It’s that time of year again.
And, as loyal readers will know The Immortal Jukebox has a tradition of marking Christmas Tide with special Posts.
Songs of celebration and reflection from many genres and from artists famous and obscure.
This year for all our delight it’s a ‘Christmas Alphabet’ to follow up on the ‘Christmas Cornucopia’ and ‘Christmas Cracker’ series from 2016 and 2015 (if you haven’t read those yet start as soon as you’ve finished this!)
From today you can look forward to a Post every other day.
So, let’s start with C for the great Chuck Berry who died this year.
Now, as we all Chuck was a multi MVP, All Star and indeed a by acclamation inductee Hall of Fame Songwriter.
But that’s not all!
Chuck, when he put his diamond sharp mind to it was also a gifted and sensitive interpreter of other writers’ songs.
In the first flourish of his epochal years recording for Chess Records Chuck laid down two superb Christmas singles showcasing his skills as a guitarist and singer.
Let’s get our blood pumping and senses tingling with Chuck’s definitive take on Johnny Marks’ ‘Run Rudolph Run’
I like to clear a mighty big dancing space before I put this one on and I’d advise you to do the same if you don’t want your Christmas decorations to come crashing down around you!
Yup! Yup! Yup!
Chuck cracks the whip and boy don’t those reindeer speed like a Saber Jet through the firmament!
Johnny Marks was a Christmas Song specialist and I think we can allow that he had really got the hang of it when you consider that in addition to Run Run Rudolph he also wrote, ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’, ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ and, ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’.
What Chuck and the storied Chess Studio team brought to Run Run Rudolph was an irresistible brio that grips from the get go and doesn’t let up till the son of a gun hits the run off groove.
Just so you know you’re in good company going wild to Run Run Rudolph it was this song that Keith Richard chose to record for his first solo single in 1978 (and a lovely, extra loud, extra louche, job he made of it too).
Keith, surely, was the Boy Child who wanted a Rock ‘n’ Roll Record Guitar!
Chuck, being the fond of a greenback, canny operator that he was, took the arrangement they came up with here wholesale for his own, ‘Little Queenie’ when there would be no question about whose bank account the songwriting royalties would roll into!
Chuck has a powerful case for being the inventor of Rock ‘n’ Roll songwriting and Guitar style.
Yet, neither of these gifts came out of nowhere.
Chuck loved, understood and could integrate into his own sound The Blues, Swinging Jazz, Country Music and the Latin rhythms coming from South of the Rio Grande and from Cuba and the Islands.
So, when in 1947 he heard Charles Brown singing, ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ his ears must have pricked up as he thought, ‘Now that’s one I could do to show off my after midnight singing and guitar style’.
And so it proved.
You can settle back in your armchair for this one and maybe unstopper the Brandy Bottle.
Well, don’t that go down smoothly.
Chuck’s perfectly weighted vocal and hush don’t wake the baby guitar is perfectly complemented by Johnnie Johnson’s lyrical and lush piano.
One to listen to thrice before you move on!
Now a wonderful Transatlantic partnership between two maverick talents.
First, Ireland’s most successful cultural crusaders along with the manufacturers of Guinness – The Chieftains.
Joined here by the bohemian brilliance of Rickie Lee Jones.
The space they afford each other allows each to shine.
Rickie embodies the weary world and the thrill of hope even as The Chieftains evoke the bright shining stars and the glorious new Morn.
Together they make something really special and moving out of, ‘O Holy Night’