So another holiday season has passed, and this year we were blessed to not hear Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” even once, not even while waiting in line at the post office! We were also blessed to see folks who don’t live here in the Twin Cities but stop by every year when they come back for visits.

There’s some talk about 2016 being a terrible year, and often — outside of politics — the reason cited is the deaths of major pop stars like David Bowie and Prince. We usually eschew the political discussions, and can’t add much to what’s already been written about the celebrity deaths this year (we have no comment on George Michael, by the way). All we can say is that it was a pretty good year around here. We watched a lot of local musicians have their biggest successes this year. We finally fixed a few things around the shop which have been broken since we moved, and at home our family had another great year.

the-shindogs-who-do-you-think-you-areIts sad that so many of the celebrity deaths are forgotten by year’s end. One of this year’s first famous musicians to pass was composer/conductor Pierre Boulez, and we posted about him in January. And after reading about Leon Russell after he passed away last month, we started to notice his credit on some interesting records — for instance, this one which turned up over the weekend.

 

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Leave it to R&B legend and hip hop pioneer Andre Williams to take the idea of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and turn it into something shockingly filthy.

Even though we’ve only got two more days to post Christmas records, we wanted to rerun this one which we first posted last year because the songs are a lot of fun. 

We’re fans of Juan Garcia Esquivel, the Mexican composer and bandleader who was sort of like the Sun Ra of lounge music. His inventive, idiosyncractic arrangements of pop standards defined “space age bachelor pad” music decades before hipsters invented the term, and his unusual instrumentation is instantly recognizable. other worlds other soundsFew other arrangers employed exotic percussion like Chinese bells, triangles and maracas so extensively, or shared Esquivel’s enthusiasm for glassando runs on the slide guitar — this latter providing the distinctive Boing! heard in so many of his recordings. Vocal arrangements were often nonsensical, if meticulous, sometimes seeming as though they were simply reading the text from a fight scene from Batman.

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Although his orchestra often performed jazz standards (one of our favorites is his version of “Cherokee”) there was little improvisation besides Esquivel himself at the piano.

In the sixties Esquivel often performed with his orchestra and chorus in Las Vegas, accompanied by a light show which pre-dated Pink Floyd by years, sometimes opening for Frank Sinatra. Check out this section from a 2000 Mexican documentary about him. His albums were hardly best-sellers in the United States so its hard to build up a collection — more recently they have provided plenty of revenue for RCA in the form of lounge music compilations.

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Esquivel never had the opportunity to make his own Christmas album, but he did contribute six tracks to this compilation put out by RCA/Victor in 1959. The other songs are provided by Ray Martin, a stuffy Austrian bandleader. On two of Esquivel’s songs, his orchestra is accompanied by the Skip-Jacks, a group who are best known for providing the vocals to the theme from The Flintstones. The remaining four feature his own chorus, which like his orchestra was highly disciplined by their perfectionist employer. Esquivel offers a fun new look at some familiar holiday standards.

Christmas with the Three Stooges is predictably destructive on this classic Golden Records 45.

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Yogi Bear, on the other hand, has a more peaceful message wishing us “A Hap-Hap-Happy Christmas.”

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We’ve been invited to play some records at the Pistol Whippin Party Penguins‘ 8th annual Yuletide Sweater Ball tonight at the Cedar Cultural Center. So we dusted off the DJ case, which we haven’t used much this winter, and rushed over to the thrift store to get ourselves some sweet Christmas sweaters.

We’re hoping our playlist of local country records and holiday tunes helps set the yuletide mood. Doors at the Cedar are at 7pm, and the live music starts at 8pm!

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