Is there a difference between a carol and just a plain ol’ Christmas song?? The common view looks to be in the affirmative, but what exactly the separation point is can be debated. Strictly speaking a carol will always talk of The Nativity. So favorites like Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, and O Holy Night obviously qualify. But what about standards like White Christmas, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)?? I think in most peoples’ minds they too would be considered carols. At any rate, it is an interesting if completely frivolous discussion and that isn’t my purpose today. Rather my intended mission on this lovely December morning is to give recognition to some songs that might go unnoticed by the masses. They aren’t songs that you’ll sing on your church’s trek through the neighborhood or a visit to the local old folks’ home, and they aren’t songs that you’ll hear on the radio as much as Frosty the Snowman, anything by Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, or that wonderfully silly Grinch theme song that I have literally heard atleast three times a day in my truck on the local 24 hour Christmas music station every day for the past two weeks. These are tunes that you might hear occasionally on the radio and possibly on your Music Choice Sounds of the Seasons station (God bless you Time Warner Cable) every once in a blue moon. And they all have one thing in common…your humble Potentate of Profundity thinks they rock. I have already covered the traditional Christmas carol scene, so let’s go off the beaten path a little bit as The Manofesto proudly presents…..
from the home office in Eggnog, UT…..
The Superfluous 7 Overlooked & Underrated Christmas Songs:
7 Dominick the Donkey – Lou Monte
We all know about Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, but have you heard about Dominick the Italian Christmas donkey?? He’s cute, he doesn’t kick, and apparently he has to help Santa in Italy because the reindeer can’t climb the hills. I guess they can’t fly in Italy either?? Odd. Anyway, this tune is what I would describe as infectious, and I mean that in a good way, not in the itchy, red, “Oh crap I shouldn’t have gone home with that crazy sorority chick last weekend” kind of way.
6 Snoopy’s Christmas – The Royal Guardsmen
Novelty songs have sequels?? Who knew?? However, much like Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan and Genesis with Phil Collins (instead of Peter Gabriel), the original is all but forgotten while the follow-up is much better. In this case the original is a song written in 1966 less than a month after Charles Shultz’s first comic strip featuring Snoopy’s Walter Mitty-esque obsession with the infamous WW1 German fighter pilot, which seems a bit rushed. The sequel is a catchy tune written a year later which references the historical Christmas Truce during which German & British troops enjoyed a brief ceasefire on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day in 1914.
5 Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi
It’s probably a bit of a stretch to call this overlooked. We hear it every year when TV broadcasts the superb 1965 animated special A Charlie Brown Christmas. But it’s the show that gets the love…the music is just in the background. However, the music itself is stupendous. Charles Shultz had to fight a real battle not only to get the memorable Biblical quote into the show but also to use the Vince Guaraldi Trio because it was felt that a jazzy score was not the way to go for a children’s show. Thank God Mr. Shultz won the argument. The lyrical rendition, which speaks of happiness & cheer, olden times & ancient rhymes, and families drawing near is excellent. But as a jazz lover I actually prefer the soulful, melancholy, soothing instrumental version. Your mileage may vary.
4 It’s Christmas Time Pretty Baby – Elvis Presley
Who doesn’t like Elvis?? But while his Blue Christmas (one of my favorites) gets all the love we should not forget about this bluesy little ditty in which Santa Claus is said to be driving a big black Cadillac. If you like the blues you’ll like it, if you don’t then you might not. It gets a little play on the radio and on Music Choice, but I could stand to hear it more often.
3 Christmas in Killarney – Bing Crosby
Crosby’s silky voice is ubiquitous during the Christmas season, but we usually hear him singing White Christmas, that Little Drummer Boy deal he did with David Bowie, and maybe It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas, Adeste Fideles, or I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Even Mele Kalikimaka gets much love due to its use in the 1989 holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But let’s take a moment to give props to this beguiling little Irish jig written in 1950. I quite like it!!
2 Please Come Home for Christmas – The Eagles/Bon Jovi
The Christmas season isn’t jolly for everyone. It has the double-edged burden of being both the happiest and saddest time of the year. The gloom may not be much fun for most, but it’s a gold mine for songwriters. Some of the best Christmas tunes are also rather sorrowful. Songs like Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas & The Christmas Shoes effectively capitalize on the holiday dichotomy. For my money one of the best of the genre is this poignant song about a guy whose baby is gone and who has no friends. The most well-known covers are by The Eagles and Bon Jovi, who just happen to be two of my favorite bands.
1 All I Want For Christmas Is You – Vince Vance & The Valiants
Everybody knows about the Mariah Carey song of the same name. I am not saying that is necessarily a bad tune, but this one is completely different and oh so much cooler. Vince Vance & the Valiants is one of those bands who never really made it to the big time but have just quietly been doing their thing for about 30 years. Other than the 1980 novelty song Bomb Iran (a parody of The Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann), this Christmas tune is their one notable contribution to pop culture, and I absolutely adore it. I must give credit to my friend The Owl for introducing me to it some years ago. Whenever it comes on the radio or Music Choice (which is not often enough) I immediately stop whatever I am doing and listen.
- Top 10 ‘Country Christmas’ Songs! [VIDEO] (wycd.cbslocal.com)
- The Best Christmas Song…EVER? [VIDEO] (wild941.cbslocal.com)
- My Top (and Bottom) 10 Favorite Christmas Songs of All-Time (mommabethyname.com)
- Christmas songs advent calendar: Day 9. The Raveonettes – The Christmas Song (telegraph.co.uk)
- Favorite Christmas Love Songs~ (1019litefm.cbslocal.com)
- LxL’s Top Ten Christmas Songs (littlebylisten.com)
- Top 5 Spoofs of Christmas Carols (mtholyoke.uloop.com)
- Christmas Songs & Films (authorworld.wordpress.com)
- Christmas in the Room (3cities2girls1blog.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Carols With A Twist (jumbledcoffeethoughts.wordpress.com)