the giddy vol. 4 - the christmas edition

what could be better than christmas music?  here are my favorite moments from the best stuff on the planet...

brian mcknight home for the holidays - bethlehem
i kid you not - the byline for this photo claims that brian can "sing your mother out of her panties".  no thanks.  he's got a great voice and an equally good ear, doing work with his family from take 6 and banging out tunes on the piano.  i don't really care for the entire album, but this track is fun. i like the organ and could use more volume in the backs when the parts split in the chorus.  i can't resist doing the air cue when the drums come in up front, but my favorite part is the synth brass part in the chorus, occurring first at 1:00.

whitney houston do you hear what i hear - a very special christmas
make no mistake about it - girlfriend can turn it out.  early whitney (you know, before she got all coked out with the king of r&b) is some of the best pop stuff out there.  her voice is so easy and clear, and she's got that bottom jaw vibrato thing mastered.  i like the drag snare figure that persists throughout and dig the key change you can see from a mile away.  her ad libs are wonderful.  my favorite part on this track is at 2:12, when i don my choir robe and sing "peace" with the background singers smack dab on beat 2.

take 6 & stevie wonder o thou that tellest good tidings to zion 
this is seriously one of the most amazing recordings of music that i have ever heard.  the ears on these guys are unfathomable, and our hero steveland morris wrecks shop on lead vocals.  take 6 sounds ridiculous here, with incredibly smooth voice leading and clever hemiolas.  their phrasing is impeccable, providing a backdrop from which stevie can absolutely dominate.  this track, from the quincy jones handel's messiah cornucopia of r&b artists, possesses so many wonderful moments.  i appreciate the dynamic contours in the backs, love the reverb on the snaps, lip sync the "ooh-ah, ah-ooh", dig the scoops, but get my mind blown by stevie with a lick that starts at 3:17 and finishes with a swallowed angst-riddled belt at 3:24.  it gets no better, folks.

bruce springsteen santa claus is coming to town - my hometown
i remember first hearing this on Q102 while jamming out in my cracker box bedroom.  i convinced my dad to drive me to the store so i could buy this single on 45 with my paper route money.  this particular cut began my infatuation with live recordings.  i'm not a big bruce springsteen fan per se (but my kids turned me on to this video about the boss).  the jingle bells are a nice touch, the snare on 4 up front feels good, and the dynamic drop at 3:09 is cool, but my favorite part hits at 3:49 when bruce is so overcome with the giggles that he can't finish the last riff into the out chorus.

frank sinatra jingle bells 
this cut is a favorite of our family.  simon and sonja danced together by christmas light one memorable evening, and it was the most precious thing i have witnessed.  i like frank just fine, but we are collectively more into the background singers.  i like the wordless back lines they sing after the second verse, and dig frank's swing feel in the chorus that follows, but our favorite part happens at 1:33 when frank joins the singers as they spell out the title of the tune.

andrea bocelli adeste fidelis - my christmas
this dude kills.  we heard this version of the holiday staple last december while we sat through the credits of that jim carrey 3d animation movie.  andrea sounds tremendous, and my favorite part hands down is the high f# he sings for 24 (!!!) seconds.  i spread my arms out wide and try to sing along, but a) don't sound near as good, b) can't hold my arms out for that long, and c) need an oxygen tank by the end.

hall & oates it came upon a midnight clear - home for christmas
i would be forever elated if i could sing like daryl hall (and would shoot myself in the face if i looked like john oates, especially post trademark mustache).  this pair of pop music sensations have become caricatures of themselves, their legend strengthening in an underground fashion, but there is absolutely no denying how prolific they were and continue to be.  i was overwhelmed with joy and had to sit down in the worn out couch at the public library when i noticed that they have a christmas album.  i love the acoustic guitar, the egg shaker, the reverb, and the string orchestra.  this is the type of arrangement that makes impossible for me to hear this tune any other way.  my favorite part is the way that daryl hall flips into his falsetto at 1:39.  so tender, so intimate, so perfect for that spot in the tune.

my sister and i grew up listening to this record overdriving the speakers on our parents' modest stereo every holiday season.  my favorite singer of all time is dolly parton (with bjork and nat cole tied for second place), and both she and kenny sing their tails off all over this album.  i dig this track in particular, although i'll agree that the video is pretty corny. the best part hits at 2:44 when the backup vocals appear out of nowhere and push that sus chord out of its displacement and into the denouement before the hook revs back up.  i literally held my breath while watching this video the first time, wondering as the time elapsed in the progress bar if the clip would last long enough to get to that spot.

want more giddy?      volume 1     volume 2     volume 3

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