(Due to computer problems, this week's schedule has been pushed back one day. Sorry for the mess!)
Our latest Christmas comp hails from Tony Madejczyk of Durham, North Carolina (home of the legendary Durham Bulls minor league baseball team).
Tony's note was very simple:
"This CD is for your January review. I mixed it myself, I've been making these since 2000. Great blog!"
A man of few words, it seems. So I sent Tony a set of standard questions I will be asking everyone who sent a comp. His answers are as follows:
1.) When did you begin creating your Christmas compilations?
As early as Labor Day, or as late as the day after Thanksgiving, depending on what's going on around here. I try to wrap it up by my birthday, December 9, or at least the 15th! I'm also always on the look out for Christmas music all year long. This year was an embarrassment of riches on the blogs. THANKS, Y'ALL!
2.) Explain the process on creating your Christmas comp.
I've been inspired over the years by my brother-in-law Peter's "Cool Yule" cassettes from back in the day. Then in the late 90's I met this guy Bruce who had an INTENSE Xmas music relationship. Encyclopedic. So my chosen course is as follows:
The entire CD tries not to repeat either tunes or artists ('06 is the first to repeat an artist). I think about ALL the people on my list who will wholeheartedly put this disc on the moment they get it. I'll go "edgy" here and there, but I try to reel it back in within a song or two. The format is to start with something that sets this CD apart from others, especially commercial ones. That's the easy part.
Then I try to keep up the energy, relying on slower numbers for a "break" here and there. Then we end with a New Year's song (usually "Auld Lang Syne") and then a song after that about drinking. In '06 I went out on a limb with Death Cab For Cutie's "The New Year", followed by some fireworks. I had some fireworks in the closet I wanted to bring out this New Year's, so that worked out quite nicely.
As for collating or arranging the music, some years I have done as many as 5 different mixes before settling on one I like. This year it was 3. That's one major advantage CDs have over cassettes! I then even out the levels and try to use DJ style cross fades in a restrained and artful manner, using Roxio Jam on my Mac.
I create a master disc image and burn 'em to those funny white CD-R's you can print labels directly onto. To save ink, I try to use simple graphics. The stuff Ernie (not Bert) put up in July '06 was a lifesaver. To which I say THANK YOU. I print the covers on a laser copier at work, because that's what work is for, right? (Just kidding, but I won't say where).
My former part-time career as a music critic has left me open to many types of music. I also grew up in a typical mid-century home with a nice stereo and LPs of The Chipmunks, Christmas albums, polkas, Hawaiian music and cowboy songs. I have a soft spot for the old noise, but I have no problem getting excited about something new.
I also involve my nuclear family here at the house. My wife Melissa and our teens Laura and Kevin will be exposed to tons of Christmas music as I play cuts and ask bothersome questions like "Does this suck?" "Is this better?" "Like this...or like this? Which one is better?"
The kids are great for suggesting some of the newer stuff. I guess apples don't fall off of pear trees because they'll actually bug me to bring the "Final Mix" into the van when we go get our tree! I feel very fortunate to work in music-friendly environment.
Titling the comp is very important, even if the final title is not the craziest or most obscure creative concept. I just like easy titles that maybe some of my people will "get", either upon listening to the music or taking in what's happening around them. This part of the country was hit with a massive ice storm back in early December of '02. I called that one "Wintry Mix". In 2001, we were still very sad yet defiant over 9/11, that comp was called "Christmas. Because We Can."
3.) Who do you share these compilations with? How many do you send out?
Most of my family, everyone at work (it can get embarrassing when you forget someone), and a lot of folks around Durham and other parts of North Carolina that I've gotten to know over the years. It seems a lot of us music nuts have found each other here. And lately, to the Cap'n at A Christmas Yuleblog and music critic David Menconi at the News & Observer in Raleigh.
I burn about 80-90 copies. I also bring a handful with me to each holiday party I go to . Sometimes I'll run into someone I haven't seen in years and the CD makes it memorable for both of us.
4.) What is it about Christmas music that appeals to you?
I had a wonderful childhood. Christmas really did seem magical for a number of years and even with all the running around and stuff, it still warms my spirit to this day. It's about the giving and making time to share with family and friends. The music is rich in styles, interpretations and stories.
It's not totally a "Christian" thing and it's not totally a winter solstice celebration/party thing either. In some ways Christmas, at least the way I remember it, is very forgiving and full of people just trying to get along with each other. At least until about January 5th or so.
5.) What kind of feedback do you get from the comp?
Tell me if this sounds familiar--you get most of the feedback about a year later? I got some emails this year from folks who liked it while putting up their tree or preparing food or driving to Grandma's house. The title "Baby Jesus" is a reference to both Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights AND the Matthew Sweet song I grabbed off of an obscure comp from about 10 years ago.
