Yeah, it’s music we like. So deal with it.

Photo: Mel Torme’s “Christmas Songs”

Mel Torme

Christmas Songs

Every December, when I’ve gotten tired of hearing the same holiday songs played ad nauseum on local radio stations (and why they start programming it right after Halloween is still a mystery to me), I dig out my favorite Christmas albums. This is the one that always goes to the front of the line. Mel Torme was experiencing a late career revival when he recorded this album with the Cincinnati Sinfonietta in 1992, and he had improved with age. He was nicknamed The Velvet Fog, and his voice is richer and more resonant than ever. Torme’s signature jazz-influenced style and scat singing are backed up by some swinging arrangements, and he gives soulful readings of the ballads, including a sentimental rendition of his own contribution to the holiday playlist, “The Christmas Song.” The selections include familiar favorites, along with some forgotten gems from old movie musicals. Pure delight from start to finish, and the perfect background music for a Christmas cocktail party.

Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com.

Vince Guaraldi Trio

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) 

I considered several Christmas albums before making my decision: 1963’s A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector is a perennial favorite of mine, as is A Very Special Christmas from 1987. Bob Dylan’s infamous Christmas in the Heart from 2009 demands an annual listen, as well. But the jazzy stylings featured on the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, really resonate with me and never fail to breathe joy back into a hectic holiday season. From the first plaintive notes of “O Tannenbaum” through the iconic “Christmas Time is Here,” it is simply impossible to listen to this album without finding yourself with an unexpected smile on your face. Released way back in 1965—as I was—this understated masterpiece deserves to be on your own list of requisite annual Christmas music. Later CD re-releases even add additional songs, all of which also capture the love and joy of the season. This is truly a collection of songs, which, for me, illustrate what Christmas, friends, family, and the joy of giving are all about.

Tim Walker, 52, is a writer, DJ, and chili cook. He lives with his wife and their two children in Northridge, and you can read more of his work at StretchYourBrains.com. Reach him at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

A Very Misra Holiday Season

Earlier this year, Misra Records—former label home to Dayton’s Motel Beds and R. Ring, featuring Kelley Deal of The Breeders—put out a call to musicians around the country to contribute to the label’s 100th release and very first holiday-themed album. Hundreds of artists made submissions and the resulting album is titled, A Very Misra Holiday Season! and was released digitally on Dec. 1. In the spirit of the holidays, the Pittsburgh-based label is also donating all proceeds to benefit The Sonny Pugar Memorial and their “Music Smiles” program, which brings musicians into hospitals to cheer up patients and their families.

Fittingly, a song about Christmas Eve opens the album, with Pittsburgh alt-country band Brett Staggs & The Daylight Moon’s original song, “Dancin’ On Christmas Eve.” The standout track with its exuberant melody is adorned with an upbeat and danceable reggae-like rhythm along with steel drums that give the song a fun, tropical contrast to the season. Other artists on the 14-track compilation include West Virginia’s Treehorse and Joshua Lee, Austin’s Linen Closet, and Cleveland’s Morgan Mecaskey, among others.

Check out this holiday compilation and contribute to a good cause this holiday season!

Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at JustinKreitzer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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