Let’s Put 2016 to Rest: My Top 10 Albums

Finally, we can put this year to rest, with my Top 10 albums. Just a quick overview of my Top 10 list shows I have four artists from my youth in my Top 10 albums. Then I looked again, only to notice that I have two more veteran artists from the Nineties represented in my Top 10. So, let’s get going! Here’s my Top 10 Albums of 2016.

10. Drive-By Truckers – American Band. My favorite modern Southern Rock band nailed this moody album about what it’s like to be a Southern in modern times. This time, leader Patterson Hood allowed group co-founder Mike Cooley to have half of the songs on the album, and the result is a more cohesive sounding group.

9. Peter Wolf – A Cure for Loneliness. The former-lead singer of the J. Geils Band once again quietly releases a classic album of blues rock, not unlike what his old band used to release.

8. Solange – A Seat at the Table. This is the album that her more famous sister, Beyoncé, wishes she had recorded. Solange actually showed a soulful side with pop smarts creating an album that will appeal to pop fans, R&B fans and serious music fans alike. Congratulations Solange, you are out of your sister’s shadow!

7. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book. This brilliant hip hop album is the most colorful-sounding album since rap’s earliest days of the 1980s. Chance brought the fun back to the genre.

6. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service. In most years, this album would have been the comeback album of the year. It was great to hear our jazzy hip hop artists back at the top of their game. The sad part was the loss of Phife Dawg shortly before the album’s release.

5. David Bowie – Blackstar. Bowie created a beautiful, dark, jazz-based album during which he was confronting his own mortality. He released the album to glorious reviews, only to die a couple days later. And, this album is a fitting end to one of rock’s greatest chameleons.

4. Weezer – Weezer (aka “The White Album”). On this, the band’s fourth eponymous titled album, Weezer made an album worthy of the band’s name. Finally, they remembered what their strengths are: powerful pop songs. And, their White Album is full of them.

3. The Monkees – Good Times! I am NOT kidding! The Monkees new album is brilliant. First, the band, celebrating their 50th anniversary, got some of rock’s best young songwriters, such as Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, to give them the modern pop songs they used to record in their Sixties heyday. Next, they electronically recorded a Mickey Dolenz/Harry Nilsson posthumous duet. And, finally, they uncovered a Davy Jones vocal and finished a brilliant pop song. This is the Monkees at their best.

2. Lady Gaga – Joanne. What’s a young artist who ruled the world with her first three albums to do when you idolize David Bowie AND Queen? You keep pushing through various incarnations while trying to advance your sound. On Born This Way, Gaga clobbered the epic sound of the Eighties, so Joanne has touches of the Seventies all over it, through some country rock-ish dance tunes, along with some disco touches and a pinch of 1970s hard rock. This is the sound of Lady Gaga growing into her influences. And, she’s beginning to do just that.

1. Cheap Trick – Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello. Back in 2009, Cheap Trick released a brilliant studio called The Latest, which ended up being their last with original drummer Bun E. Carlos. In his place is guitarist Rick Nielsen’s other son, Daxx, who does a yeoman’s job filling in for Bun E. Yes, Bun is missed, but these are the best set of songs that Trick has released in the 21st century. Is this album as good as their first five? No. But it is WAY better than their collective Eighties output.

And, that my friends, is my Top 10 for 2016. Have a safe and happy New Year! Peace to all of you!

Staggering to the Finish Line: #11-30 of My Top 50 Albums of 2016

Boy, today is a brutal day for me pain-wise. Most days, I feel like I have rhad a dun 15 miles after playing several games of basketball. Today, I feel like that plus I feel like someone has beaten me with a baseball bat. And, that’s how I woke up. So, refreshed is not a word in my vocabulary anymore. So, I am going to try to use this blog to help me forget the pain.

Yesterday, I said that I had a difficult time determining a number one album. But, to be honest, I had a difficult time finding 50 albums that I really enjoyed this year. I felt that most of the albums on this list were a couple of good tunes with some filler. Or, like I said before, there were albums by artists that were completely overrated. Yes, I understand that rock music must move forward, but noise for the sake of noise is not rock and roll. Maybe Lester Bangs was correct back in the late Seventies when he declared rock music to be dead. We may be witnessing the “jazzification” of pop music, which means to me that we are only going to get popular drivel or simply angular tones. I think melody is being lost as the basis of a song, only made hard by metal artists or soft by pop artists, with most genres in between.

After much digging, I finalized my Top 50. Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday, at number 30.

30. Wilco – Schmilco. Well, Wilco seems to be packing it in on most of this album. But, when they do put forth some effort, the result is transcendent, like they used to be.

29. William Bell – This Is Where I Live. I love early-Seventies soul, and Mr. Bell, who was last popular in the early-Seventies, has made an album of classic soul music.

28. The Legal Matters – Conrad. Power pop music has been underground for a while now. Thank goodness this band formed to bring back a classic, jangling sound.

27. Astronoid – AIR. My older son heard this album at a friend’s house and told me about it. I thought that bands had forgotten how to sound powerful. Well, Astronoid is here to remind everyone what a power band sounds like, as they verge on a metal sound.

