Dig that crazy Santa Claus! I recently received eight Christmas-related CDs, so I’m trying hard to get some reviews to readers in time for readers to enjoy them before the holidays are over.
‘Cool Blue Christmas,’ Various Artists (Contrast Records)
There are more than 200 tracks in this eight-volume, nine CD collection, so I’ve decided to “subdivide” the star ratings with my personal preferences and give information for purchasers. Each disc features the “Cool Blue Christmas” series title.
‘Christmas In Jail (Ain’t That a Pain),’ Classic Pre-War Christmas Cuts 1924-48 (Contrast Records,☆☆☆☆)
This one features artists such as Louis Armstrong, Eva Taylor, Blind Lemon Jefferson and others performing jazz/blues Christmas tunes, most of which I had never heard.
Favorites include the title song, Blind Lemon’s “Christmas Eve Blues,” Alphabetical Four’s vocal with harmonica “Go Where I Send Thee,” Tampa Red’s “Christmas & New Year’s Blues” and “Looking For Me Santa Claus” by Sam Manning and Melodettes.
Folks may not like the antique sound quality, but there is tons of good stuff here.
‘Santa Claus Is From the South,’ Classic Country & Western Christmas Cuts 1947-63 (Contrast Records,☆☆☆☆)
This single CD contains Christmas-album pictures and favorites like Bill Monroe, Kitty Wells, Little Jimmy Dickens, George Jones and more. Favorite tunes include The Stanley Brothers’ “Christmas Time is Near,” Jimmy Dickens’ “Barefooted Little Cowboy,” Wells’ sad “Christmas Ain’t Like Christmas Anymore,” Reno & Smiley’s “Christmas Doll,” Benny Martin’s joyous title song, The Prairie Ramblers’ “Cowboy Santa Claus,” Monroe’s “Christmas Time’s A-Coming” and more. Some of these songs swing more than those above did.
‘Blues For Christmas,’ Classic R&B/Blues Christmas Cuts 1956-61 (Contrast Records, ☆☆☆☆1/2)
Twenty-five songs from Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker, Marian Williams, and more are featured on this disc. My favorites include the Chipmunky “Rock & Roll Santa Claus” (Huey “Piano” Smith & The Clowns), Berry’s immortal “Run Rudolph Run,” Marian’s fervent “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” The Blue Notes’ even-slower version of “Oh Holy Night,” Charles Brown’s oft-covered “Please Come Home for Christmas,” “Great Day in December” (Swan Silvertones) and B.B. King’s “Christmas Celebration.”
This one will blow away your Christmas blues.
Here are the other recordings in the Contrast Records ‘Cool Blue Christmas’ series:
▪ ‘We Free Kings: Classic Jazz Cuts 1948-1963’
▪ ‘Boogie Woogie Santa Claus: Classic R&B/Blues Cuts 1945-1949’
▪ ‘Mr. Santa’s Boogie: Classic R&B/Blues Cuts 1949-1953’
▪ ‘Mr. Santa Claus (Bring Me My Baby): Classic Soul/R&B Cuts 1961-1963’
The Staple Singers, Darlene Love, The Crystals, Jack Scott, Little Eva, The Miracles and The Ronettes are among the artists on this one I didn’t have space to review.
Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at email@example.com.