I wasn't sure what to make of this comp sent to us by Martin Johns. Was this a full Christmas CD of progressive rock and could Martin have pulled it off?
The playlist (see below) was rather intimidating - set in that famous Macintosh font, stark background, only a handful of names I recognized.
Not only was there this comp in the shoebox Martin sent but there was a "Progressive Christmas V5" as well (which will be reviewed later this week).
This one had me perplexed for sure. Which is one of the reasons why I asked Martin for some special insight on each of the 20 comps he had sent.
We feature those insights in a space reserved for him called...
"Progressive" was a college radio station format I worked in. The "rules" were... an equal balance of music "categories" (Category 1 - Jazz / Category 2A - Soul, Blues, R&B / Category 2B - Country, Folk, Bluegrass / Category 3 - Rock & Pop / Category 4 - Classical, World Music, and everything else including the stuff that defied definition) and about 80% were supposed to be new releases.
I grew to love the format, which was generally a tough sell to DJs and listeners alike. If you were really good at it, it was pretty much like free-form radio. So I adopted the "Progressive" moniker for my genre-hopping mixes.
2005 was a year of extreme personal exuberance and Christmas spirit was in ample supply. I believe that is reflected in all of my 2005 comps, especially this one.
The keynote song, here, is "Christmas Is Everyday" by Junk Yard Saints. The sheer joy of the music combined with unassumingly profound lyrics just struck the perfect chord for me. It was going to lead off the disc, but was "uncomfortable" there and eventually settled in at track four.
1.) Ouch. A Christmas parody of Lou Bega's "Mambo #5" by Gastronomical Unit. Sadly sounds like one guy, one synthesizer, you get the idea. OUCH!
2.) More of the Hawaiian flavor left over. The Tripp Sisters recorded this for the 1993 "Females Hawai'i Christmas" comp - great tune!
3.) "Let's take it down to Bourbon Street!" And with that intro, we get a sumptuous feast of Dixieland courtesy of the Dynamic Les DeMerle Jazz Orchestra! From their "The Jazz Spirit of Christmas" CD.
4.) The mini-review at CD Baby states "reviewers across the country fall in love with this band every time they hear them play." Based on their lone Christmas song on the CD, oh yeah! What a sound! I hope Junkyard Saints eventually record a FULL holiday album!
5.) WOW! This is the second song I've heard from Lisa Mychols and her 1996 Christmas album - I've added this to the wish list. Great bass line and psychedelic feel!
6.) HEYY!!! Who turned on Kenny G? Wait... this is Wes Burden and his cover of "God Rest Ye" is much different than Mr. G - meaning it's way better! From Wes' "Christmas Journey" CD.
7.) Pure 1950s Christmas rockabilly. The aptly named Little Joey Farr (who was 8 or 9 years old on this song) released this single twice in 1961(??) - once on Kangaroo Records, once on Band Box Records. The B-side on Kangaroo was called "I Want A Big White Cadillac For Christmas" but shortened to "Big White Cadillac" on Band Box. Both sides can be found on the excellent "Rockabilly Christmas" comp.
8.) Surprisingly good tune from The Graverobbers. From the "Holiday Feast Creme De La Creme" 2-CD compilation.
9.) A great song with a good message from Jody Lynn. Can't find where this one came from!
10.) Trout Fishing In America has recorded some great music over the years. However, their "Merry Fishes To All" CD remains their best work. "Snow Day" is a great track off that album - fun, warm, and witty!
11.) Nice follow up Martin! Jackie Allen has a great voice for jazz and Christmas. So when pianist Judy Roberts helped her record their 2002 "Santa Baby" CD, it was the perfect match for both! Very nicely done on both ends!
12.) Tommy James & The Shondells are still going strong! This song was first released in 2004 as a Christmas single, then reissued as a bonus track on his latest album from last year "Hold The Fire".
13.) Jan Bradley made the Top 15 with her hit "Mama Didn't Lie" (heard in the original "Hairspray" movie) in 1962. She released this excellent Christmas single that same year. After many other singles, success still eluded her and Bradley left show business by decade's end.
14.) WOW! Great jazz / Latin combo version of "What Child Is This?"! But what band is this? I can't find anything about Plan 9 or where this song came from... Help Martin please!
15.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! A funk version of "Blue Christmas" by The Clones of Funk! Damn good stuff! However, I'm coming up blind on where it came from...
16.) More good sound! The Rocking Scoundrels bill themselves as "a high energy, explosive, fun, rock 'n' roll band." And then some! From their 2004 "Rock N Roll Sleigh Ride EP" - well worth the trip!
17.) What an incredible vintage tune! Long before Harry Belafonte, Lord Beginner was exporting the calypso sound to Britain and elsewhere. If you want to hear this one (and other great vintage tunes), Dust-To-Digital has a Christmas CD for you!
18.) Shemekia Copland was born to sing the blues. This phenomenal track came from Alligator Records' "Genuine Houserockin' Christmas"
19.) The Mystic Warriors specialize in music from South America. This track isn't on the Christmas side at all and sounds like Zamfir more than anything. Pass...
20.) A nice mix of gospel, cajun, rock, and soul by The Subdudes... sorta like a good "Christmas Gumbo"!
21.) Ritchie Blackmore (he of Deep Purple and Rainbow) has a great sound with Blackmore's Night! Listen for yourself to this wonderful song! This CD was released last November - how did I miss this?
22.) Suzanne Ives and Michael Dunkley are also known as BumpKin Pie (great name!). Download this MP3 at the Washington Post website (of all places!).
It's always a neat thing to bask in the silence immediately after a CD has ended. I'm doing that now after listening to this comp for the first time. Several songs standout immediately (The Clones of Punk, Little Joey Farr), other songs I'd rather forget (Gastronomical Unit, The Mystic Warriors).
However, I'd listen to this CD again in a heartbeat. This is an amazing conglomeration of unique and different sounds that blended just right.
I guess in a nutshell that's what progressive is all about. I'm sorry I waited so long to listen to this one... Looking forward to "Progressive Christmas V5" later this week!
UP NEXT: JohnsCDs 2005-0657-031 - Blues For Christmas