Merry Christmas from Listening Friday!

Ok.  So here's my new plan.  Firstly, you need to understand something about me.

I freaking love Christmas music.

I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it's because I've become too jaded and cynical to sit quietly and listen to whatever Clear Channel thinks I should listen to, or maybe it's that it only comes once a year. I don't know why I like it, but I really do.  I think it's great.  I love movies set during the holidays, because they usually incorporate Christmas music too.  I love that thanks to our ridiculously commercialized society we now actually start Christmas in January.  It really just means that one radio station that no one ever listens to under any other circumstances will now start playing Christmas music non-stop for 24 hours a day.

I bet you didn't know there are over 140 versions of Silent Night.

But, let's discuss the plan.  There are six Fridays left before Christmas, so I'm introducing our latest series as "The 6 Listening Friday's of Christmas".  A caveat, we will not be featuring the "12 Days of Christmas" unless I run out of ideas before the end.

Our first one will be a bonus, since some of you might be annoyed that I'm going to be choosing Christmas music before Turkey-Day.  The bonus is that you will not find a single YouTube video to Christmas music on this entry.  In fact, you will find FIVE YouTube videos to Christmas music on this entry!

All five of these selections have been painstakingly...well, selected from thousands, nay MILLIONS of popular, sacred and everything in between in the land of Christmas tunes.  In my very humble opinion, these are in fact the five, absolute worst pieces of music, let alone Christmas music that you will ever set ears upon.

Now, you may be thinking- "Hey, I thought this blog was about "good" music!  It says so up there right above Beethoven!"

First off, it's Brahms with headphones.

Second off, shut up.

These are examples I'd often share with my kids around the holidays for fun. While I agree, that we should always strive to provide the best in musicality in all aspects of musicianship and study, I also like to have a good time. Preferably while drinking copious amounts of egg nog.  Publix non-alcoholic, you heathens.

So, sit back and crank up the speakers, because here they are in no particular order!  The WORST Christmas music ever!

#1- "Sleigh Rough"

Sadly, I have no idea who recorded this.  It's a bit of a conundrum.  If you listen very closely you will hear that all of these musicians can actually play their instruments quite well.  The problem comes when they actually attempt to play them at the same time and in the same building.  To my trained ears, it smacks of semi-pro or professionals goofing off and having a good time.  The gentleman counting them off at the beginning sells it though, because his fervor in lighting the fuse on this 'Jingle Bomb' is believable enough to put into my head that these people are really trying to create here.  I'll let you be the judge of that.

#2- Johnny "Bowtie" Barstow- The First Noel

There comes a point in history, a single moment that defines your whole of existence in a single instant, and changes you into something not altogether completely different than you once were.  That moment is generally referred to as the first time you hear Johnny Bowtie sing.  A textbook example of what money and confidence can do, Johnny Bowtie has a studio album out of him singing his versions of Christmas tunes.  Someone graciously put these to a video of a Santa Claus puppet.  All About Jazz has a great review of the album, and of Johnny's particular style.  A quote-

"Some musicians spend years on technique, working hard to hone accepted skills like pitch and time. Barstow dispenses with such limitations."
My favorite part of this recording is just listening to the keyboardist patiently keeping up with the tempo changes.  He deserves a medal just for finishing within 30 seconds of Barstow.  I also applaud Barstow for his amazing ability to finish every single phrase with a non-chord tone.  Bravo.

#3- The TasteeBros - Oh Come All Ye Faithful

If Hell has elevators, the music played in them will most undoubtedly be performed by none other than the TasteeBros.  Scott Englebright and Donny Dyess formed the group in the 90's after discovering that by blowing harder, they could play higher on their trumpets. They took this to ridiculous levels, creating such sound pressure levels that the Earth was shifted from its standard orbit around the Sun and Christmas now starts in October.  It's science.

In doing some basic research on these guys, I've found that Scott actually has a wikipedia page and has been pretty successful.  He actually played with the Maynard Ferguson band (which is probably where he refined his stratospheric trumpet abilities) and later worked with Bill Holman, Bobby Caldwell, Paul Anka and many others.  Together with Dyess, he co authored several method books and published a few CD's of the TasteeBros playing it really high and not screwing it up.  This selection is my favorite of their song book, because it makes me think of your standard middle school trumpet player.  They can only think of one thing, and that's playing really high.  So they take this beautiful arrangement of a traditional Christmas song and sully it with their "range exercises".

#4- Meatwad- "Frosty The Red-Nosed Snowman"

A few years back, the creators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force decided that it would be a good idea to release a Christmas album sung by the characters on their show.  For those of you who don't know, ATHF is a show about three anthropomorphic fast food items that live in New Jersey next to a bald fat guy.  They originally pitched the show as having the food be detectives, but only as a way to get it approved for a pilot.  They quickly abandoned that plot and assumed an insane ride of both surreal and non sequitur hijinks.  The Christmas Album does border on the sacrilege at moments, but some tunes are innocently non-offensive such as the one we'll examine today.  Meatwad, with the brain power of a child, tries to sing through one of his holiday favorites with the help of his foul-mouthed neighbor, Carl.

#5- ...

The last piece for today is probably the most offensive, vile, contrite piece of musical drivel ever confabbed into what could be considered radio-worthy in the history of mankind.  I feel dirty and sinister for even thinking of it, let alone including it my list. It is in no way redeemable, and everyone who was involved in its production will live their lives out in hiding and ashamed, because no one in their right mind would dare show their face after recording such a train wreck of musical holiday-tude.  I can't even describe it further without becoming nauseous, but here it is.  The tune that killed Christmas, listen to it if you can and may God have mercy on our souls...

If you're still alive after that, you can look forward to next week being much, MUCH better than this one.  I needed a break from the high brow stuff so I hope that was worth your time.  We'll continue over the next five weeks with a countdown of some of the BEST Christmas music ever to grace the soundwaves of Earth.

Until then faithful readership, Happy Thanksgiving!

Homework: Gather the following-

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg

Put the cream, sugar, eggs (preferably cracking and removing the shell first), and milk into a sauce pan. Whisk the hell out of it and cook on low heat. Don't ever stop whisking.  Do this until it sticks to a spoon. Don't let it boil. If you let it boil, Christmas is ruined. Take it off the stove and dump in the vanilla extract. Probably whisk it some more.  If you're a communist, you can drink it like this. If you aren't, put it in the fridge and serve it ice cold.  It will kill you.

See you next Friday.


If anyone knows who recorded "Sleigh Rough" please let me know.  I'd love to find out!
Johnny Barstow performs with keyboardist Larry Goldings.  The article was written by John Kelman for AllAboutJazz.com.
The Tasteebros own all their stuff and I already named them up there.  
Aqua Teen Hunger Force is produced by Williams Street and Cartoon Network.
And OK, I really don't think that song is the worst ever. I like Mariah Carey the same as the next guy. But all I want for Christmas is some damn egg nog.
Oh yeah.  And wikipedia and youtube helped too.