This is a collection of 25 Christmas songs from a variety of genres—soul, jazz, rock, country, bluegrass, reggae, and 80’s pop and hip hop. Some are classics that most are familiar with, while others may be previously unknown. Either way, I hope this serves as a Christmas gift to you and yours!
1. Christmas Time Is Here — Khruangbin
Released in 2018, Khruangbin pays homage to Vince Guaraldi’s classic album A Charlie Brown Christmas with this funky chill groove that’s sure to warm your heart.
This is a list of 26 great wedding songs to play during the reception while people are meeting, greeting, and eating. Many of these also do well as slow dance songs. This isn’t a playlist, but simply a few songs that are worthy of playing at a wedding. The order is based on release year, from 1961 to 2010, and they include a few different genres. I hope you enjoy.
1. I Only Have Eyes For You (4:15) — Louis Armstrong — Under The Stars (1958)
Satchmo is the essence of old school jazz ballads.
This is a list of 20 great dance songs, in order of when they were released, which is indicated within parentheses.
This is not a playlist, but simply 20 songs I consider great to play when dancing is called for. There are so many to choose from, from so many different genres, that this is not in any way comprehensive.
It does, however, include songs through five consecutive decades. Most are, or should be, familiar, and if any are new and you end up liking it, I’ll feel happy about that.
Let’s start the dance like Bohannon.
1. Rock Steady — Aretha Franklin — Young, Gifted and Black (72)
The first time I heard this was when I watched Spike Lee’s Crooklyn and they showed scenes from Soul Train. This was playing in the background and was included in the soundtrack.
My love and appreciation for the Queen of Soul grew from there.
The nice thing about vinyl is you can choose to play one side and go on to the next record, or you can turn it over for the other side if your guests want more.
With any of my 10 Great Albums lists, one of the determining factors is that they’re in my collection. With this specific list, I’ve chosen only one album with vocals throughout—the rest are instrumental.
I also strove for balance, though all but one are from the 60’s and 70’s.
I hope you find this list helpful. Please let me know your thoughts on these. Also, which albums not mentioned are your go-to, must-have albums to play when hosting?
1. The Prophet — Cal Tjader (1968)
At one time if you asked me who my favorite jazz musician was, it would have first been Miles Davis, then Gabor Szabo, then Grant Green and Jimmy Smith.
For the past four or five years, my favorite is unquestionably Cal Tjader, a vibraphonist from California who entrenched himself into South American and Latin culture.
Several of you may be familiar with this 1968 Verve release because A Tribe Called Quest sampled it 25 years later on their classic album Midnight Marauders.
If you play this all the way through there are a couple very slow songs that are more suited for a candlelit dinner than hosting a party. For that reason I considered leaving this off in favor of Surfers’ Pajama Party by The Centurians. It is classic surf music released in 1963 and recorded live at UCLA.
The strength of Side A, however, is too great to ignore.
Reggae has a nice mix of soul, jazz, funk, and has had an immense influence upon hip hop.
As with any other list, all ten albums listed meet the following criteria: they’re in my collection, I enjoy them, and they represent a certain variety within the genre.
My first introduction to reggae was Bob Marley. That is assuredly the case with most other fans. He’s also one of my favorites and widely regarded as one of the best reggae artists and musicians ever, so he heads the list.
1. Survival — Bob Marley
As with any popular musician, Marley suffers from WNWO playing 1% of his full catalogue over and over, and the artist becomes a caricature. Then it becomes unfashionable if you list him as your favorite, especially if you haven’t tried to listen to others in the genre. Two things are certain—he is practically the face of reggae for a very good reason, and his greatness cannot be denied.
My first experience with Bob Marley came when I was around 18 dating this sweetheart of a girl who had a dub tape of the hugely popular compilation Legend. I had no idea who he was. My thing was Beastie Boys and Pink Floyd, followed by Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and all the other obligatory late 60’s to 70’s giants of rock. Continue reading →
De La Soul’s fourth album, released on the Tommy Boy label in 1996, is one of my favorite hip hop albums because of the combination of lyrics from alternating emcees and the samples and scratch skills on the turntables — a great all-around production from intro to the end, with Mos Def and Common making appearances. The album starts out with a funky collage of sound bites and a funny freestyle flow, then gets right to the point with Supa Emcees, which shows off their rapping and writing skills while they call out other emcees, keeping the continuity of the old-school boasting alive, which they do with a whole lot of rhythm and style and finesse, to borrow a page from A Tribe Called Quest. Speaking of borrowing, there’s some great samples on this track and throughout the album. James Brown is sampled often, as is some funky 60’s and 70’s jazz, similar to the music Tribe and the Beastie Boys sampled a few years earlier.