6.) What other projects/websites do you work on other than Christmas?
I have a YouTube project where I post video, most of it shot by me or at least made presentable by my mad editing skills.
I'm also assisting (a teeny bit) my friend Steve on his Comboland project, whereby we jump into a time machine and go back to North Carolina rock circa 1981-84. The dB's, Glass Moon, Arrogance, PKM...and The Fabulous Knobs! There's even a Christmas song towards the end of this YouTube medley/montage.
7.) Anything you would like to share with people reading this review?
This may sound corny, but don't let anyone, anyone ever tell you that your time with music could be better spent on something else. Because it rarely is! (CAPT'S NOTE: Amen, brudder!)
Thank you so much for reviewing my comp. I've been making them since 2000 A.D., so to be recognized like this feels like Graduation Day!
1.) From the famous "Dennis Day Sings Christmas Is For The Family" album. Jack "Santa" Benny puts in a cameo!
2.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! Who knew Boston and The Beatles would have sounded so perfect together? Remarkable mash!
3.) A wonderful Christmas song from the early 1960s! You can find this one on "A John Waters Christmas" CD.
4.) Say what you want about Jewel - some of her Christmas music is pretty doggone good. Another top notch song here!
5.) My friend Jeff at Jeffco Productions will be thrilled - Anne Murray's a Canadian legend. One of her classics.
6.) Holy Toledo, this is awful! Who let Moby remix Tony Bennett? This was a free download over at Target.com. Mercifully, they took this down! (I know... you're CRESTFALLEN!)
7.) Mmmm! Toni Braxton has a golden voice and proves it here. Not bad to look at either!
8.) This could have been awful but Chris Martin and the guys do a beautiful job. Very surprising!
9.) The quick tempo, the piano, the chimes, the xylophones! Where did the Latin rhythm combo with maracas come from? Phenomenal!
10.) Sung to the tune of "Mister Sandman" - both songs written by the same composer! Who knew Lenny could sing?
11.) If you haven't heard Jim Reeves' "12 Songs Of Christmas", you're missing out! This is the very definition of Countrypolitan.
12.) Hmmm... where have I heard this one before? I can't seem to remember, you? Welcome home, Bobby!
13.) I used this one on my 2006 Christmas comp as well. One of Chris Isaak's best off his "Christmas" CD!
14.) Blog of 999 Dances offered this entire gem of an album last Christmas - watch for the review in May or June.
15.) This song was cut in favor of "Fame And Fortune" from 1965 - 1998 on television. Which one do you prefer?
16.) Taken from the "Christmas With The Rat Pack" CD, this came from Dean Martin's legendary 1967 Christmas special.
17.) A fabulous Sammy cut from the above mentioned "Rat Pack" CD. Sammy never recorded a full length Christmas album... pity!
18.) If you're very, VERY brave, you can visit Ernie (not Bert) and still get this whole Menudo album. Good luck!
19.) A nice remix of "Deck The Halls" that can be found on the first "Santastic" album from DJ BC. But is it a mash-up?
20.) Cringing... I thought I had heard the last of 'NSYNC and other boy bands. I'm glad my daughters were born too late for that phenomenon.
21.) Just what I needed - a quiet respite! This is a soft, lilting piano track that's totally refreshing.
22.) My father-in-law only listens to Jim Reeves and George Jones. So I know this song very well!
23.) George & Tammy together again. Great stuff. With that commercial at the beginning, this one came from "Christmas Party With Eddie G".
24.) Quite a transition! WOW! I became a BIG Robert Randolph fan this year (click the link, read the first two paragraphs) but does this count as Christmas?
25.) The smooth sounds of Matthew Sweet! I'm surprised this guy's career died out the way it did.
26.) Outstanding version of "Auld Lang Syne" - just perfect!
27.) Haven't heard this one before - ridiculous, huh? Not bad...
28.) Tony's explosive send off. Nothing like waking up the neighborhood at 12:01 AM on New Year's Day!
Tony, Tony, Tony... This comp was first-rate, a home run, a triumph.
The CD just flowed from beginning to end, highly entertaining, a pure pleasure to listen to. Your song selection was superb, no messy sound clips to fuss over, and it can work either softly in the background or loudly over the noise of the kids playing with Christmas toys in the next room.
I better stop gushing or it's gonna sound like a Hallmark card in a moment... Thanks for sending the comp and I hope to hear 2007's edition later this year!
UP NEXT: Otis Fodder's Holiday Freaks 2002 & 2006 (TWO REVIEWS)