Thursday, December 20, 2007

If Xmas music was a person, I'd bludgeon it to death and dance in the pool of blood.

I hate Jingle Bells.
I hate Frosty the Snowman.
I hate Winter Wonderland.
I hate Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.
I hate all that cheesy, Bing Crosby-crooned, Norman Rockwell, kiddie singalong, pasty-faced cracker shit. You know, the secular stuff.

I love epic, dark, drafty, baroque, chanty, pasty-faced cracker shit instead.
You know, the Jesus-y stuff.

Quoi ?

No, true believers, you don't have an astigmatism nor has someone stealthily slipped some acid in your morning - afternoon? - coffee. This atheist loves some holy rollin' Xmas music. And to whip up some holiday spirit in my favorite flavor - the grimy, snowy, Scrooge-ian kind replete without extended family or sleighbells or outside noise - shut the fuck up, kids! - take these discs for a spin, daddy-O:

1. Piotr Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker. Okay, this isn't very holy, nor very dark, but it is the quintessential music for the holidays, period. After the annoyance of traveling and playing nice with wingnut relatives lest punches be thrown until we can get back home and enjoy Xmas the way it should be - amidst those who aren't afraid of terrorists underneath the bed - this is the first thing that pops into my mind around this time. These two discs are so chock full of delectable melodies, that you'd have to have the cold, long-dead heart of a biomechanical Dick Cheney to despise this delightful tale. Hell, even a morose sonofabitch such as myself loves it to death.

2. various, The Baroque Christmas Album. For some reason, baroque music has always seemed suited to winter evening listening; unspoken allusions to German castles, le Grand Siècle, writing by candlelight, wagons stuck on muddy European roads, the lower classes toiling so those rich bastards could enjoy the high standard of living that us artsy types romanticize in bad blog posts. And few things conjure up the idea of the coldest season, for both good and bad reasons, than Christmas. I'm generally not a fan of 'samplers,' but everything on this album is excellent from the performances to the rich sound. So give it a spin and you'll be tracking down a copy of the complete Marc Minkowski-conducted Messe de Minuit of Charpentier in no time!

3. Johann Sebastian Bach, Christmas Oratorio. This score runs the gamut from the heaven-shattering to the placid, and if not quite up there with the Mass in B Minor in terms of his sacred output, it's pretty goddamn close. And since it's Bach we're talking about, 'nuff said. I have yet to pick up Nikolaus Harnoncourt's just-released take on this old holiday warhorse, but this set will certainly do the seasonal trick just fine until I break open the wallet once more. So much music, so little cash. Damn you, legendary composers, how I often loathe thee! There's my holiday spirit.


La Belette Rouge said...

One year at Christmas time on Saturday Night Live, on the "news" section of the programming, one of the news casters was reviewing Kenny G's Christmas album. He held up the cd, looked in the camera with a deadpan pace, and said,
"Happy Birthday, Jesus... Hope you like crap." It never fails to amuse me. ;-)

Randal Graves said...

Dammit! I cannot recall if I've ever seen that, but it sounds very familiar. Who were the newscasters? In any case, it made me laugh for I, like Jesus and the rest of the non-soccer mom portion of civilization, carry much disdain for the man with worse hair than I.

Candace said...

I love classical music at this time of year. I've often wondered about these religious compositions - I mean, who knows how religious some of the composers really might have been, but they were commissioned to compose works based on religious themes (just as artists in other media were.) Without the Church, what would their inspiration have been? (Um, besides money, of course.) Or does talent like that "happen" no matter what? Just something me wonders about sometimes.

Becca said...

Working retail I'm always forced to listen to the crappiest popular Christmas CD of the season. This year it's Josh Groban's Noel and man does it suck. I think the only people who enjoy the sound of Groban's singing are women in their 50's and then they can't stop talking about how cute he is.

Kill me.

I much prefer the classical stuff at work it's alot nicer background music.

Mary Ellen said...

I love classical music, Christmas or not. There are plenty of Christmas songs I hate..Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer is at the top of the list. Another HORRIBLE one is "Dominick the Christmas Donkey". I can't stand "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" either. What the hell does holly have to do with being jolly? Have you ever had a holly leaf sticker plunge into your finger? It hurts like crazy!

Oh...and the barking jingle bell song...Ughhhhh!

FYI, I'm not doing any more political posts until after Christmas...maybe after the new year. I need to get jolly...not HOLLY jolly, but jolly, so for the next week or more politics!

My Inner French Girl said...

Awww, Randal, you're gonna hate me. I'm the gal who puts up a million holiday lights inside and outside, bakes a billion pastries and cookies and fudge and cakes between Thanksgiving and Easter, and watches any and all Christmas movies on TV (including some pretty crappy ones on Lifetime and Oxygen). And yes, I have the Doris Day Christmas album and play it all the time. I love Harry Connick Jr's two Christmas albums, Johnny Mathis' Christmas albums, even Hall & Oates's Christmas album.

HOWEVER. I'm intrigued enough by your list to try some of them out, especially the Christmas Oratorio. Love the Nutcracker, but the ballet itself always induces a yawn. Probably a repressed childhood memory.

Merci for the list!


