Friday, March 30, 2007

JohnsCDs 2006-0566-027 - Christmas In Tikrit

This yuleblog entry will probably bring in hundreds, if not thousands of people who are looking for references to Tikrit, President George W. Bush, and the war in Iraq.

I welcome you all and hope you read the mission statement above about this site.

The blog community has changed the very face of American politics. More views and statements were released by politicians via the Internet in the last election than any other in recent past. Expect that trend to grow.

The voice of the people finally have an outlet to express their views, their demands, their concerns, and their differences of opinion. Their voices are reaching all the corners of the United States and all around the world.

I would like to stress that this yuleblog is NOT a part of that community. I only give my views and opinions on Christmas music, nothing else. If you're looking for an argument or something else politically, you're in for a major disappointment.

This Christmas CD was sent to us by Martin Johns, a passionate Christmas music collector who is passionate about other matters as well. For the past two weeks, I have been reviewing Christmas comps Martin sent to us. In his introductory letter to me, he added this postscript:

"P.S. 'Christmas In Tikrit' is NOT a Christmas CD. I just got really pissed when Congress passed the Torture Bill and I had to protest, pre-election, in the best way I knew how. I've sent a copy for... well, I don't know why... curiosity?"

For more on this, I've asked Martin for a special insight into the comp that's called...

STUBBY SPEAKS:

In late September 2006, my cat of 16 years (and JohnsCD "mascot") passed away. I was very sad and found myself experiencing compers block at a very crucial time.

I seem to recall it was about a week later that Congress passed the Torture Bill. Anyone who has had a Civics class knows that, without Habeas Corpus, you have NO rights. Anyone who thinks this law only applies to "bad" people is woefully naive. In fact, it amazes me that we've learned none of the lessons of history whatsoever.

I stewed for another week or so, after the Torture Bill, before this one burst out of me like something from "Alien". I thought about blogging my outrage. I thought about protests. In the end, I did what I do.

There are web sites (many of them) that host assorted Bush-isms. A few of the cuts here, though, required downloading entire speeches or interviews and then isolating the cuts myself. And every line in John McCutcheon's song is an authentic Bush-ism. Credits read "Music: John McCutcheon, Lyrics: George W. Bush."

The Viet Nam era Christmas music was handy and Roy Zimmerman would have made an appearance somewhere in my 2006 comps, regardless. The closing track has little to do with the CD, overall; I just thought it was important to leave with a laugh.

The CDs were mailed out prior to Election Day in the hopes of ensuring that those who felt as I did would vote (I have no illusions about my ability to actually change someones political mindset with a CD).

This isn't my blog and it's not a political blog, so I'll say no more.

TRACK LISTING:

(Click on images to enlarge)


This compilation is an amalgamation of protest songs from around the Internet, actual quotes from President Bush and other policymakers explaining their views, and a small sprinkling of Christmas songs.

Those select Christmas songs are the reason why I am reviewing this disc. The first song that appears is "Christmas In Washington" by Joe Uehlein & The U-Liners and it's more a protest song than Christmas. The chorus cries out for Woody Guthrie, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. to come back since there isn't an abundance of prominent non-violence singers and leaders in the spotlight.

"Buy War Toys For Christmas" by Roy Zimmerman was written and released at Christmas, 1990 - shortly before Operation Desert Storm began. Click on the link to read the sharp lyrics that were relevant then, relevant now, and sadly relevant for futures to come.

This similar theme is revisited in the next Christmas song by Timbuk 3. Back in 1986, they recorded "All I Want For Christmas" for a IRS Christmas comp entitled "Just In Time For Christmas".

Growing up as a teenager in the 1980s, this one hits closer to home because I had some of those toys. Found the lyrics posted via a blog entry (scroll down to the bottom).

I can't pretend to imagine the emotions and feelings of soldiers and their loved ones separated by service and distance, especially at Christmas. The next song by Jake Speed & The Freddies perfectly captures that feeling in song form.

"A Soldier's Christmas Lament" contains two voices (one male, one female), a guitar, heartbreaking lyrics that bring tears to your eyes, and a wistful violin with so much longing that by the end of this, you're on your knees praying for all concerned - a masterpiece.

