It's finally here! I can now tell the world the songs I used for my Holiday Mixmania disc! But before I do that, let me tell you how it came about.
It seems like each Mixmania has gotten more challenging for me and this one was no exception. It all started when I went through our family's stash of Christmas CDs and started ripping songs. Once I gathered the songs I liked off all the CDs I knew about at the time, I searched around for more songs. In some respects, I was kind of disappointed that I wasn't able to find some versions of the songs I love. We have a bunch of Christmas LPs (and even 45s) that I used to play every holiday season growing up. One of my favorite records was a compilation called Christmas Wishes that had wonderful versions of "Joy To The World," "Sleigh Ride," and "Happy Holidays." Since I have no way to transfer songs from LP to CD (and I could not find these versions anywhere), I could not put them onto my mix.
However, after a while, it seemed like my mix was set. I burned a beta version of it that had 22 tracks and was over 76 minutes long. I played the mix for my mom (and my sister over the phone) and they enjoyed it. With a few corrections, that mix was going to be the one I was going to send off. That all changed, though, when I found out my mom had Now That's What I Call Christmas (the original). I enjoyed quite a few of the songs on there and I decided to see if I could put some of them on my mix. After that, it was like I couldn't stop. After hearing some very cool Christmas music while at work, I decided to search for some of those songs. I kept looking and looking. It got to the point where I had to burn a bunch of my files to CD in order to have any room on my hard drive.
Once I was set on the songs I was going to use, I ran into trouble figuring out the song list. I was using Winamp to figure out my order and before I could save the playlist file, the program crashed. I couldn't remember the order of the songs, so I had to start from scratch. To top it off at that, I made a last-minute substitution when I decided that I didn't like one of the songs enough to use it. In the end, all the ripping, searching, and burning resulted in a mix that I'm proud of.
My Holiday Mixmania Mix is the first one to be more than one disc. This isn't the first time I've done a multiple disc mix (see Summer Mixmania Bonus and Driving Mixmania Surprise), but it's the first time that my "official" Mixmania mix has been two discs. So, I now present you with the song list for my two-disc, 40-song, 2-hour-plus Holiday Mixmania mix (with comments)...
1. "March" from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite performed by The Berlin Symphony Orchestra
I'm a big fan of traditional, orchestra-performed Christmas music and nothing says traditional (and orchestra) like anything from The Nutcracker Suite.
2. "Caroling, Caroling" by Nat King Cole
While nearly everyone likes Nat King Cole's version of a certain holiday song, it seems like the rest of his wonderful Christmas album gets put to the wayside. Nat's Christmas album is one of the Christmas LPs we own and his version of "Caroling, Caroling" is one always seems to stay with me during the holidays.
3. "White Christmas" by The Drifters
While I tried to avoid some of the Christmas songs that are played way too much (not "Jingle Bell Rock" again!), I can't deny this wonderful version of "White Christmas." Remember how the judges on American Idol would always say that a contestant "made a song their own?" Well, this is a case where a group really did it.
4. "Skating" from A Charlie Brown Christmas by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
The soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas is, far and away, my favorite Christmas album of all-time. I normally am very reluctant to name my "all-time" favorite anything but this is the exception to the rule. The smooth jazz of this soundtrack is memorable and timeless. "Skating" is a wonderful little piece that is but one example of how great that album is.
5. "Jingle Bells (Robbie Hardkiss Remix)" by Duke Ellington
In looking for music to use on my mix, I realized that I didn't really like a whole lot of contemporary Christmas music. I really wanted to hear a fun, hip take on Christmas music as opposed to hearing another current artist potentially ruin great songs. When I found out about the Christmas Remixed albums (and others like them), I thought they were really interesting. Giving classic versions of Christmas songs a fresh twist seemed like a great idea. This remix of Duke Ellington's take on "Jingle Bells" may make you unsure if it's even a Christmas song or not.
6. "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney
When I did the first (single disc) version of my mix, this song was the only one my family couldn't stand. Even though I'm not the biggest fan of Sir Paul, I kind of have a soft spot for this song. For one thing, De La Soul put it great use on their song "Simply Havin," which was my first exposure to this song. Then, after I heard the song in its entirety at work, I grew to enjoy it. I don't like Paul's vocals and the lyrics aren't that great, but I love the melody and the blissfully direct chorus: "Simply having a wonderful Christmas time."
