Each December, beginning in the year our son was born, I've been making a mixtape for family and close friends of Christmas tunes. What started as a one-off stocking stuffer has turned into, well, a thing ... although probably it's better to call it a tradition.
Actually, it's fun to do. We sift through many, many songs (I have hundreds sitting in an iTunes folder) and each year I pick up more, just to complicate things. New releases this year, incidentally, include the tracks by She & Him, Jack Johnson, Joan Osborne, David Ian and Carole King.
This year's set includes some songs that have been on the long list for a long time; the Gary Burton tune, for instance, is on a jazz compilation that's one of the first Christmas albums I ever bought.
The mix is, as always, all over the place. Where else could you put Luscious Jackson next to Tony Bennett? There's some indie pop, made-for-martinis jazz, some Sixties soul (the Funk Brothers were the house band at Motown) and loungewear. There's even a song that has nothing to do with Christmas or any holiday, but their name after all is the Decemberists, they put the word "angel" in a title and I got the idea after seeing it on a Christmas anthology.
I love stumbling across unexpected chestnuts, and the one this year is Daniel Radcliffe singing a cover of A Christmas Carol - not by Charles Dickens, but Tom Lehrer, whose satirical songs I learned at a very young age from my dad's stereo.
Here are the tunes this year.
She & Him: The Christmas Song
Vince Guaraldi Trio: Linus And Lucy
Jimmy Buffett: Christmas Island
Billy Paul Williams: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Carole King: My Favorite Things
Joan Osborne: Angels We Have Heard on High
Jack Johnson: In The Morning
Gary Burton: O Tannenbaum
Emmylou Harris: The First Noel
David Ian: The Christmas Waltz
Duke Ellington: Sugar Rum Cherry (from the Nutcracker)
Chuck Berry: Run Rudolph Run
Darlene Love: Marshmallow World
The Beach Boys: Little Saint Nick
The Funk Brothers: Winter Wonderland
Luscious Jackson: Let It Snow
Tony Bennett and the Count Basie Big Band: Silver Bells
The Pretenders: 2000 Miles
Michael Bublé: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: Ain't No Chimneys in the Project
The Alarm: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Bruce Cockburn: Joy to the World
Annie Lennox: In the Bleak Midwinter
The Decemberists: Angel, Won't You Call Me
King Curtis: What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?
Daniel Radcliffe (and the cast of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying): A Christmas Carol