Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ray Charles - "Little Drummer Boy"

Christmas albums are supposed to be bad, right? Because almost all of them are. For every A Christmas Gift For You, there's like a dozen forgettable records. And I'm not even counting compilations!

But it was on one of those forgettable compilations I came across this gem: Ray Charles' version of "Little Drummer Boy." It's a song I've heard a million times, in versions from Johnny Cash to David Bowie, but this one leaped out at me. Maybe it's the warm sound of Charles' electric piano, maybe it's the pedal steel working it's way around the background. But something about this one, the way it mixes in Charles' interest in country and soul, swirling colours of choirs and horn section, the lazy drum pattern and slow pedal steel and strings, and Charles' singing, the low moaning and tasteful piano fills. It makes Bowie sound like he's going through the motions, Cash like he should stick to gospel.

Still, the shock comes on the album itself, which somehow doesn't have the same magic. But it doesn't need to. Just go grab this one off iTunes and add it to any holiday mixtape. It'll work more wonders than a bottle of everclear in a punchbowl of eggnog. Trust me.

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