Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Songs

This is a pic of me, Barry Manilow, Suzanne Somers, and my good buddy Sharon Beavan backstage at the McCallum Theater in Palm Desert, CA on December 23, 1997. It was a Christmas charity concert that they did to benefit College of the Desert and we went backstage and met them afterwards. It was looking at this picture that me think about Christmas music.
I am a great afficienado of Christmas music. I've been collecting Christmas CDs from the beginning of time and have decided to let the world reap the benefits of my extensive knowledge. Here are my all time favorite renditions of my favorite Christmas songs.

In no particular order, they are:

1) Winter Wonderland by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormet - a warm, playful rendition off of the first Christmas album I ever owned (and practically wore out). Great chemistry between those two.

2) Christmas Bride by the Ray Coniff Orchestra. My dad owned only one Christmas album and every year I would get shivers when this came on. I ask you, why do artists record the same dozen songs when there are romantic under-exposed gems like this floating around?

3) Jingle Bell Rock by Hall & Oates recorded back when they were still Hall & Oates and not yet Daryl Hall and John Oates. Love Daryl's voice on this - as warm and playful as you're likely to hear it and, as always, clear as a bell.

4) Little Drummer Boy by Johnny Cash. He sings this song the way I would sing it, or most of us would.

5) Do You Hear What I Hear by The Carpenters. I know that Karen is famous for a couple of other Christmas classics but the way she builds on this one until that final flawless note at the end - how many singers could pull this off? Not many apparently, since most arrangers ruin the whole thing by stopping the build to play random music in the middle.

6) Mary Did You Know by Mark Lowry. I just plain love this song. Someone asked me if it's really a Christmas carol. When you are singing about Mary and her baby, what else could it be and when else would you sing it? Honorable mention to Clay Aikens but I'll go with the author's rendition (which is better to listen to than to watch - he way overperforms it).

7) Last Christmas by Wham! Supposedly set to the tune of Can't Smile Without You (really? I can't hear it ...) but a much, much better song. Love, love, love it.

8) I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by the Jackson Five. Little Michael is so cute on this, I always enjoy it, especially the ending where his brothers are teasing him.

9) Jingle Bells by Barry Manilow & Expose. It's a take off on an old Bing Crosby/Andrew Sisters arrangement and I like it just a bit better than the original.

10) Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys. What would Christmas be without my Beach Boys Christmas album?
What are your favorite Christmas songs?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Expect the Unexpected

November was a perfect example of how being financially challenged hasn't kept me from having wonderful life experiences. Dinner at Cheesecake Factory for daughter #1's birthday (is there anything that makes you feel more human than dining out?) and spending Thanksgiving in Seattle with daughter #3's new in laws. Travel, celebrations, making new acquaintances...does it get any better than that?

I think that part of the fun is learning how to make do and get by while keeping expenses down. The rumor out there, perpetrated by the media, was that Thanksgiving airfare was so expensive that no one would be able to afford to go anywhere and even if you could the airports would be such a madhouse why would you want to? My ticket to Seattle cost $350 and the airports were quiet both ways, even though I flew on the two busiest travel days of the year - the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. A perfect example of why I hate the media and never believe anything that comes from it.

A couple of interesting and completely unforeseen opportunities have come my way recently. A year ago I felt that I had no future, now the future is wide open and anything could happen. One thing I've learned is to never despair about or be afraid of the future because it rarely turns out how you think it will.

Speaking of making do and getting by, I don't have TV and am getting increasingly frustrated by the situation because I especially love all of the holiday programming. A friend suggested buying a converter box in order to at least get the local channels. I bought the box, turned on my TV, couldn't get it working properly and a couple of days later the picture tube flat lined. I am certainly technology challenged in my current residence. It's not that we don't have cable, we do - just not television. I hope to change that very soon.