26. The Shelters – The Shelters. Here is another album that takes one back to the sound of middle American music made popular by artists like Tom Petty (who produced the album), John Mellencamp and Bob Seger. The Shelters are just what the doctor ordered.

25. Green Day – Revolution Radio. Green Day is finding out that growing up punk is no easy task. But, after creating a Broadway musical out of their classic American Idiot, the band tried to make a large concept album, followed by three single albums released a month apart. All of those albums were noble attempts, but musical failures. On this album, Green Day keep it simple and just use their adult anger to write some great punk songs.

24. ABC – The Lexicon of Love II. Back in the early days of MTV, ABC was a new wave band that was place in heavy rotation with their Motown-influenced Lexicon of Love album that spawned two Top 10 hits, “The Look of Love” and “Poison Arrow”. Then, the band tried to make their sound grow over the years, until they came full circle to finally make that long-overdue follow-up album. Well, here it is.

23. Charles Bradley – Changes. Yet another strong album of soul music that sounds like Bradley brought it with him directly from songsthe 1970s.

22. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. Much like Green Day, Metallica has struggled with the idea of taking metal into maturity. They have struggled with the task ever since they hit the big time with The Black Album. But, the guys may have discovered how to do this now. This is the sound of Metallica finding their way into middle age.

21. Seth Swirsky – Circles and Squares. I really shouldn’t complain so much about the state of music in 2016 because this year has been a stellar year for power pop. Swirsky had created a set of great pop songs made powerful by a tough band, not unlike Cheap Trick.

20. Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. In a year when Loretta Lynne released a strong country album, Margo Price comes along sounding as though she were Lorretta’s granddaughter, not just in style but in voice and writings.

19. Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger. One of rock music’s greatest songwriters created a near classic album with this one. Stranger to Stranger has Simon writing songs in the styles of his various incarnations.

18. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Simpson may be country music’s best songwriting going. He seems to be updating that Outlaw Country sound of the Seventies. As a testament to Simpson’s greatness as an artist, listen to his countrified version of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”.

17. Maren Morris – Hero. This newcomer is mixing soul and country much like Dusty Springfield did back in the day. Now, that’s HUGE shoes to follow you, Miss Morris, throughout your career.

16. Miles Nielsen – Heavy Metal. First off, don’t let the title fool you. Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen’s other son released this power pop/Americana gem to little fanfare. Second, Miles is his own man following his own muse. What a great album Miles.

15.The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. Just when you thought new wave was dead, along comes the 1975 to remind you how great that music was. This is where the fun was in 2016.

14. David Brookings & the Average Lookings – David Brookings & the Average Lookings. Here’s yet another great power pop/punk-pop album that was released this year. These guys must have had fun making this album because every song makes me smile.

13. Nikki & the Dove – Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now. Hey, Beyoncé! THIS is how to make a fun pop/dance record.

12. Teenage Fanclub – Here. Teenage Fanclub has been updating the Big Star power pop sound for nearly 30 years. Now, this is an example of power pop moving down a more mellow path.

11. Bob Mould – Patch the Sky. The old Hüsker Dü/Sugar leader is back with another powerful set of punk songs with an underlying melody. Just the way he used to do it in that first band of his.

Now, we are ready for my Top 10. So, see you tomorrow!

It’s the End of the Year and I Feel Fine: My Top 50 Albums of 2016

Personally, I am glad that 2016 is ending. I don’t think I can take another year like this one has been. To begin with, my personal life has been challenging as I watch my mother’s quality of life diminish and my ability, both physically and mentally, to keep up with my own health changes and ever-increasing limitations. Then, when I attempt to take refuge in my favorite hobby, only to watch as an ever-increasing number of artists are leaving this life to join the after-life. At least their art lives on. But, the most disappointing aspect of 2016 was lack of music that will stand the test of time. Most of what was released this past year was what I would call serviceable.

Also, I am beginning to witness a couple of dreadful trends, of which I should not be surprised. Back in the Eighties, it seemed as though the Rolling Stones or Talking Heads could have farted in a microphone, released it as an artistic statement called art and every critic would have believed that album should have set the world on fire. Personally, I think Kanye West and Beyoncé have moved into this rarefied category. During my research I noticed that the latest releases from these two mega-stars were fawned over, all the while I found these two releases rather redundant and behind the trends. Had the two released their albums two years ago, I who agree to the assessment of the genius of their artistic vision. Instead, I found these releases reactionary and not so much visionary. And, you can add Bon Iver to my overrated list. I just cannot hop on his band wagon.

Now, I understand that I’m getting old, but I felt the older artists have released solid albums this year. Take a listen to albums by David Bowie, Cheap Trick, The Monkees, Peter Wolf and so many others. Theref0re, I would rank this year as a slightly below average for the quality of the albums released this year.

Over the next three days, I am going to be giving you my Top 50 albums of 2016. So, on with the countdown.

50. The Rolling Stones – Blue and Lonesome. Many of my friends were excited by the prospect of the Stones covering blues songs. Only thing, this album should have been recorded 30 years ago when they could killed these songs.

