures Christmas, and that’s this song sung by The Ghost of Christmas Present. The arrangement is beautiful, the lyrics summarize all the best aspects of Christmas, and the variety of voices singing it make it surprisingly effective to inspire the camaraderie of the season. “It is the summer of the soul in December” has been a stand out lyric for me since I was a kid.

“Merry Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Joey Ramone

I can’t claim to be terribly familiar with this 1960s Phil Spector song in it’s original incarnation, but I am very familiar with this outtake from Joey Ramone’s posthumously released solo album, given a legitimate release on the 2002 EP Christmas Spirit… in my House. The arrangement is powerful in what it doesn’t do as much as it does. Joey lets the notes ring for a good long while and it works. Much more pop than anything The Ramones ever did, this song is clearly a labor of love for Joey in a way much of his more famous works aren’t.

“Merry Christmas, Again” – Chris Farren

It was hard to pick just one Chris Farren song for this list. Farren wrote the single greatest original Christmas album (by which I mean the only original Christmas album to not have a single bad song on it) in 2014 and titled it Like A Gift From God or Whatever. With cameos from Sean Bonnette of AJJ, Jeff Rosenstock of Bomb The Music Industry, and Laura Stevenson of :Laura Stevenson and the Cans, Like A Gift is a masterpiece of an album and it’s about Christmas, too. Although “Happier New Year” and “Not Ready For Christmas” are probably more emotionally powerful, I went with “Merry Christmas Again” because it captures the perennial excitement of Christmas and acknowledges the difficulties of the other 11 months of the year.

For this one I’m gonna link to the Bandcamp so you can buy it!

“Santa” – Lightin’ Hopkins

Most of the songs on this list are happy, upbeat anthems. Not “Santa.” Even by Lightnin’s minimal standards, this song is bare bones, and it’s not messing around. It’s a deep blues with some painful imagery. Santa begging on the street, children going unfed, it’s rough. But if you pay attention to the progression of events, it’s ultimately a hopeful and inspiring song.

“Christmas Must Be Tonight” – The Band or Blue Rodeo

Despite not being Christian, my favorite Christmas song is in fact one about the birth of Christ. Originally released on Islands in 1978, The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” was a very good if rather subdued holiday song, featuring fantastic synth work by Garth Hudson and a sweet vocal performance by Rick Danko. Another faster, guitar heavy version was released as a bonus track on a later release of Northern Lights Southern Cross, but the version I’m going to link to here is by the contemporary Americana group Blue Rodeo, who I think sound more like The Band on this song than The Band did on either of their recordings of it. The mandolin, the organ work, the vocal style, it’s all straight from their playbook, moreso than when they recorded it.

Check out all these songs and the 46 runners up in Lizi’s Christmas Spotify playlist.

 

Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.

 

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Feedback with Lizi von Teig: Biding My Time Before I Die by Catl.

 

Oh boy we’re well into October and I’m still catching up on September releases. Catl (spelled that way on Bandcamp, but spelled “Catl.” on Amazon and spelled “catl.” on their album art – I’m going with Bandcamp’s spelling cause not capitalizing after a period is difficult in this word processor) is a group I discovered by chance when Punknews.org announced the then upcoming release of this album. Described in that article as “Canadian blues punk,” I was obligated by my Black Pistol Fire obsession to check them out. Their back catalog didn’t disappoint. I was charmed by all four of their previous albums, but could only really afford one (sometimes you have to buy one album and wear it out before you get another) so I somewhat arbitrarily picked Soon This Will All Be Gone as the first album I would get, mostly because it had a Leadbelly cover as it’s closing song. It’s a fantastic album, very reminiscent of Black Pistol Fire’s first two albums as I had been hoping.

I started to write that Catl is like if John Lee Hooker had recorded with Canned Heat, before remembering that he did and it turned out quite like Catl (although, unlike Catl, those recordings weren’t terribly well produced). The guitar tones are something like if The Dead Kennedies recorded in a swamp, but the harmonica wails like Al Wilson used to play it with Son House, and the licks are all built off the blues scale. The most distinctly bluesy aspect of Catl tho is the emphasis on rhythm. Punk originally had quite a focus on rhythm, listening to The Ramones or The Sex Pistols will remind you of that, but in the 80s or 90s, punk became more about noise than rhythm. Catl brings that emphasis back and gives it a bluesy twist. While traditional punk had quite conventional drumming, the drummer acting as a metronome and the guitars were the center of rhythmic flair, Catl utilizes its percussion to be more than a metronome in the blues tradition.

All this stays true on Biding My Time Until I Die. The album kind of blends the lines between tracks and sounds like one big romp through the blues. The tracks aren’t all the same, but the mood is so consistent it’s easy to lose track of when they’re changing, with the exception of “Keys to the Kingdom.” The highlighting of the magnificent slide work on that track and the grim drum style sets that song apart from the rest of the album – as any closing track should.

Overall Biding My Time Until I Die is a solid addition to Catl’s solid catalog. It continues all the things that make them great blues punk without feeling repetitious or redundant. Their brand of distorted foot stomping blues is one that I eagerly await more of.

Biding My Time Until I Die is available physically through Bandcamp and digitally through Amazon.

 

Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.

 

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Junkman Radio Episode 9: A Deep Dive Into Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen

 

Listen to it here!

 

Greg von Teig is an independent musician. He released his first EP in May of 2015. His latest release was a fusion of blues standards and punk elements called Blues in the Key of Anarchy. Dedicated to his craft, he tries to find and promote the finest music by other artists through Junkman Radio.

 

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Junkman Radio Episode 8: Hush or Howl by Black Pistol Fire

 

This week we dissect Hush or Howl by Black Pistol Fire.

Listen to my review here.

You can find their whole discography for purchase here.

 

Like BPF on Facebook and follow them on Twitter!

 

Greg von Teig is an independent musician. He released his first EP in May of 2015. His latest release was a fusion of blues standards and punk elements called Blues in the Key of Anarchy. Dedicated to his craft, he tries to find and promote the finest music by other artists through Junkman Radio.

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Junkman Radio: Episode 7

 

As Junkman Radio returns, we seek a new, fresh format, reviewing music as opposed to simply curating it.

Today’s album is People Who Can Eat People Are The Luckiest People In The World by AJJ.

Listen to my review here!

You can buy the album here.

You can check out AJJ’s other work here

Like AJJ on Facebook or follow them on Twitter!

 

Greg von Teig is an independent musician. He released his first EP in May of 2015. His most recent collection is Prisoner of His Dreams, a Bruce Springsteen cover album. Dedicated to his craft, he tries to find and promote the finest music by other artists through Junkman Radio.

 

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The Oddball Show with Alyssa Marie

 

 

The Oddballs welcome Hip Hop artist Alyssa Marie, whose new album Louder than Words is available now on Bandcamp. Fresh from last weekend’s Freedom Rally on Boston Common, we’ll explore what drives this young talented lyricist and what’s coming next on the rap horizon. Press play above to tune in tonight at 8:30 to the one and only #OddballShow.

 

Follow The Oddball Show on iTunes.