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Christmas GiftFor a brief time, I'm offering free MP3's of a five treasures from my voluminous collection - songs I love (or love to hate) and that I'm confident you can't find easily at any store. These are relatively lo-fi files (128 kbps) of very rare songs (mostly), so no one should get too upset (we hope) at this petty larceny. Click on the pictures, song titles, or MP3 links to get your Christmas off to a rockin' start! Like Phil Spector, I'm pleased to offer this Christmas gift for you.

Randy Anthony

MxPxMXPX, "You're The One I Miss (This Christmas)" (2001)
These Christian-based pop punkers (read more) are one of a handful of artists whom I have reviewed for that have never released a Christmas album. (The Beatles and R.E.M. are the others, so MxPx is in good company). Instead, the trio released a steady stream of Christmas songs, mostly as CD singles for promotional purposes - sent to members of their fan club, or perhaps the media. From 1998 through 2004, they faithfully released a song a year for their (literally) faithful fans (plus a lump of coal on A Santa Cause). The last one, "It's Christmas, And I'm Sick," was released as a download only - a practice they appear to have resumed this year (see "You're The One I Miss (This Christmas)" is one of the most frenetic of the bunch - a fine example of the punk/emo genre, mixing irresistible riffs and noisy melodies with relentlessly self-centered lyrics (and nary a hint of religion). "Let's open up all our presents early," hollers bassist Mike Herrera. Dude, that's living on the edge. ("You're The One I Miss" has never been commercially released, but it shows up with some regularity on Amazon.)

speaker MP3, 2.6 MB (ripped from CD)

Phil MoorePhil Moore Four, "Blink Before Christmas" (1953)
I can tell you next to nothing about this track except... it's so freakin' cool! It's one of those jazz-based prototypical rap songs that enjoyed brief popularity during the heyday of "beat" before white boys like Jack Kerouac took it over. (Babs Gonzales was perhaps the style's most notable practitioner.) I downloaded the song from somewhere on the internet, and it sounds great - far better than similar tracks from the same period - like it's been ripped from a CD that was mastered from tape, even though I know that neither is likely to be the case. After seeing the single (RCA 5538 b/w "Chinchy Old Scrooge") listed in books like Merry Christmas Baby and the Goldmine Christmas Record Price Guide, I have utterly failed (so far) to track down a copy (though one showed up recently on eBay - as a 78, which my turntable won't even play). Even worse, I've failed to discover nearly anything about Phil Moore. None of my multitudinous reference books even mention the old boy, though I found a brief biography at Space Age Pop and an obituary at the New York Times (and some cool pictures at Vocal Group Harmony). Apparently, Moore was a pianist and bandleader, and he is mainly remembered (if at all) for supporting singers like Lena Horne and Frank Sinatra. But, judging from "Blink Before Christmas," he was one badass cat, brimming with good humor and wicked jive. Employing the thickest hipster lingo, Phil interprets Clement Moore's venerable poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" as a wacky Harlem nocturne. It's a true gasser filled with delightful wordplay, perhaps none more delightful than "Hey pop, open your glimmers, hollered Little Joe Hip, and I bounced from my soft and gave my lilies a flip."

speaker MP3, 3.0 MB (downloaded from internet)

Carlene CarterCarlene Carter & John Jorgensen, "A '55 Telecaster Under My Tree" (1992)
I'll not deny the fact that I think Carlene Carter is one red hot mama. Her first few records, especially the Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds production Musical Shapes (1980), brim with wit and intelligence, and they maintain a delicious sexual tension by playing edgy rock off hard-core twang. Those records, as Carlene herself once said, put the cunt back into country. "A '55 Telecaster Under My Tree" came many years later, and it's not quite up to those standards. It's got that heavily processed sound that weighs down so many modern country records, and Carter's duet partner, stellar guitarist John Jorgensen (Desert Rose Band, Hellecasters), is plagued with a white-guy-sings-the-blues sort of voice that makes the first verse of the song resemble something out of an off-the-strip Las Vegas revue. But Jorgensen plays a mean axe, and when Carlene struts in on the second verse, all is forgiven. "Standing in front of my mirror in my hip-hugging, bell-bottom jeans," Carlene recalls, "Strat hung low like a Rolling Stone, trying my best to look mean." Hubba hubba! ("Telecaster" comes from an obscure benefit album called A Gift of Life, and it has surfaced on a few equally obscure budget albums. None of them are listed in Amazon.)

speaker MP3, 2.7 MB (ripped from CD)

Cathy DennisBand Aid II, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (1989)
Almost everyone has heard "Do They Know It's Christmas," the 1984 anti-famine song (are there pro-famine songs?) penned by Sir Bob Geldof (Boomtown Rats) and Midge Ure (Ultravox) and recorded by Band Aid, an overstuffed amalgam of British pop stars. "Do They Know It's Christmas" and Band Aid set the mold for "We are The World" and USA For Africa, which begat a seemingly bottomless pit of execrable benefit records. And, many people have heard the eccentric 2004 remake by Band Aid 20. But, almost nobody has heard Band Aid II, the poorly conceived 1989 sequel produced by those visigoths of vapid dance pop, Stock Aitken Waterman, and featuring the dubious talents of mercifully forgotten Euro-trash like Jason Donovan, Wet Wet Wet, Big Fun, and Cathy Dennis (pictured). While no masterpiece, the original "Do They Know It's Christmas" was charming in it's frothy good intentions and self-conscious candor ("Thank God it's them instead of you"). However, Stock Aitken Waterman's beat-drenched reading is just pathetic - the sound of clueless dilettantes literally dancing on the grave of a ravaged continent. Still, it's the thought that counts, right? (The Band Aid II single appears to have never been issued in the United States, nor has it been reissued in any format.)

speaker MP3, 4.0 MB (ripped from CD)

BoDeansBoDeans, "Jingle Bell Rock" (1989)
Sammy Llanas and Kurt Neumann (aka the BoDeans) were cresting commercially (if not artistically) in 1989 when they released "Christmas Time," a promotional holiday single b/w "Jingle Bell Rock." The a-side is the better song, and it's earnest, rootsy sound and swelling, ascending arrangement is much more typical of the group. But, I include the b-side here because, well, it has to be the most annoying Christmas song I own - and I own a bunch! First of all, the BoDeans copped the title from perhaps the most famous rock-oriented Christmas song in history - Bobby Helms' 1957 smash hit. That's like writing a power ballad called "Stairway To Heaven." Come on! Second, it possesses the most abrasive drum sound this side of Pete Townsend's "Face To Face." But overall, it's just a mess - a noisy, clattering, ill-conceived mess. What were they thinking? Are they trying to do hip hop? Is this what rap sounds like to two white guys from Wisconsin? Is it just a joke? If it is, are we laughing with them or at them? Really, "Jingle Bell Rock" is just good 'ol perverse fun - but I recommend listening to it in small very doses. (To my knowledge, neither song has ever been reissued in any form. Look for the CD single on eBay.)

speaker MP3, 2.1 MB (ripped from CD)

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