49. Ken Sharp – New Mourning. This man has been acting as if he were Superman by releasing three of the most important books about Power Pop music since 2015, with two more on his planning board. Then, this year, Sharp released one of the finest Power Pop albums. This is Power Pop at it’s finest.

48. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression. Here is my second old artist who everyone thought was over-the-hill.

47. Anderson .Paak – Malibu.  Sure, .Paak recorded a soul album with jazz qualities, but it was an original take.

46.Beyoncé – Lemonade. It may just be me, but I think this album is overrated. Sorry folks, I just think this album is solid, not a classic.

45.Nick Cave & the Seeds – Skeleton Tree. There was a time when the release of a Nick Cave album was a major event, but this album just sounded a too much like paint-by-numbers.

44.Rihanna – ANTI. Once again, I think this young superstar is coasting bit on this album.

43. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool. I used to love this band. But, I really think they have been believing their press clippings. This whole music of anti-music was derided back in the Seventies when Lou Reed released his “classic” Metal Music Machine. And, it should be today.

42.Blood Orange – Freetown Sound. Blood Orange has been raking in the big bucks as a song doctor. On his own album, BO has recorded a modern set of R&B. It will be interesting to watch his career develop.

41.Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial. I think this band has some potential. It’s always nice to discover a new pop-punk band. Or, are they playing power pop? Who cares?!?!

40.Arvidson & Butterflies – Arvidson & Butterflies. This has been a great year for power pop, and this new band hit a home run on this album.

39. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo. I think we are getting to the point that critics are going to believe that everything West does is brilliant. I disagree on this album.

38. Frank Ocean – Blonde. A few years ago, Ocean released a brilliant debut album. There was no way he would able to equal that first album, but he sure came close.

37. M83 – Junk. Back in 2008, MGMT released a brilliant album called Oracular Spectacular. M83 has release an album in that vein that is just as fun to listen to.

36. Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings. Back during the early 2000s, there was an American Idol show for country singer/songwriting. Of all the contestants, my older son had picked a teenaged Lambert as the contestant with the brightest future. She finished third but has had the greatest career. On this album, Lambert records a sprawling album that loosely chronicles her divorce from Blake Shelton. Graham, you were right, she was the talented contestant.

35. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker. Oh, did you hear Cohen recorded an album about him facing death? Yes, it is exactly what you thought it would be.

34. Mayer Hawthorne – Man About Town. I love blue-eyed soul, and Hawthorne is the best purveyor of this sound. It may not be his greatest album, but any album by him is going to be fun AND sexy.

33. Mudcrutch – 2. Tom Petty’s original band is back and better than ever. This country rock album is a throwback to the sound of the Seventies. Petty’s never sounded so loose before.

32. Champagne – Beach Closed. Champagne is yet another great power pop band that released a great album this year. Next summer, when the beach IS closed, this is the album to put on.

31. Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night. The 21st Century has been good for Elton’s creativity. It’s like he has rediscovered his early-Seventies muse with Bernie Taupin’s help, of course. Many of the songs sound as it they had been recorded for Rock of the Westies.

Well ladies and gentlemen, there are the first 20 albums of my Top 50 Albums of 2016. I dare you to guess which album ends up being my #1. Lord knows that I keep changing my mind. We will see tomorrow what albums are #11-30.

I Read the News Today – George Michael Has Passed Away


It happened again yesterday. On one of the holiest days for Christians, we lost yet another major pop/rock star, George Michael. This whole run of losing rock stars and pop cultural icons began about a week before Christmas 2015, when we found out that former Stone Temple Pilots/Velvet Revolver vocalist Scott Weiland had passed. Then, it was on Christmas 2015 that word came that Motörhead leader and bassist Lemmy had died. Then, it seemed as though we were losing people nearly every week, or more realistically, each month.

But now, it’s George Michael. It’s like the good Lord needed one of the finest pop vocalists to round out a choir of angels that includes Prince, Michael Jackson, John Lennon and Elvis Presley. The other thing that hit me was that Mr. Michael was the same age as me, 53. Once again, he was way too young to be taken from this world.

If you remember, George Michael came to prominence here in the State back in 1984 as one-half of the pop duo Wham! Immediately, young girls all over America were in love with Michael and his band partner, Andrew Ridgely. But, Wham! could not contain Michael’s talent, as the duo broke up so Michael could pursue a solo career. Wham! was popular, but Michael’ solo career was white hot in comparison. All of a sudden, I thought we might have an artist that would compete with Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna.

Unfortunately, that did not happen as Michael spent most of his good will attempting to fight his record company’s contract, who he felt was spending too much time packaging him as a sex symbol instead of a serious musician. As this fight continued, the joy left his music, as did his popularity with the main steam. And, thus, we all kind of forgotten about his talent. Now, we will be able to rejoice in his musical talent.

I understand that many rockers out there will think that George Michael was way too pop to be cool, but the man had amazing vocal chops in addition to incredible writing instincts. So, let’s take a brief look at my twenty favorite George Michael songs, listed in no particular order.

“Somebody to Love” (1992) – George Michael with Queen

“I Want Your Sex” (1987) – George Michael

“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (1991) – George Michael with Elton John

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (1984) – Wham!

