Ginger Wildheart - "The Beat Goes On" (Albion, 2014)
We start off today’s Five with a slab of pure power-pop from Ginger’s latest PledgeMusic-backed album. Of course, with Ginger, he just can’t resist the urge to change the key or time signature a couple of times or to insert a little weirdness into the mix. This track is light on the weirdness, but there are other tracks on the album that seem to go in several different directions all at once. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Rage Against the Machine - "Renegades of Funk" (Renegades, 2000)
I can usually only take RATM in small doses. While others might consider this Afrika Bambaataa cover track Rage Lite, I could listen to more of their stuff if everything was like this.
Keaggy, King, Denté - "Angel Treads" (Invention, 1997) Invention is a Dove award-winning, mostly-instrumental collaboration between CCM guitar wizard Phil Keaggy and fellow CCM artists Wes King and Scott Denté of the husband-and-wife duo Out of the Grey. Keaggy is a criminally underrated and overlooked guitarist (if you don’t believe that, just spend a little time on YouTube watching live performance videos of Keaggy playing along with himself by means of a looper) who has been on the music scene since the mid-60s. Apparently urban legends abound of Hendrix crediting Keaggy as the best guitarist in the world. Lest you think this is simply a vehicle to showcase Keaggy’s six string prowess, King and Denté are both amazing guitarists in their own right, and each of them brings a different approach to the instrument. It was interesting to me at the time to hear how King and Denté responded to the opportunity to show off and shine on the guitar in a way that was different from what I had heard previously as part of their “day jobs.”
Faith No More - "The Morning After" (The Real Thing, 1989)
I love this song—I think Billy Gould’s thumping, driving bass is what does it for me—and I love this album. I had a hard time getting into FNM’s subsequent releases, but The Real Thing was the perfect mix of weirdness, heaviness, and pop sensibilities, and it was way more approachable and accessible than some of their other work. I wonder if things might have gone better for them had “Epic” not completely blown up the MTV airwaves.
Tony Bennett - "Indian Summer" (Perfectly Frank, 2006)
Tony sings Frank. This was a purchase for my wife, whose musical tastes run completely different from mine. She’s not a huge fan of vocal standards like this, but she often likes to chill out to laid-back older tunes like this one. And it just might surprise you to learn that I’m not completely put off by this.
Otis Redding - "Merry Christmas Baby" (White Christmas/Merry Christmas Baby single, 1968)
Way back in the days when Napster filesharing was all the rage, one of my co-workers burned everyone CD-Rs with a ton of Christmas MP3s on them as a Christmas gift. Many of them came from his own extensive Christmas collection, but judging by the quality, I’d have to say he… ahem… acquired the remainder of them from other sources. To this day, that collection makes up a large portion of my own Christmas music collection, although I have been systematically purchasing our favorites as stocking stuffers each Christmas. I still have quite a way to go. As for the song, it’s Otis Redding, and it’s soulful. What else is there to say?
Steven Curtis Chapman - "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/The Music of Christmas" (The Music of Christmas, 1995)
At one point, Steven Curtis Chapman was my favorite CCM artist, and this particular Christmas collection is still one of mine and my wife’s favorites. It’s heavy on acoustic guitar, which I really like, although there’s still quite a bit of orchestration on it as well. This album opener starts with a familiar Christmas chorus but then segues into an original composition, one of several on the album, another aspect I really like about this disc. It’s a good mix of traditional and new (at the time) holiday songs.
Frank Sinatra - "Mistletoe and Holly" (A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, 1957)
Hmm, I’m not super familiar with this one. It’s part of that same collection I mentioned earlier.
Bruce Mitchell Choir - “In the Bleak Midwinter” (Sleighride: World’s Most Beautiful Christmas Carols, 1998)
This comes from a 3-CD collection my wife and I acquired one Christmas early in our marriage. It contains mostly choral arrangements of carols and hymns, some of them really good, others not so much. This particular version is somewhere in the middle.
Amy Grant - "Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring" (Home for Christmas, 1992)
This arrangement of the Bach composition has a bit of a bluegrass-y flair in places and comes from another of my wife’s favorite Christmas albums.
The tree is up, the lights are on, the shopping is (mostly) done, and I’m finally in the mood for an all-Christmas Friday Five shuffle. Enjoy!
Bing Crosby - "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (I Wish You a Merry Christmas, 1962 rereleased in 2006 as Bing Crosby Christmas Classics)
Few others do Christmas as well as Bing. ‘Nuff said.
Sixpence None the Richer - "Angels We Have Heard On High" (The Dawn of Grace, 2008)
We go from a crooner to the sweet, wispy voice of Leigh Nash (although her vocal style can take a bit of getting used to). Sixpence reunited after a four-year hiatus to release this set of Christmas songs.
Elvis Presley - "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" (Elvis’ Christmas Album, 1957)
I almost wish this one had been “Blue Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” or “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” from the same album. Elvis definitely injected his own style into anything he did.
Phillips, Craig & Dean - "Go Tell It on the Mountain/Amen" (Repeat the Sounding Joy, 1996)
Upbeat, blue-eyed soul version of this old gospel spiritual by a CCM trio of pastors-turned-musicians.
Frank Sinatra - "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" (A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, 1957)
Ol’ Blue Eyes’ take on this Christmas standard popularized by Bing Crosby is quite a bit different than the King’s interpretation, starting off like “Silent Night” before taking a left turn into the classic we all know and (should) love.