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2017 XMAS MIXES – STEPHEN GRASSO

December 17th, 2017 |  Published in Blog

A Sweet Christmas Morning in Hialeah

A Sweet Christmas Morning in Hialeah

1. Dig That Crazy Santa Claus – Oscar McLollie & The Honeyjumpers
2. Jingle, Jangle – The Penguins
3. Merry Christmas – The Cameos
4. Merry Christmas, Darling – The Uniques
5. Happy New Year Baby – Jo Ann Campbell
6. Gee Whiz It’s Christmas – Carla Thomas
7. Please Come Home For Christmas – Charles Brown
8. Christmas Time Is Here Again – The Flirtations
9. Santa Claus Please Listen To Me – Artie Fullilove
10. Christmas Everyday – The Miracles
11. Love For Christmas – The Gems (ft Minnie Ripperton)
12. Christmas Love – The Rotary Connection (ft Minnie Ripperton)
13. It May Be Winter Outside (but in my heart it’s spring) – Love Unlimited
14. Disco Santa Claus – Raindolls
15. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Michelle Gordon
16. Sound The Trumpet (Christmas Time) – The Wailers
17. Christmas Morning – The Tamlins
18. Christmas Time Is Here – The Heptones
19. We Three Kings – The Dread Beats
20. We Three Kings + Version – Joe Aksumite (Clive Hunt, Michael Laing)

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A Dutty Christmas Night in Hialeah

A Dutty Christmas Night in Hialeah

1. Christmas is Here – Assassin
2. Rappa Pam Pam – Junior Reid
3. This Christmas – Boogie B
4. Lime Christmas Pon Di (remix) – Beenie Man (Ft. Cecile, Elephant Man & Mavado)
5. Christmas in JA – Tony Matterhorn
6. Christmas Fever – Red Fox
7. Ghetto Christmas – Beenie Man
8. Money Christmas – Elephant Man
9. Jingle Bell – Popcaan
10. Gaza Christmas – Vybz Kartel
11. Gully Christmas – Mavado
12. Dem Nuh Bad (Christmas Wul Dem riddim) – Mavado
13. Duppy Walk (Christmas Wul Dem riddim) – Kiprich
14. Christmas Fck – Vybz Kartel
15. Feels Like Christmas Time – Vybz Kartel
16. Like Christmas – Vybz Kartel (Ft. Sheba)
17. Crime Free Christmas – Tarrus Riley

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It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done one of these mixes, and thought I might have exhausted the well of interesting xmas music – but apparently not. That well is still in full supply.

When I did the first one back in 2011, the tunes on it were New Orleans enough and African/African Diaspora percussion-based enough that the title ‘A Voodoo Christmas in South Norwood’ made some small measure of sense. I used to live in South Norwood and the juxtaposition of those things was absurd and vaguely funny. I wasn’t really planning to do so many of these xmas mixes at the outset though, and the later ones just started to fall into that trajectory of soul, latin and reggae that I like. Title doesn’t really make sense anymore so I’ve reworked it a bit this year. And I now live in Hialeah, South Florida instead of South Norwood, London – but that’s another story.

I like to make these Christmas mixes for a couple of reasons. First, as an antidote to all the shit seasonal music that we get bombarded with this time of year; but beyond that, there’s something about the confluence of emotions that you find in these tunes that I think is pretty interesting. Aside from any secular or religious meaning, it’s hard not to catch yourself taking stock of where you’re at in your life at the end of the calendar year. The best Christmas music tends to reflect that, and is often bittersweet or expresses complex and contradictory feelings that are never resolved. There can be an edge of pain in these songs, or a defiant celebration in the face of adversity and uncertainty. It’s the ghosts of Christmas past singing their laments of lost loves and hopes and dreams and failure. Sometimes you might hear a singer’s voice start to crack and falter – and even though it’s just a novelty seasonal 45s from half a century ago, there’s something real and human to it.

I’m quite pleased with how this year’s mix turned out, and I think it’s one of the best ones I’ve done. Starts with a nice progression of early soul, doo wop and R&B, before moving into some 70s soul and even a touch of disco, before the inevitable reggae selection. 2017 has been another thorny year in a lot of ways, and it’s hard not to feel apprehensive as we edge towards the precipice of 2018. I wasn’t feeling terribly festive in early December, but finding all these beautiful songs and putting them together into this mix brightened my spirits considerably, and I hope that will somehow be transmitted on.

The mix closes with some deep roots cuts on the theme of “We Three Kings of Orient Are”, which also inspired the cover art that I drew this week. While there was probably more than frankincense and myrrh being burned in the chalice when those recordings were made, I think they express something of the mystery of the Magi and their journey towards the Star. I’m always cognizant of that magic at this time of year, which in its most fundamental sense is simply the hope of new light in the darkest part of winter. A tiny glimmer in the night that you try to follow. The possibility that things can get better.

I also ended up doing this bonus Xmas dancehall riddim mix this year, which was unplanned, but came together pretty quickly from tracks I didn’t use on the first one. There’s some pretty terrible Xmas-themed dancehall out there. You can imagine how much truly awful Xmas music I have to trawl through to look for the gems, and Xmas ragga is a deep and perturbing rabbit hole to go down. I’ve often thought about making a “nightside” compilation of all these songs – like Yellowman doing Xmas carols and Vybz Kartel singing festively about his penis – but normally content myself to just torment people that I know with them through December. As my friend Dan said, “Stare too long into the Abyss, and the Abyss stares back at you, wearing a paper hat and whining behind a big batty gal.”

Thankfully, the Xmas dancehall mix I’ve made is not that one, or at least not completely that one. There’s some tough tracks on this, especially the section where it traces the Gaza versus Gully gunman rivalry as it plays out through the rival Christmas tunes of MCs from those districts of Jamaica. It also amply demonstrates that in more than 50 years of Jamaican Xmas music, double entendres about “rappa pam pam” have never got old.

Stephen Grasso, December 2017

STREAM/DOWNLOAD STEPHEN’S PREVIOUS CHRISTMAS MIXES HERE:

A VOODOO CHRISTMAS IN SOUTH NORWOOD 1
A VOODOO CHRISTMAS IN SOUTH NORWOOD 2
A VOODOO CHRISTMAS IN HIALEAH 1
A VOODOO CHRISTMAS IN HIALEAH 2
PRETTY PRETTY CHRISTMAS (A MIX BY ALLISON BRICE GRASSO)


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December 17th, 2017 | by | Published in Blog

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