“Faith” (1987) – George Michael

“Freedom ’90” (1990) – George Michael

“One More Try” (1988) – George Michael

“Father Figure” (1988) – George Michael

“Last Christmas” (1984) – Wham!

“Careless Whisper” (1984) – Wham!

“A Different Corner” (1986) – George Michael

“Killer/Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (1992) – George Michae01l

“Praying for Time” (1990) – George Michael

“I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (1987) – George Michael with Aretha Franklin

“The Edge of Heaven” (1986) – Wham!

“Everything She Wants” (1984) – Wham!

“Too Funky” (1992) – George Michael

“Jesus to a Child” (1996) – George Michael

“I’m Your Man” (1986) – Wham!

“Monkey” (1988) – George Michael

There’s my twenty favorite songs by George Michael. May we remember and revel in the glow of these songs, and the rest of his solo and Wham! catalog. Let’s all take a drink to the memory of George Michael! Here! Here!


Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017: Did You Really Break-Up Chic? Where’s The Cars & Janet?


Since first visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the Summer of 2001, I have always been excited about two days. The first day is when the RRHOF announces their nominees list, which traditionally has included 15 artists, though some years, like this year, have more. The second day is the day in December when they announce the five to seven artists who are being inducted during the ceremonies being held in the spring of the following year. Today was the day of the announcement, and the Class of 2017 includes Pearl Jam, Tupac, Joan Baez, Journey, Electric Light Orchestra and Yes. Also being inducted for Musical Excellence is guitarist and über- producer Nile Rodgers of Chic.

Now, upon first glance, the Class of 2017 is a pretty good selection, except, once again, the class is a little white for my liking. All of the inductees are deserving. Pearl Jam continues to be the biggest band to come out of the Nineties grunge scene. And, most of us recognize the brilliance of the ultimate short career of Tupac Shakur; the man had a beautiful to sound both hard and tender at the same time. Then, many of you will recognize the great folk artist Joan Baez and wonder why she had not been inducted yet? She is much more the artist than an answer to the trivia question, “Which artist played at both Woodstock and Live Aid?”


Then, there’s the Classic Rock artists from my youth: ELO, Journey and Yes. All of them have been deserving this honor for a very long time. All three of them have proven their variations on rock have worn nicely over the years, with Journey actually continuing to sell downloads of their 1981 hit song “Don’t Stop Believin'”. ELO’s mastermind, Jeff Lynne, also made a name for himself as an in-demand producer for big hit albums by George Harrison, Tom Petty (with and without the Heartbreakers) and the Traveling Wilburys, of which he was also a member and the last one to be inducted. Finally, Yes was big in the early Seventies with hits like “Roundabout” and “All Good People”, but ultimately went through several line-up changes until their big comeback album released in 1983 called 90125, which contained their only number one hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart”.


But, the one choice for induction that has me perplexed is Nile Rodgers. Guitarist Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards, himself an in-demand producer throughout the Eighties, masterminded the greatest disco/funk/jazz fusion band of all time. The two decided they would start a sophisticated band with female singers who would exploit the dance floors with smart music coupled with lyrics with double meanings. And, they named this band, who I felt was something of a Steely Dan for the dance clubs Chic. So, the infinite wisdom of the Induction Committee decided that instead of honoring the whole band Chic, who without Edwards would not have been as dance heavy, and signaled out Rodgers for induction. Shame on you RRHOF! Shame on you!!! This is uncalled for. You would have NEVER inducted Donald Fagen without Walter Becker! No, you inducted the two of them together as Steely Dan. Now, you are splitting up one of more dynamic teams in all of rock history like this? I am dismayed! C’mon RRHOF and right this wrong! Put in the whole band Chic and end this humiliating 11-year snubbing of the band.

Next on my list is yet another snubbing of the great Janet Jackson. Sure, she sounded like she were fronting The Time, and that’s because she almost was, but she made that music come alive like no one could, not even the great Morris Day. So, RRHOF, are you afraid to induct an Eighties pop diva? Or, could we be witnessing some unwitting racism? I prefer to think it’s the former, but remember that Madonna and Donna Summer are both in, so Miss Jackson is deserving.


My third beef with this year’s class has to do with The Cars. They single-handedly fuse Classic Rock with New Wave and turned it into multi-platinum sales. Why in God’s name are they being overlooked again? This is ridiculous. I’d much rather go to their concerts when they weren’t speaking to the crowds or each other rather than sitting through a half-hour rendition of “Roundabout”. While I do admire the musicianship of the members of Yes, I’m more of a “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” guy, and The Cars filled that nicely.

Then, as I agree with Eddie Trunk, we are missing too many heavy metal artists in the Hall. Let’s sound off with Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Motörhead and, when I’m in a good mood, Mötley Crüe. And, I know how the metalheads out there just love the late Ronnie James Dio, he will NOT get in. Although he had perhaps the greatest metal vocals of all time, the bands he was in, Rainbow, Dio and Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell are not worthy for the Hall. You see, he was not inducted with Sabbath because the RRHOF only inducted the original line-up, although the Dio-led version of the band did revive the Sabbath brand for a couple of years. In other words, if Dio would have gotten inducted it would have been with Sabbath. Unfortunately, the Hall said, “No!” to Dio.