7. "The Mistletoe Jam (Everybody Kiss Somebody)" by Luther Vandross
One of the great things about the late, great Luther Vandross was the way he made everything he sung sound 10 times better than it would've been if anyone else sang it. Something tells me that if anyone else sang this song, they would make it sound corny. However, Luther made it sound like holiday fun for the grown and sexy.
8. "Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth" by Bing Crosby and David Bowie
I remember seeing this clip on a holiday special and it amazed me in the same way it probably amazed audiences when it came on. Out of all the people to do a duet together...David Bowie and Bing Crosby? However, it worked very well and when I found out that we had a copy of this, I had to put it on my mix.
9. "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" by The Jackson 5
This is such a fun, giddy version of this song. The Jackson 5 sang it like children who couldn't wait for the big guy to show up.
10. "Happy Holiday" by Peggy Lee
I've always liked the song "Happy Holidays" and I really liked the version from that Christmas album I mentioned above. However, upon hearing this song, I have to admit that it's probably a lot better. It's smooth, easy-going, and far from cheesy.
11. "Sleigh Ride" by The Boston Pops Orchestra
This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I always love hearing a good orchestra or band play this gem. This version is a little slower than the one from the record I enjoy, but it's still very good nonetheless.
12. "A Holly Jolly Christmas" by Burl Ives
I used to always enjoy watching Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer every year on TV and this song is probably one of the best from that special (not including the title song, of course).
13. "Christmas Time Is Here (instrumental)" from A Charlie Brown Christmas by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
Here's another track from my all-time favorite Christmas album. It's funny how my appreciation of the instrumental version of this song has grown over the years. Growing up, I rarely played it. However, after buying the CD version of the album a couple of years ago, I discovered how great this version is. The beginning of this song gives me chills (in a good way).
14. "Another Lonely Christmas" by Prince
Okay, I have to admit that I don't necessarily listen to this song at Christmas. However, for some strange reason, it's one of the first songs I wanted to put on my Holiday Mixmania mix. This song was a B-side to a single from Purple Rain and I own the 45 to prove it. It's always been one of my favorite Prince songs and I was tempted to put a six-minute-long version I found on this mix. I think the shorter version is a little bit better and that's what I included here.
15. "Joy To The World (Mocean Worker Remix)" by The Cathedral Brass
This is another Christmas remix. This one really turns the original song on its head and it's fun and upbeat.
16. "Let It Snow" by Dean Martin
Who hasn't heard this version of the classic song? I know I said that I wanted to avoid overplayed versions of Christmas songs, but this one is just nice to listen to.
17. "It Must Have Been Old Santa" by Harry Connick, Jr.
I'll be honest...I've seen more movies and TV shows with Harry Connick, Jr. in them than I have heard songs by him. But when I skimmed through that Now Christmas CD, this song stood out. I liked the beat and the old-school jazzy feel.
18. "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy" from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite by The Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Hearing this song and thinking about the line from "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" make me want to try a sugar plum one day. I bet it's delicious.
19. "Someday At Christmas" by Stevie Wonder
Our family owns Stevie Wonder's Christmas album on record and it's one of my favorites. However, this song stands out as something that should become a holiday classic. The opening lyrics of the song shows just how timely it still is: "Someday at Christmas/Men won't be boys/Playing with bombs/Like kids play with toys."
20. "Mary Had A Baby" by Cheryl Porter
Cheryl Porter is a gospel/jazz singer from Chicago who is currently based in Italy. She is also a relative of mine. Despite the fact we're related, she has a wonderful voice and I decided to put two tracks from her album, A Cheryl Porter Christmas, onto my Holiday Mixmania mix. For more information about her and her music, please visit her website.
1. "March (Baz Kuts Breaks Mix)" from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite by The Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Disc two kicks off with the same song from disc one but done in a different way. This remix of the familiar holiday song makes it sound fresh and contemporary.
2. "Little Saint Nick" by The Beach Boys
I gained a newfound respect for The Beach Boys after I heard their classic album Pet Sounds. I can't say that I'm a fan of Brian Wilson, but I could definitely hear his genius in that album. That being said, I like this Christmas offering from the group...even if it is used in various Christmas commercials.
