More Christmas Songs that Don’t Suck

25 12 2011

In my last post, I focused on rock and roll Christmas songs.   Most of the holiday songs I like — the versions as opposed to the tunes themselves — are not rock and roll.  The older I get, I probably like more mellow stuff.  I get the emotion from the beauty more than the energy of music these days.  In the past, I’ve made Christmas CD’s which included a lot of what follows.  I hope you enjoy.

Heads up: this next one is ridiculous.  I might be the funniest song I’ve ever heard!

This is a close friend of mine, Caleb Gilbert, playing a Christmas classic on the highland pipes, with his band, The Blackhouse Ceilidh. Love it.

This one isn’t typically played at Christmas, but it’s the song for the New Year, penned by Scotland’s most beloved poet, Rabbie Burns

And by Dougie MacLean






Christmas Songs that Don’t Suck (or my favorite rock and roll Christmas songs)

17 12 2011

I can hardly stand to be in earshot of the radio stations playing holiday music this time of year.  The stations with all Christmas programming play the same 40-ish songs over and over and over and over…  I’ve heard no more than 2 to 2 1/2 hours worth of holiday music this season (while in banks and stores, at work, etc.)  and have heard “Happy Holidays” by Andy Williams no less than 4 times.  I’ve heard Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” about as many times.  A song I loved as a kid, “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney is in constant rotation.  I could go on.

Besides most of them being trite and annoying, they’re simply overplayed.  When possible, I avoid “Christmas music,” at least the stuff not sung by choirs.  But I admit to having some fondness for a handful of more rocky holiday songs.  Some of them I probably like primarily because I like the artist who recorded them.  Others I like just because they’re catchy.  Here are some of my favorite rock Christmas songs.

The Purple Gang: rock’s best rhythm sections

13 04 2011

To call a list a “best of” is usually a misnomer.  There is no “best of” anything, really.  It all comes down to opinion and personal taste.  But people know what is meant when that is said, so I’ll just stick with it.

I have my favorite bassist-drummer combos.  I know that other rock fans would probably not have some of these combos on their list and would add others that I hadn’t considered.  I do not necessarily rank them my favorites by technical proficiency.  I don’t know enough about jazz to talk about those guys.  And I’m not even necessarily a big fan of the bands from which these combos hail.  I know when I hear these combos though, for any number of reasons, I am moved by them. In rough order, they are:

  1. Entwistle/Moon, The Who — I don’t think there were better rock musicians at either spot than John Entwistle on bass or Keith Moon on drums.  Together, they were, I would argue, the most powerful force rock has seen.  In my book, they’re the best by miles.
  2. Jones/Bonham, Led Zeppelin — In terms of power, these guys were certainly miles ahead of just about anyone.  Their play was simply amazing.  You could tune out Page and Plant on many of the songs and just groove on the rhythm track.
  3. McCartney/Starr, The Beatles — This is where personal taste kicks in over something more objective and certainly over proficiency.  On bass, McCartney stands up to anyone, at least in his Beatles days.  He really was an innovator, though not because he was so fast or improvisational.  McCartney’s melodic approach was really the glue that held a lot of the Beatles’ best songs together.  Was Ringo one of the best drummers of all time?  I don’t think many fans or critics would say so.  He wasn’t even the best of his generation.  But he could hold his own.  Sometimes he was brilliant.  A great example of their power together is “Rain.”  Give it a listen.
  4. Lee/Peart, Rush — I’m not a big Rush fan, but recognize their skills.  Geddy’s a great bass player and Peart’s drumming — some people refuse to call him a drummer, instead favoring “percussionist” — is out of this world.  Peart might be the most technically proficient drummer in rock history, but I don’t find his work to have been as interesting and flavorful as Keith Moon’s.
  5. Sumner/Copeland, The Police — Was Sting a great bass player?  Many bass aficianados are dismissive of his playing; some think he was quite good in his heyday.  By himself, I do not regard Sting terribly highly, though he had flashes of brilliance.  But as a partner with Stewart Copeland, he made some great music.  I like Copeland’s drumming as well as anyone’s.  I recognize that Keith Moon did more with the instrument, but I get about the same amount of enjoyment listening to Copleland’s work with the Police as I do listening to the Who’s best drum stuff.   In the way that McCartney carried Ringo, I think Copeland carried Sting.
  6. The Funk Brothers — I wasn’t sure how to approach this loose group of combos, but I knew I couldn’t ignore them.  James Jamerson and Bob Babbit were sick good.  Jamerson, many bass players feel, was the best electric bassist ever.  They might be right.  Babbit is one of my favorites.  Check out his silky smooth playing on “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).”   I couldn’t tell you much about any of the individual drummers that rotated through the Funk Brothers.  I just know, as a corps, they did spectacular work.


Woke up in my clothes again this morning

3 02 2010

I woke up my clothes this morning, wondering how I got there. I had no memory of laying down. I woke up in a room upstairs but apparently I started the evening on the couch downstairs. It’s strange not having any clue about where you were for 10 hours.

I had not alcohol or drugs, illegal or otherwise. But I feel like something had been slipped into my evening tea.

The strange experience made me think of this song, one of my favorites by the Police.

Gabriel’s Message

7 12 2009

It’s been hard to get into the Christmas spirit lately.  I have a friend that is on death’s door which, to make a tremendous understatement, is quite a downer.  As far as music goes, I’m fed up (to say the least) with the rotation of 30 Christmas songs that get played over and over and over and over…on FM radio.  You can’t go into a store this time of year without hearing “Holly Jolly Christmas” or “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Arrrrgggghhh!

This song, though, is one that I can listen to over and over again.  This is from the first A Very Special Christmas compilation album.  It’s a beautiful hymn, brilliant done by Sting.

Thinkin’ about takin’ up bass guitar

15 03 2009

One of my friends once told me (20 years ago), “If you can play guitar, you can play bass.”  Of course, he didn’t know how to play either.  I knew a bit of guitar then and some of it is coming back to me now that I’ve pulled the guitar out of the basement.

I really don’t have a desire to get back into heavy guitar playing.  I’m really just noodling, trying to get the fingers loose and calloused.  What I’d really like to do is learn bass.  I’ve messed around with it before but my (limited) guitar knowledge wasn’t helpful at all in playing bass.  I couldn’t do anything with the instrument.

But I want to learn to play very well.  I’m really starting to jones to get a bass.  There are a ton of great bass cover and instructional videos on youtube.  I might even take lessons (I taught myself pretty much all the guitar I ever knew.)  If I’m gonna buy a bass, I really want to know my way around and understand the instrument.

Even though guitar was always my first love, I had a few bassists as musical influences: Paul McCartney, Sting and John Entwhistle.  If I could learn some of McCartney’s melodic lines I’d be very pleased, feel very accomplished.

First things first, I need to find an instrument that feels right and sounds nice for the price.  Once that happens, I’ll plunge in head first, see how good I can get (quickly.)  Should be fun.


When the rain comes…

8 03 2009

The late winter sun has deferred to the demanding, pushy, insistent rain.  A week ago it was sunny and cold, but now it’s gray, cloudy and rainy.  The earth is washing away the filth and grime of winter.  Soon brown will give way to green and the sun will return for an extended stay.

Rain is great this time of year.  It’s a sign of change.  It purifies and rejuvenates.  The last few days, though, it hasn’t let up.  All I can think of is rain.  I’m reminded of some cool (and varied) rain songs.  Enjoy.