Finally, when is the RRHOF going to begin honoring those Eighties alternative bands from both the USA and the UK. Seriously, Eighties rock would have been solely hair metal if it weren’t for Kraftwerk, Joy Division/New Order, The Smiths, The Cure, Hüsker Dü, Replacements, Pixies, Devo, Depeche Mode, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Jane’s Addiction and the rest. If it wasn’t for these bands, I know I would not have had much of a musical voice speaking for me.

So, RRHOF, let’s cut down on the Classic Rock inductees, and begin inducting more black, hip hop and alternative bands. You’ve got to diversify the Hall to better reflect all of the influences on this music form we love. In the words of The Who, “Long Live Rock!”

Hey! It’s Day Twelve!


Finally! It’s Day Twelve! So, welcome to Day Twelve. Today, on this final day of my Christmas Countdowns, let’s check out my Top 10 Christmas Albums by a single artist. I must admit to owning copies of seasonal albums by all kinds of off-the-wall-rockers, such as Reel Big Fish, the Misfits and Bad Religion. I have albums spreading the yuletide joy by artists like Billy Idol, Twisted Sister, Luther Vandross and Christina Aguilera. And, I’m certain that no one packs the Christmas spirit like albums by the likes of the Moody Blues, REO Speedwagon, Cee Lo Green, Loretta Lynn, The Tractors and so many others.

It has amazed me what artists have released Christmas albums over the years. I am not really sure which rocker got this whole thing going first, but Elvis Presley seemed to release the first album that was a financial success. Then, through the Fifties and Sixties, all kinds of holiday albums were released. Then, by the end of the Sixties, rockers got serious and could not be bothered with some frivolous music about Santa and his red-nosed reindeer. Then, some disco artists, like the Salsoul Orchestra, released dance mixes of holiday songs and hymns. Then, new wave and punk artists jumped on the Christmas bandwagon, either being sincere or ironic. It did not matter. Since the Nineties, Christmas has been a holiday that seems to be a rite of passage for artists, no matter which genre they represent.

So, today, I give you my Top 10 Christmas Albums by a Single Artist.

10. Jacob Miller & Ray I – Natty Christmas (1978). Yes, this is a reggae Christmas album with all of the expected references to ganja. But, this is really a great album with smart yet funny lyrics set to some great Jamaican beats. Best song: “All I Want for Ismas”.

9. The Ventures – The Ventures’ Christmas Album (1965). I loved this album from the moment I first heard it back when I was at the babysitter’s house back in the late Sixties. Her family had the album by a guitar band, from whom many guitarists got their start. Plus, the band always started a song with a recent guitar hit, like “Wooly Bully” being mashed up with “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. For a little kid, there was no better way to listen to Christmas music that begins with The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”, then seamlessly moves into “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” then moves back and forth through the duration of the song. There’s no better way to experience Christmas songs. Best song: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.

8. Booker T. & the MG’s – In the Christmas Spirit (1966). Is there a hotter instrumental band that these guys? I doubt it. So, when they play, they really do bring the Christmas spirit. You gotta hear it to believe it. Best song: “Winter Wonderland”.

7. She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas (2011). Zooey Deschanel, the “New Girl”, has an awesome voice. And, her duo is an excellent mellow folk-ish group. This album is really probably their best album. Best song: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

6. Emmylou Harris – Light of the Stable (1979). Harris got together many of the best country rock artists of the late Seventies, like Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young, and created a song sequence about the night Jesus was born. It is a classic that has been forgotten over time. Best song: “Light of the Stable”.

5. James Brown – Funky Christmas (1995). Over the years, The Godfather of Soul has released two classic Christmas albums. In the Nineties, his label decided to combine the two albums to create this new compilation. If you want Santa to get his funk on, this is the album for you. Best song: “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”.

4. Sufjan Stevens – Songs for Christmas (2006). For five years, indie folk artist Sufjan Stevens recorded Christmas EPs for his friends as Christmas presents. In 2006, Stevens rounded up the EPs and his label boxed them up into a nice five-EP boxed set. Best song:“Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!”.

3. Weezer – Christmas with Weezer (2008). Everyone’s favorite Nineties power pop band recorded an EP’s worth of Christmas songs in their usual way, with blazing guitars and driving rhythms. Christmas hymns were NEVER this much fun. Best song: “Christmas Celebration”.

2. The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album (1964). Who knew that surf music would meld so well with Christmas songs and hymns? Well, when the project is in Brian Wilson’s hands, head and ear (he is deaf in one ear), they music is going to be impeccable. This album is nearly perfect. Best song: “The Little Saint Nick”.

1. Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas. Back in 1965, a Christmas TV Special about an existential group of children that quotes the Bible and has a minimalist jazz soundtrack was considered controversial and risky. But, the whole thing just clicked, especially the soundtrack. And, we all are familiar with the soundtrack. Best song: “Christmas Time Is Here (vocal version)”.

Well, my twelve days are over now. I hope you all have a rockin’ Christmas!