Freida Bee said...

I even got sick of a Charlie Brown Christmas a few years ago when we had to listen to it over and over again at place where I worked.

Anything repeated over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again gets old.

Anonymous said...

As you may know, I've got the Nutcracker Suite burned into my brain.

But I'm such a 'tard, I still drive the Spawn crazy with my questions.

I try to associate each song with a dance...

"Is that the gingerbread cookies?"
"Is that Snow?"
"I know that's Arabian!"

I love dark, moody music. I'm going to have to dig through MathMan's longhair music and find these pieces now that we have a turntable again.

Randal Graves said...

Candace, it's the same thing with the architecture, any creative act. The Roman temples to their gods, the Gothic cathedrals to theirs, music throughout history. Would it have come out the way it did without a religious component? It's easy for us to say that it would've, but it's anachronistic to toss our sensibilities back then. I could say with confidence that, to me, Beethoven's 9th is a creed, but one of universal brotherhood. It can be seen as pretty secular, but how did we get there?

Becca, I've never heard that - thank Yog-Sototh! - but yahoo news had some blurb how sales of that passed some Elvis Xmas song. Sure, more things are purchased now, but fuck, have some taste, people!

ME, I have never ever heard of that Dominick song and I am so glad that I haven't. Maybe that holly jolly song was written someone into s&m. ;-) And I can't blame you for laying off the politics. I can't even do it that much anymore, because others could say it far better than I. Hence dumbass posting. But you must resume in the new year, because I'm not going to!

MIFG, oh, how your revelations pain my soul. ;-) But trust me, try the Bach, it's beautiful. Doris Day? :)

Freida Bee, the 40-Year Old Virgin taught us that with Michael McDonald. Yeah, even stuff that I dig immensely, I'd need a break after a few hours at least.

dcup, there will be a quiz after The Nutcracker.

And what kind of stuff on vinyl? Classical? Rock?

Mary Ellen said...

Wait a minute, Randal. Do you mean you're not going to resume with politics on your blog in the New Year, or you're not doing your blog at all in the New Year? I hope it's the politics thing, because your blog is usually the first one I stop at every day! I love it! Without my daily dose of Randal, I'll be a real bitch.

Oh...and I'm also with my inner French girl, I LOVE Harry Connick,Jr. and have both of his Christmas CD's and most of his other CD's.

Randal Graves said...

Yeah, that wasn't very clear, was it. Give up my blog? That's insane! This stuff is like crack, even though it's getting more and more difficult to come up with remotely interesting stuff. I might do less politics, at least in a planned sense, because you or Fairlane will come up with something good that I'll agree with, so it's silly to just rehash. And that was a very nice thing you said, though it goes against your persona as the ass-kicking nun, so I promise to tell no one. ;-)

And you chicks just like the Harry 'cause he's such a handsome devil.

spyderkl said...

Mmmmm...Bach. I kind of like The Nut cracker myself. Not as much as our little one does, but enough to listen to it over and over and over while she's practicing her dance moves. She might even get to dance in a production next year, if she sticks with her classes.

I like the weirder Xmas music; I'm still searching for the legendary bootleg of Patti Smith singing "White Xmas".

spyderkl said...

How the hell did The Nutcracker come out like that? Sorry...

Mary Ellen said...

Phhwwww! You had me worried there for a minute....oh wait, I mean (turning on the ass kicking nun persona) Fine, if you want to stick around that's great, but I wouldn't have missed you if you left.

(now turning on the real nice Mary Ellen)...I didn't mean that! I really would miss you!

(turning on ass kicking nun) Don't listen to the nice Mary Ellen, she's nuts...too many hours in small, unventilated rooms with lit votive candles.

Oh nooooo!!!! Randal, you've turned me into a schizo!

I need my meds...see ya later.

Randal Graves said...

spyderkl, that would be groovy, I hope she sticks with it! I had absolutely no clue that she sang that song. Hell, I'm curious to hear it. And thanks for the inadvertent reminder of ouch. ;-)

ME, if your meds are that good, you really have to share with ole Randal. Or I will leave! Not really, but it's time to mellow a bit, don't you think? ;-)

La Belette Rouge said...

It was Norm McDonald!! He's the one who delivered the anti-Kenny G comment!

Distributorcap said...

where is Rudolph?

Mathman6293 said...


DCup mentioned your vinyl question. I am working on digitizing some of those old records. Finally after all these years. My collection is not that large (at least that's my opinion). I have a bunch of classical, classic rock and 80's stuff.

Randal Graves said...

LBR, oh okay. I'm one of the few who actually like his post-SNL show.

dcap, with all the tainted meat, well, one must turn to other sources for burger patties.

mathman, I'm sure you have some real gems. There are so many classical albums that still haven't been reissued on CD.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Randal. This is the kind of joke that's made in our house. I think perhaps you'll appreciate it for the dreck it is...

If it ain't baroque, don't fix it.

Merry all that and have a drink on MathMan, okay? He's the one who made that hideous joke first.

Randal Graves said...

I may have a drink on him for that joke, but it certainly won't be of the toasting variety. ;-)

dguzman said...

Great music picks, Randal, and hope you had a good one and got some good crap.