Easy Listening Seasonal and Not So


I’m such an atheist I’m not an atheist, but I like Christmas. It is however, an unusually difficult time of year for people who like to listen to music, and appreciate music as part of their aural environment. I’m not talking about Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or any other spiritual practitioners who have theological reasons to be pissed off at the unrelenting assault of Christian adulation every time they enter a public space.

My partner is particularly sensitive to her physical and visual environment, which I really appreciate and is an important part of my life. I like music in the air. I’m fussy about my aural environment. I’ve had amazing Sennheiser earphones. I’ve had an Mp3 player, but now I have hearing aids, and I’ve gone old school. Not just a return to vinyl but an ongoing appreciation for a music played through speakers into a room where other people can listen, even though I can now go all Blue Tooth and have it brought so directly into my head.  While it’s hard to share reading, at least in any kind of simultaneous kind of way, we can share listening.

I’m repeating myself. I like to listen to music as part of a space that is not just in or between my ears. Maybe it’s just what I grew up with, and really I’m fine with how anyone listens to music as long as they do, like I’m fine with how anyone reads books as long as they do – but I’ll keep buying physical printed books (for Christmas, or anytime) not just because I love reading, but because I also love books, which is not the same thing.

Back to face the (Christmas) music. I loathe disco Christmas songs, and while there are a few jazzy Christmas albums I can tolerate, there is not much out there “in the air” as I call it, either broadcast on radio or in stores that I like to hear.  I’ve given up on CBC Radio 2 for the duration of the holidays, but would recommend any number of their dedicated radio “stations.” I’m listening to their Modern Blues Station now, and turning up the volume because I can, with a kick ass system running with my iMac.  Not very Christmassy, but great music making my space so much better to live in.

I’ve become wary of traditional Christmas Carols, because of the religion, and the sentiment, even with some hardcore Mennonite appreciation for harmony singing.   I have some bizarre memories of the German gospel Boom Ching of “Friedenfurst!” which I have sung and conducted, or the First Mennonite annual rehash of the congregation singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Repetition, as Martha Graham would have it, not for monotony but the ecstasy it brings. Just imagine 800 First Mennonites in orgiastic ecstasy pounding their way through the climactic chorus!

Do You Hear What I Hear, Jeanette Isobella?
The music I did put on for the family as they were Christmas decorating this evening was last year’s splendid Pink Martini Christmas cd Joy to the World, and Leon Redbone’s Christmas Island.

The other cd I like to play at Christmas is a little more complicated as its not explicitly a Christmas album and one I played often when my kids were kids. It’s classical guitarist Chris Parkening’s Vivaldi cd Parkening plays Vivaldi which is slightly misleading because he plays other composers as well, most notably work by early 20th century composer Peter Warlock, born as Philip Heseltine in the Savoy Hotel, http://www.allmusic.com/artist/peter-warlock-mn0002128972).Warlock’s father died when he was two, so his mother raised Heseltine. He became a master composer; but also a reputed sadist, limerick writer, alcoholic and depressive. His was a short life, but his work is worth a serious listen. However unlikely, his music is an amazing fit with Pretorius and Vivaldi, fully realized by Parkening’s playing in the tradition of Segovia.


More Easy Listening, More, really?

Some of you will have had a glance at my jazz easy listening list featuring Dianna Krall and Frank Sinatra. I suggest those singers and albums are for the easy listening purist, and yes I believe there can be such a thing. I also tend to listen to some of my rocking pop singers stab at the genre, relishing their impurity. Of these the most notable would be Linda Ronstadt’s collaborations with Nelson Riddle, of which there were three if I remember correctly and my very favourite by Harry Nilsson, a Little Touch of Schmilson in the Night released in 1973. The album was arranged by Sinatra arranger Gordon Jenkins, and produced by Derek Taylor.

Nilsson deserves his own entry, with a pop hit “Everybody’s Talkin, the novelty hit “Put the Lime in the Coconut,” and my favourite unacceptable pop songs “ You’re Breaking my Heart (and tearing it apart, so fuck you),” and “I’d rather be dead, than wet my bed” with a back-up chorus of oldies in a seniors home. This may be an upcoming Vicipedia entry. I also dibs “The Laughing Man” the title of one his songs as the title of my autobiography.

It’s 10:15. I’m up late, thanks to my Percocet. Our cat Luna is pacing, waiting for me to assume the position, and yes, I’m tired.

Goodnight subscribers, family & friends. I’m actually looking forward to tomorrow, and that’s been awhile.








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  1. nk brtn
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    C’mon Man. “Jump into the Fire” was the best thing Nilsson ever did. If you love the bass. Then there’s Phil Spector’s Christmas Album — gotta dust that one off this time of year. A personal fave is “To Drive the Cold Winter Away,” but then, it’s Loreena, so you can’t go wrong….

    • Victor
      Posted December 20, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      Yup, it’s on one of the four pop Nilsson albums I treasure. Schmilsson, Son of Shmilsson, Laughing Man and the one I call Zombie Jamboree, with some favourite lines “she tattooed my poor face/in a most peculiar place/now, when she sits down/ she sits on me.” The one with John Lennon (Pussycats?)never quite worked, and The point was beside the point.

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