The Eleventh Day of Christmas, Keller Gave to You…His Top 10 Christmas Compilation LPs


Now, I am certain that most of you jumped to the conclusion that I would have a Now Christmas compilation or two listed. Well, I’ve decided to stay away from now since they SHOULD have many great old AND new standards. So, due to that company’s philosophy, I am keeping them out of this listing. Instead, I want to focus on some great compilations of a label’s stable of artists doing Christmas songs, OR a group of artists that made up a “music scene” who were put together with their versions of Christmas songs on a single album.

Some of these were recorded specifically for these compilations, while others were cherry-picked by the label issuing the album around some musical theme within the Christmas genre. FYI: I am still awaiting a thrash metal and grunge Christmas compilation, two genres that really do not lend themselves to the Yuletide season. So, here we go!

10. Yuletunes (1991). Here we have an early-Nineties Christmas compilation of power pop artists, such as Matthew Sweet, Shoes, Bill Lloyd, The Spongetones, Don Dixon and some other bands that unknown then and remain unknown today. Best song: Material Issue’s blistering “Merry Christmas Will Do”. These guys were once tagged as the “Next Cheap Trick”. Unfortunately, leader Jim Ellison ended his own life as the band was losing the momentum gained from their debut album. Cheap Trick has NEVER recorded a holiday tunes such as this one.

9. A Christmas Record (1981). This is a new wave/post punk holiday extravaganza like no other. On this English album, you can hear seasonal fare by the likes of Was (Not Was), August Darnell, Suicide, Material, and most famously, the Waitresses. Best song: Hands down, it has to be the timeless “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses. If you are not familiar with this song, you have been living under a rock.

8. Christmas Raps (1987). Profile Records grabbed that classic song that Run-DMC recorded for a fundraising album, “Christmas in Hollis” and surrounded it with come classic mid-Eighties old school seasonal hip hop songs that paved the way for all other rap Christmas songs and albums that followed. Sure, the Disco 4, Dana Dane and Spyder-D don’t roll off our collective tongues, but at least they gave us this gem. Best song: Run-DMC – “Christmas in Hollis”, of course.

7. Dr. Demento’s Greatest Christmas Novelty CD (1989). Dr, Demento is a genius. He found the nuttiest songs around and built a radio show like no other around those songs. Thanks to the Doctor, we all need to hear Elmo & Patsy’s “Grandmas Got Run Over by a Reindeer” or Bob & Doug McKenzie’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. The list of artists goes on with “Weird Al” Yankovic, The Chipmunks and The Singing Dogs, who “bark” “Jingle Bells”. Best song: Cheech & Chong – “Santa Claus & His Old Lady”. It was close for me between the McKenzie Brothers, but the druggie duo’s Christmas bit always made my mom laugh, so I’ll with that memory.

6. Christmas Time Again (1986). More of power pop’s royalty gathered in 1986 to record this album. You can find songs by The dB’s, Marshall Crenshaw, my beloved Big Star, former Box Tops and Big Star singer Alex Chilton, Don Dixon, Peter Holsapple and alt-country forerunners Whiskeytown (who included a very young Ryan Adams). Best song: Alex Chilton’s stark and haunting “The Christmas Song”. Leave it to Chilton to discover the pain and loneliness in this song.

5. A Motown Christmas (1973). We all know the great stable of artists Motown had: The Temptations, the Supremes, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, among so many others. And, Motown mastermind Berry Gordy Jr. was shrewd enough to know to have his artists record Christmas albums on their own right. But, his brilliance lays in this compilation, where he took only the label very best to create this fantastic album. Best song: With so many to choose from, I will always be partial to Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas”. I have always related to a prayer for Peace on Earth during the holiday season.

4. Just Can’t Get Enough: New Wave Xmas (1996). Rhino did a fantastic job of getting all of these artists on this compilation: Pretenders, Los Lobos, Squeeze, The Pogues, Captain Sensible, David Bowie & Bing Crosby, among so many others. Best song: David Bowie & Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”. I retired that song from my Top 100 because it has become so very personal to me. Bing was my Grandpa Dart’s favorite singer. And, Bowie has always been one of my very favorite singers. Then, to watch the two of them on Bing’s last Christmas Special from 1977, a mere two years after Grandpa passed. The song remains too special to me to objectively rank in a countdown.

3. Soul Christmas (1968). This is an album of sheer beauty in its depth in the range of songs, from the raunchy (“Back Door Santa”) to the sublime (“This Christmas”). We get all of the artists, such as the Staple Singers, Solomon Burke, Clarence Carter, Booker T. & the MG’s, Otis Redding and so many others. Best Song: Otis Redding’s soulful take on “White Christmas”.

2. A Very Special Christmas (1987). This fundraiser for the Special Olympics reignited the fun that an artist can have writing and/or covering Christmas songs. The list of participating artists is a Who’s Who of The Hot 100 at the time: Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Stevie Nicks, etc. In the wake of this album’s success came not only more albums released in this series, but the recording of new holiday albums by all kinds of pop and  rock artists. Would we had ever received Mariah Carey’s, The Misfits’, Erasure’s or Twisted Sister’s Christmas albums without the success of this album? I doubt it! Best song: U2 – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”. Sure, it’s Darlene Love’s arrangement, but Bono’s personality and the band’s musicality lift this song to a whole new level.

