Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Christmas album: in defense of the artistically indefensible

Thanks to Matthew Zuckerman:

Gerd Hain writes:

“Can those who defended the idea honestly say that they have ever bought a Xmas album; and even if they have, do they ever listen to it? Xmas albums are abysmal, not worth hearing again after 1 January. Like Chris, I¹ll be avoiding it."

xxx xxx xxx

“I have three Christmas albums and all get played at Christmastime:

* "Xmas From Great Old Friends" features Lightning Hopkins, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter and others.

* "Black Christmas" features The Staple Singers, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, Freddy King, Lightning Hopkins, Amos Milburn, Charles Brown and others.

* "Soul Christmas" features King Curtis, Clarence Carter, Carla Thomas, Booker T & the MGs, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding and others.

“No doubt Gerd Hain has heard these albums, otherwise how could he state so emphatically that "Xmas albums are abysmal"? I, however, think they are seasonal fun and a great antidote to the jingly fare that is generally heard around Christmastime.

“I look forward to another antidote next month. I doubt that I will play it as often as Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks or Modern Times, but what does that matter? I wear gloves less often than trousers. I use balsamic vinegar less often than white wine vinegar.

“For the past few years, Bob has been trying hard to get people to understand that he sees himself a working musician, not as a great artist of and for the times. (That doesn't mean he isn't a great artist, just that it is unproductive and even destructive for him to see himself as such.)

“So he has a radio show at which he is at pains to play music across the board: How Much Is That Doggie in the Window is, to many people, at the very bottom of the musical barrel.

“Bob does not agree. "Here's a record that everyone always talks about when they talk about how dull radio was before rock and roll. Personally, I don't agree with them; I think Patty Page made beautiful records."

“He repeatedly namechecks Bing Crosby and other less-than-hip singers as influences. He mentions in Chronicles how he feels an affinity with Tiny Tim, Rick Nelson and Frank Sinatra Jr.

“Of the five non-original songs he has performed this year, one is by Charles Aznavour, one by Dean Martin, and one, I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy, by George M Cohan, known as the "man who invented Broadway". (George Harrison's Something and Elvis's Heartbreak Hotel were the other two.)

“Christmas In The Heart may indeed be a dreadful album. If so, it will no doubt receive a flood of reviews saying just that. Then again, it may be a small delight.

“And if it is a surprise delight, will Gerd's having raged that it is
"artistically indefensible, a big mis-judgment by Bob, utter waste of talent" make it harder for him to share the pleasure?