Like every other 10 Great Albums blog I’ve written, these ten share the criteria that they’re in my collection, are personal favorites of mine, and are generally considered great by a consensus of opinions. Half the albums hover around the year 1970, with only one from this century making the list. Proceed with caution: The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Huey Lewis and The News are not on here. Rock on.
1. Physical Graffiti — Led Zeppelin
I’m gonna start with my favorite rock album from my favorite rock band. This double LP on the Swan Song label, released in 1975, arguably marks the height of Led Zeppelin’s greatness. I can list many of their albums confidently as a ‘great rock album,’ but Physical Graffiti is my first choice mainly due to the strength of Side 3. The first three tracks on that side — In The Light, Bron-Yr-Aur, and Down By The Seaside — are right up there in my Top 10 Zeppelin songs of all time! (If you want to channel Eddie Murphy doing Muhammad Ali there at the end, feel free.) The cover is really cool too, as there is an insert containing the names of the songs, with letters that spell Physical Graffiti through the cut-out windows of the cover’s New York apartment building. The two record sleeves contain photos of band members and other people that also appear through the album cover. Another reason why vinyl is cooler than any other format.
I’m relatively new to bluegrass. The first bluegrass album I listened to was the classic Will The Circle Be Unbroken album that I got from my dad’s houseboat during the first days of fall in 2009. I had been to a bluegrass festival, I’m pretty sure, when I was just a kid — 4, 5, or 6 — but that was about the extent of my familiarity with it, that and hearing my neighbor play his violin when my new wife and I had first moved into our house in the summer of 2008. We heard beautiful music diagonally across the road, and felt glad and secure that we already had a special neighbor. His name is Perry and he’s a great musician, neighbor, and friend. He recommended one of the albums on this list. Without further ado . . .
1. Pickin’ in the Wind — Mark O’Connor
This is the album my friend Perry recommended I get during one of our first conversations about bluegrass. I’m glad I took his advice. Not only am I proud of having such a seminal and highly regarded album in my collection, I enjoy listening to it, which is what it’s all about. O’Connor is not just a master at fiddle, he’s also highly regarded as a virtuoso on mandolin and guitar.
Pickin’ in the Wind
Not only do you get the 1975 Grand Master Fiddle Champion, you get some big names that you may recognize on the front of the cover. Tammy’s Waltz and Mark’s Waltz are particularly nice, although there are no dull songs. Pickin’ in the Wind and Tom and Jerry are excellent uptempo jams. This album is definitely worth listening to throughout.
When I began blogging for my website I decided on a 10 Great Albums series from various genres. The first one was 10 Great Groove Albums. I’ve surprised myself that I didn’t start with Soul. Maybe because it was too daunting at the time.
Here’s a list of ten soul albums. It’s pretty straightforward. Most, if not all, names on the list are undeniably great, so this isn’t earth-shattering. I approached the content of this list from two views: These are albums that are some of my personal favorite all-time just to listen to alone, or they are albums that are essential at weddings.
1. The Best of Sam Cooke — Sam Cooke
There’s not another album I pull from more when coming up with a wedding playlist. It’s got great love ballads and fun upbeat dance songs. Released in 1962 on the RCA Victor label, this compilation contains a plethora of hits from 1957 to 1962 that old and young alike enjoy. On the back cover, the producers have this to say: “Like the champ that he is, Sam has come back again and again to score on the nation’s best selling charts. He lives in the Top Ten.”
Like Q-Tip once explained, “Can’t help being funky I’m the funky abstract brother, funky in a sense but I play the undercover.”
So much funk, so little time and space. I’ve tried to represent a variety of styles, since funk is so funky. Be careful though. Once you open your heart to the funk, you can’t fake the funk or put it back. You certainly can’t keep the funk to yourself. All you can really do is enjoy it and spread it around.
With this list I’ve decided to do a couple of things. One, I was going to include James Brown in the mix, since everything he did was funky. He’s the godfather of soul for a reason, and his influence on popular music is hard to overstate, understand? The second decision was to lead with him, as a tribute to his funky greatness, as well as to go in chronological order of each album’s year of release.
1. The Popcorn — James Brown
I also have this album in another list, Ten Great Groove Albums. I could have easily picked one of The Godfather’s from the 70s, but I wanted to pick this one because it’s so versatile, and one of my favorite albums from any genre to listen to over and over. Also because James Brown is my all-time favorite musician. Sorry Stevie. He is a master of jazz, soul, funk, and disco, (and is arguably the biggest influence on hip hop).