1. A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector (1963). Allegedly, this is Beach Boy songwriter and producer’s favorite album. Unfortunately, this album got off to a very unfortunate beginning: it was released on the very day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and subsequently lost to the public. Fortunately, Christmas record collectors continued to sing the album’s praise, which is great for us, since it is truly a pop/soul masterpiece and is ranked at 142 on Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Albums of All Time. Best song: I really cannot decide. One day, I would say it’s Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, and the next it’s The Ronette’s “Sleigh Ride”. If I want to be solemn, then I choose “White Christmas” by Darlene Love. But, if I want a fun song, I would choose “Marshmallow World” by Darlene Love. Regardless, the album is absolutely a gem. Just, listen to the whole thing and enjoy it for the piece of art that the album is.

Well, music lovers! That’s my 10 favorite compilation albums. Now, I suppose you know in which direction I will be moving tomorrow, my Twelfth day of Christmas. Rock on!

Day 10: Keller’s Top 10 Christmas Songs


Yes, this countdown is ending two days early. Don’t fear! I will continue to dive deeper into Christmas music. But, let’s not get too far ahead, let’s see what’s in my Top 10.

10. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Christmas All Over Again” (1992). Petty and those great Heartbreakers bring their jangle to Christmas music. Petty wrote an original Yuletide standard. This song proves what a great songwriter Petty is because this song is both fresh and timeless.

9. Wham! – “Last Christmas” (1984). This song has proven over the long run to be the Christmas song of the Eighties. Sure, the lyrics are a bit thin, but the Christmas groove is undeniable. That’s why so many newer artist continue to cover this song on their Christmas albums. Jimmy Eat World comes the closest to the original, because they eschewed the original arrangement in order to make it a pop punk song.

8. Harry Simeone Chorale – “Little Drummer Boy” (1959). I am NOT kidding. This is the definitive recording of this song. The vocal arrangement is simply impeccable. I have vivid memories as a child, listening to the local AM radio station on Christmas Eve trying to get to sleep and hearing this song being played as it calmed me down in order to get some sleep.

7. Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christmastime” (1978). I know the complaints about this song, and I don’t care. As my brother and I would say whenever we heard this song, it is a happy song. It’s just a silly little Christmas song, and that’s alright.

6. Elton John – “Step into Christmas” (1974). My first memory of this song was watching the “kids” dance to it on American Bandstand. To me, it really does stand up with all the great songs written by Elton & Bernie Taupin.

5. Otis Redding – “White Christmas” (1966). Sure, Bing did it first. But, I love the starkness of this soulful version. The song is so beautiful in the loneliness that it gives the lyrics a whole new meaning.

4. Band Aid – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (1984). The granddaddy of all fundraising singles. Yet, it is such an Eighties icon now. This song broke Bono to the world. But, it also made Gen X-ers feel like they could “change the world”. Unfortunately, by 1986, the charitable intentions of a group of celebrities was meet with cynicism.

3. The Band – “Christmas Must Be Tonight” (1977). Leave it to Robbie Robertson to condense the nativity story into a top-notch Christmas song. Too few people know about this song, unfortunately.

2. Daryl Hall & John Oates – “Jingle Bell Rock” (1982). Fellow Hoosier Bobby Helms wrote this song and recorded a near-definitive version. That is, until I heard Hall & Oates version on the radio. Remember that Daryl, John and their early Eighties band were at the top of their game when they recorded this version. And, much like McCartney’s song, this song made my brother and me refer to this song as another “Happy song”. It always puts me in a good mood.

And, now, here it is, my number one Christmas song.

1. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1985). Recorded in concert back in 1975, Springsteen brought his live band energy to The Crystals’ arrangement of this song. It’s like they took the energy of “Rosalita” and condensed it in a Christmas song, which they did. My Christmas season NEVER officially begins until I hear The Boss’ Christmas tune.

Merry Christmas everybody! And, I will be back for the final two days of my Twelve Days of Christmas. See you tomorrow!

Okay, All of You Smart A$$es, Today I the Ninth Day of Christmas, Which Means #11-20 of My Top 100 Christmas Songs


Yes, I HAVE figure out which day I am on: Day Nine! Now, the countdown becomes a little more predictable to all of you. Yet, I don’t care – I’m the guy who as a high school freshman running in a two-mile race in a track & field meet, as fooled by some upperclassmen who convinced me on the backstretch that we were on our final lap when in fact we were on the next-to-last lap. As I sprinted down the homestretch, I learned of my mistake as the starter fired his gun, signaling the final lap. Needless to say, I was gassed, and my teammates passed me on the back stretch while laughing at me. It was all I could do to finish third, when I should have won. That’s why I ended up running the 800 meter run, since it was only two laps.

So, enough of my counting woes. Let’s celebrate the season! Start the countdown!

20. Mariah Carey – “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (1994). Mariah co-wrote this timeless Yuletide classic that hearkened backed to the Phil Spector/Motown days. This song continues to be a big seller, for all the right reasons.

19. Weezer – “Christmas Celebration” (2000). The heir-apparent to Cheap Trick’s throne at least knows how to write a Christmas song in the power pop genre. This song was included on their 2008 EP download.