Another Roy Zimmerman song follows from which the title of this comp was taken. I'm not sure if "I Won't Be Home For Christmas" is a protest song, a wicked parody of the Christmas songs about soldiers at war, or sort of right down the middle.

A Bob Hope MC gets some digs off before introducing the singer of the song. There's a lot of power in words and if you need proof, click on the link to read the lyrics. I believe the main problem why I can't warm up to this song is because of its placement next to the previous song - too strong too soon.

The only Christmas instrumental on this comp arrives next. Aldo's version of "I Wonder As I Wander" is smooth jazz with a rock flavor - an oasis to all that is being heard on this CD. Slow starting, it picks up smooth steam and finishes strong.

By the end of the 1960s, both the Vietnam War and Marvin Gaye were raging. The war had no clear end in sight and Gaye was tired of love duets and catchy pop songs - he wanted to record songs with meaning. Gaye got his chance in 1972 with "I Want To Come Home For Christmas", a song that gave soldiers drafted from the streets and stuck in the jungles of Vietnam a musical plea to come home.

The Reverend Oris Mays was a Baptist minister in Memphis for 36 years, his television show ("The Oris Mays Show") ran for 30 years, hosted several radio shows, and produced and recorded countless albums and songs. Mays recorded "Another Christmas Without My Son" from the perspective of a father whose son had died in the Vietnam War. Whether Mays really lost a son in that war is unknown to me - the song however hasn't lost one ounce of its power or its message against war.

Songs in the vein of Marvin Gaye request to come home for Christmas are few and far between. However, Bill Laing has taken up the cause. His 2005 song entitled "A Christmas Wish From Iraq" asks the powers at be (in a style very similar to Neil Young) to come home. This song is still available to download (free of charge) at his website.

"Christmas In Vietnam" by Johnny & Jon was one of the first anti-Vietnam War songs to hit the airwaves in 1966. Two lonely soldiers take up the cause, reminiscing about being back home at Christmas time. Their subtle touch on this one made it possible for it to get airplay and still stands up today.


In total, ten songs of of the 29 on this disc were Christmas songs. If you want to hear the other non-Christmas songs, Martin listed the websites where you can track those clips down.

I agree with Martin's assessment - this is NOT a Christmas CD. There are other songs that could have been used but Martin chose not to. I respect his right as an American citizen and a free man to create this and share to anyone he chooses to send it to.

Whether you agree on the war in Iraq or don't, I ask you to remember the soldiers who continue to serve there. They continue to do the job that's asked of them and they all deserve our total respect, admiration, and prayers for their safe return.


UP NEXT: JohnsCDs 2006-0667-020 - Ey, Mon, It's Christmas


Capt

1 comment:

Bill Huot said...

I don't know any of those songs, but I can appreciate the sentiment that it is a Christmas record that is not a Christmas record.

My comps aim to be a flow of Christmas emotions. I don't mind including some loneliness or sadness in my samplers. The result is a respite of poignancy, and it can provide balance to the mix. But I can't imagine how I could use a song that expresses anger in the context of one of my collections. Or why I would want to try.

Of course, Peace on Earth is one one the classic themes for Christmas music. I used children's peace anthems as the "dream sequence" in my 2004 Sampler (which the Captain reviewed on March 8). But the only real anti-war song that I can recall using is Hank Cramer's version of Christmas In the Trenches on my 2002 comp. It was one of the highlight songs for that CD and I framed it with two intricate, intimate instrumentals. I set the stage for it with a rather jazzy cello duet version of Ding Dong Merrily on High by Les Voix Humaines, and I followed it with George Kuo's laid back Fireside Ki ho'alu.

On the off-chance that someone is not familiar with Christmas in the Trenches, you can hear the whole song by John McCutcheon, the guy who wrote it, on this YouTube Video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9coPzDx6tA). The song starts about 2 minutes in.

I used the version sung by Hank Cramer, by a folksinger from the Winthrop, Washington. And you can hear a 30 second clip of Hank's version from his website (www.hankcramer.com) Click on Discography: the song is on his If There's One More Song album. Hank is a retired Special Forces lieutenant colonel. His father was the first American soldier killed in the Vietnam War. He recorded this song shortly before he went to Afghanistan as a Reserve officer.