Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gee Whiz ... It's Christmas (Again!), Part 6

I've been using the initial posts in this new blog to share a few quick thoughts about some of the tracks on my latest holiday mix CD, Gee Whiz ... It's Christmas (Again!). Let's continue ...

Track 25
Christmas at the Oasis, by Maria Muldaur (2010)
Maria Muldaur
I know Maria Muldaur for the two hit singles she had in the mid-‘70s: “I’m a Woman,” from her album Waitress in a Doughnut Shop; and “Midnight at the Oasis,” the Top 10 hit from her self-titled debut album.  Can you guess which of these serves as the inspiration for Track 25? Although Muldaur has never been able to match the commercial success of her first two solo albums, she’s been amazingly prolific these past 35 years, touring extensively and releasing more than 30 albums. This song is the title track from a wonderful album of holiday standards performed live in the unique jazz/blues style Muldaur has developed over years. I’m not sure how she fell of my radar screen, but she’s back on it now. You can find Christmas at the Oasis and dozens of Muldaur's other records at amazon.com, iTunes, or through her website.

Track 24
Christmas Lost and Found (Part 5), from Davey and Goliath (1960)

Track 23
Santa, by Lightnin’ Hopkins (1962)
Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins was the real deal, a genuine Texas country blues man whose musical career spanned an astonishing seven decades. His first break came early, when in 1920 at the age of 8 he met the legendary bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson at a local church picnic. Jefferson engaged Sam as his sighted guide, and soon thereafter began guiding the youngster on how the blues are played. Hopkins enjoyed a modest following during the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, but his greatest commercial success came relatively later when he was discovered by the growing folk and beat movements in the 1960s. This process began in October 1960 when Hopkins joined Joan Baez and Pete Seeger for a show at Carnegie Hall that included a rousing performance of "Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep." Hopkins continued to record until shortly before his death, in 1982. "Santa" is just one of many Christmas tunes he recorded, and you can expect to hear more from him on future mixes.

Track 22
Will the Coffin Be Your Santa Claus?, by Rev. J.M. Gates (1927)
Rev. J.M. Gates
From 1914 until his death in 1945, the Rev. J. M. Gates served as pastor of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Atlanta’s Rock Dale Park. He enjoyed a wide audience throughout most of that period, the majority of whom knew him only through his phonograph records, which number well into the hundreds. In fact, it’s been estimated that at least a quarter of all the recorded sermons released before 1941 were made by Rev. Gates. Two years ago, I featured one of Rev. Gates’s sermons on I Just Can’t Wait ‘til Christmas -- “Did You Spend Christmas Day in Jail?” This year’s selection is slightly more, ah, morbid. But the man has a point. Just to be safe, I’m not moving into any brand new bungalows on December 24!
Incidentally, Paul Simon samples liberally from Rev. Gates on the first single from his magnificent 2011 album So Beautiful or So What, called “Getting Ready for Christmas Day.”

Track 21
Christmas Lost and Found (Part 4), from Davey and Goliath (1960)
See Comments on Track 6

More tomorrow. Or the next day.

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