18. Run-DMC – “Christmas in Hollis” (1987). The granddaddy of all seasonal hip hop songs. Continues to rise in this countdown. Absolutely brilliant.

17. Pretenders – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (1987). The second song in a row from the great A Very Special Christmas album. This is the second version of this holiday standard on my countdown, and it is my wife’s favorite. And, as always, she’s correct!

16. The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping” (1982). New wave, rap, and Christmas music collide to create this fantastic song about the perils of the season. Still lyrically relevant today.

15. The Kinks – “Father Christmas” (1977). This is essentially Ray Davies answer song to the punk movement that was rising in popularity in the UK. And, what a better time of the year to show the punks how to be punk that writing a Christmas song in punk mode. Turn the volume to 11.

14. Billy Squier – “Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You” (1981). Squire had the magic touch during the years of 1981 and 1982. He played this song on the first MTV Christmas Party Special, and the channel has played the heck out the video ever since.

13. U2 – “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (1987). Sure, The Crystals version from the Phil Spector album is the classic, but I could NEVER pass over one of the most important bands of my generation and their version of this song. I will always remember the local Oxford, Ohio station playing this song the day in October when we got 3 inches of snow there.

12. Band of Merrymakers – “A Very Merry Medley” (2016). The Band of Merrymakers is a revolving cast of power poppers who released this fun album of power pop takes on many Christmas classics. This song is a Christmas version of Stars on 45’s disco-fied medley of Sixties hits from 1981. I’m so glad I discovered this album!

11. John Lennon & Yoko Ono – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (1970). Sure, the message is a bit naive, but it remains powerful to this today. Although I associate the song with the time after John’s assassination, the song still holds meaning to me.

Wait! If I am about to finish this countdown on Day 10, what will I do on those last two days of Christmas? Fear not! See you tomorrow!

Today Is the True Eighth Day! #21-30 of Keller’s Top 100 Christmas Songs


Wait a second! Yesterday, I entitled my entry as the “Eighth Day”. Sorry! That was WRONG! It was only Day Seven. Therefore, TODAY is the real Eighth Day of Christmas.

Whew! Got that out of the way. As my former students know, I do make mistakes, although they are very rare (HAHAHA!!! Not!). Oh well.

So, let’s remember to carry the Christmas spirit throughout the whole year. I think that’s wonderful advice. So, on with the countdown.

30. The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl – “Fairytale of New York” (1988). This is a beautiful song, that features the melancholy of Christmas.

29. John Mellencamp – “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (1987). Mellencamp was at his first creative peak where he was combining the rock of the Stones with Appalachian sounds of The Band to create the great The Lonesome Jubilee. He followed that album up with this originally dopey song into a blues rockin’ hoedown. This was another great cut from the original A Very Special Christmas.

28. Donny Hathaway – “This Christmas” (1971). This fantastic Christmas song is full of everything that makes a great early-Seventies soul record. And the very underrated Donny Hathaway makes this song his own. It was too bad that we lost Hathaway to cancer before the Seventies ended, or perhaps more people would be aware of this great smooth soul singer.

27. Kenny Loggins – “Celebrate Me Home” (1978). Another example of a song that really does not mention Christmas but has become something of a holiday standard to those of us who came of age in the late-Seventies/early-Eighties. All of us related to coming home for the holidays as we left college for the old homestead.

26. Eagles – “Please Come Home for Christmas” (1978). The cool thing about the Eagles was how the country side of Don Henley creatively butted up against the Motown side of Glenn Frey. On this song, which peaked in the Top Twenty in December 1978, Frey’s soulful side won out, which made for a great version of this song.

25. Dan Fogelberg – “Same Old Lang Syn” (1980). Fogelberg, like Loggins’ hit from a couple years earlier, hit home with my age group. This one is more of a yearning for bygone days. Never really mentions Christmas, yet it has become something of another holiday standard.

24. Brenda Lee – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1958). I must have nearly 50 versions of this song, but NO ONE has improved upon the original by the great Brenda Lee. I’ve heard it all of my life, and it still sounds fresh to me.

23. Bryan Adams – “Run Rudolph Run” (1987). Adams has recorded three Christmas songs that I just love, but this one is the cream of the crop. Yet another cut from the classic A Very Special Christmas may not be the best version of this song, but it holds the best memories for me. I remember watching my then two-year old older son carrying a stuffed reindeer that he “borrowed” from his maternal grandmother, running up and down our apartment’s hallway, singing the chorus to this song. After blaring the song four times in a row, he was worn out, out of breath, sweating profusely, and got a one-way ticket to the bathtub when he dropped. Great times!

22. Ray Charles – “That Spirit of Christmas” (1986). This song that celebrates Christmas throughout the years was used to great effect in the movie Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold was stuck in the attic watching old family movies. The song and scene worked perfectly together.

21. Greg Lake – “I Believe in Father Christmas” (1975). There’s nothing like an English progressive rocker doing a Christmas anti-war song, especially when it sounds as majestic as this song does. I will always love this song.

Well kiddos! We’re ready to begin the Top 20. I can’t wait to start this list tomorrow. Peace out!