Here are 10 favorite Christmas songs for your listening pleasure. What are yours?

🎄 For your Christmas Eve listening pleasure, I thought I’d share my top 10 Christmas song list. What are your favorites?

10. “Christmas in Prison,” John Prine. Kind of fun. Really good first verse, but it falls apart after that.

9. “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” James Brown. Have yourself a funky little Christmas.

8. “Must Be Santa,” Bob Dylan. The sole gem on Zimmy’s otherwise wretched Christmas album. Hilarious video, too.

7. “River,” Joni Mitchell. A sublime song from early in Mitchell’s career that’s only peripherally about Christmas.

6. “Christmas Morning,” Lyle Lovett. A really nasty edge here. They tell me that Jesus said to say hi. (Link now fixed.)

5. “Run Rudolph Run,” Keith Richards. With apologies to Chuck Berry, but there’s something special about Keef at Christmas.

4. “Merry Christmas Baby,” Otis Redding. So many great versions of this classic, including one by Bruce Springsteen. Otis wins.

3. “White Christmas,” Charlie Parker. This is a 1948 live recording. Not only do you get to hear the great Bird, but you don’t have to listen to the sappy lyrics.

2. “Ave Maria,” Luciano Pavarotti. A transcendent piece of heaven from a 1978 Christmas special.

1. “Comfort Ye My People” (3:20) and “Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted” (6:45) — one piece, really, from Handel’s “Messiah.” This version is by the Academy of Ancient Music. We’ve been lucky enough to see the complete production twice, by Boston Baroque pre-COVID and then by the Handel and Haydn Society, masked, in 2021. We all love the “Hallelujah Chorus,” but these two pieces, which come right after the “Symphony” (the overture), are my favorites.

The latest chapter for Donna Halper and Rush

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 7.22.43 AM
Click on image to watch Donna Halper’s interview with CTV

Friend of Media Nation Donna Halper has something new to celebrate. Rush, the Canadian progressive rock band that Halper discovered when she was music director at a Cleveland radio station, will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Halper, now a professor at Lesley University, was interviewed by CTV in Canada earlier this week. She’s also been written up in the Patriot Ledger and the Boston Globe. For more about Halper, just click here. Don’t miss her guest commentary on the death of radio following the demise of the over-the-air version of WFNX (still streaming online).

Being more a fan of roots music than prog-rock, I will admit to never having listened to a Rush album. At Halper’s recommendation, I tried out “Moving Pictures” on the way home last night. OK, I’m still not a prog-rock fan. But they sure can play.

“Enlightenment” on the road from Providence

On Saturday night, during a long drive home from Providence, I listened to the pianist McCoy Tyner‘s “Enlightenment” in its entirety for the first time in a long while. It’s one of those albums that you approach with a degree of seriousness, so normally I tell myself I’ll listen when I can sit still and concentrate. But we all know how few those opportunities are.

Recorded live in 1973 at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, “Enlightenment” is similar in intent and spiritual approach to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” on which Tyner played. Each combines simple, repetitive melodies and rhythms with dense improvisations. There are some wonderful moments in “Enlightenment.” Among my favorites is Joony Booth’s bass solo at the beginning of the closing track, “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit.” After a few stumbles, he plays a passage so beautiful you’d swear he was singing.

I was introduced to “Enlightenment” when I was still in high school by the drummer in our band, who always had exquisite taste. Thus it’s more meaningful to me than “A Love Supreme,” even though the latter may be a greater achievement. I saw Tyner twice during the 1970s. The first time may have been at the Jazz Workshop near Copley Square, though I can’t be sure. The second was at the Paradise.

Tyner is a great artist and a great soul. I can’t recommend “Enlightenment” strongly enough.