3. "Please Come Home For Christmas" by Charles Brown
I love the old-school, bluesy feel of this song. The holiday anthem for couples who are on the outs with each other.
4. "Every Year, Every Christmas" by Luther Vandross
While "The Mistletoe Jam" was upbeat and fun, this song is closer to the Luther that we will forever remember. Others would have made this song sound syrupy and sappy. Luther makes it sound sincere and smooth.
5. "Christmas Is Coming" from A Charlie Brown Christmas by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
How many times must I tell you that I love this album?
6. "Carol Of The Bells" (version from the movie Home Alone)
I honestly don't know what boys choir sang this version of the classic song. I want to say it's the world-famous Vienna Boys Choir (although I had a version of this song they recorded that I decided not to use), but I don't know if it's them. Regardless, it's very nice.
7. "Winter Wonderland" by Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is so cool that he did an MTV Unplugged. This should tell you that his version of this song is going to be good.
8. "Christmas In Hollis" by Run DMC
When it comes to Christmas hip-hop, there doesn't seem to be much out there. I can only think of three songs off the top of my head: the Santa rap from the movie Beat Street, "Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto" by Snoop Dogg, and this song. I think this one is the best out of the three.
9. "Jingle Bells" by Diana Krall
Another Now Christmas discovery. I knew who Diana Krall was before I heard this version of the song, but I had never heard anything she did before. I like her nice, piano-driven take on this classic.
10. "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" by The Ray Conniff Singers
So light...so fluffy...so cheesy. That Christmas Wishes record I love had a great version of this song by Percy Faith's orchestra and I really wanted to use that one. However, the glee club wonderment of the Ray Conniff Singers is a fun substitute.
11. "Russian Dance" from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite by The Berlin Symphony Orchestra
This is that one part from The Nutcracker Suite that's used in every commercial for a wacky Christmas comedy (Christmas With The Kranks, Jingle All The Way). Despite that dubious achievement, this song is great.
12. "The Santa Claus Man" by Cheryl Porter
This is the other song I put from my relative. It's a quick, smooth glimpse of her talent.
13. "Happy Holidays (Beef Wellington Remix)" by Bing Crosby
Quite simply, this is the best Christmas remix I've ever heard. It doesn't really change much of the song. Instead, it enhances it and makes it bold, catchy, and immensely fun. The minute I heard it, I loved it. This is a new holiday classic for me.
14. "This Christmas" by Donny Hathaway
There are a select few songs that no one should ever remake. This is one of them. There was no way that this mix was not going to include this song.
15. Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley
This is a relatively new discovery for me. I like some of Elvis's songs and after hearing this one on the Now Christmas set, it grew on me. I don't know if it's Elvis's unique voice or the wonderful background vocals that make this song sound so good.
16. "Silent Night" by The Temptations
The Temptations were to "Silent Night" what Marvin Gaye was to "The Star Spangled Banner." There is no version of "Silent Night" quite like this.
17. "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole
While some songs shouldn't be remade, I'm glad that Nat King Cole decided to do his own version of Mel Torme's song. This is, hands down, the definitive version of this song. Even Torme himself thought so. There's no greater compliment than the original artist saying that your version is better than his own.
18. "Run Rudolph Run" by Chuck Berry
This was a last-minute addition to the mix. I originally put a remix of "Let It Snow" by Lena Horne here, but I felt that the remix didn't do justice to the original and I put this fun, often heard song in its place.
19. "Christmas Time Is Here (Markus Enoshson Remix)" from A Charlie Brown Christmas by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
A good remix often makes you hear a song in a different way. This remix of the vocal version of "Christmas Time Is Here" makes the children's vocals sound haunting and ethereal. It's a great (and fascinating) listen.
20. "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon & Yoko Ono and The Plastic Ono Band with The Harlem Community Choir
So, the mix ends with this wonderful song from John Lennon. I put this on my mix without even realizing that this year was the 25th anniversary of his death. What's even more interesting is that I was born in the year he died.
That's my massive Holiday Mixmania mix. I hope that my match enjoys it and I can't wait to enjoy it for years to come.
Thanks to Jim for organizing another Mixmania (and keeping my mixing skills fresh). Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!