'Tis the season for holiday music . . . Holiday music from holidays past, if you follow the advice of our friend Bill Flanagan of MTV:
You remember Christmas 1969, New Year's 1970? That was forty years ago! No wonder my beard is white!
Enough of us old boomers don't know how to download that the record labels are pulling out the stops to keep us listening happily (and consuming profligately) on our way to the eternal Winter Wonderland.
Nothing says Christmas like Mick Jagger in a top hat. I will certainly be passing out a few copies of the 40th anniversary deluxe box set version of "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!," the classic Rolling Stones live album from their 1969 tour.
This was the greatest period for the Stones, right in the middle of their "Beggars Banquet"/"Let It Bleed"/"Sticky Fingers" heyday, and "Ya-Ya's" is their only essential live album. This re-issue includes five extra Stones songs, complete sets from opening acts B.B. King and Ike & Tina Turner, and some fantastic DVD footage of Mick and Keith sitting on stools playing a short acoustic set . . . like a diabolical mockery of Simon and Garfunkel.
It's raw, it's ragged, it's the Rolling Stones. Our parents didn't get it, our kids don't get it, but if you're lucky you'll get it - for Christmas.
Rolling Stones on Abkco Records
Photos of the Rolling Stones provided by photographer Ethan Russell
And speaking of great concerts from the Nixon Administration . . .
"Amchitka" is a recording of a 1970 concert that helped fund Greenpeace. The album features full sets from Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Phil Ochs.
It's a really wonderful time capsule. The Sixties were turning into the Seventies and the protest music of Phil Ochs already sounded a little out of date. Mitchell and Taylor were ushering in the next wave of folk more concerned with the personal than the political.
"Fire and Rain " was a current hit at the time of this concert, and Taylor was clearly enjoying the spotlight. James and Joni were a couple at the time they duet on "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "The Circle Game" - but Joni was the star of the show. She introduced a couple of new songs that would later show up on "Blue," and there is a lost gem here, a song called "The Hunter," that never made it onto any of her albums.
"Amchitka" makes the last 40 years melt away.
The benefit CD is available exclusively at www.amchitka-concert.com and all proceeds will benefit Greenpeace.
Footage of Joni Mitchell courtesy of Murray Lerner, MLF Films, from the feature documentary MESSAGE TO LOVE: Isle of Wight Festival, 1970
(212) 581 6772
Another great voice who emerged in 1970 is Jesse Winchester. Although Winchester never achieved the fame of Joni and James, he remains a songwriter's songwriter, revered by other musicians. His latest album is called "Love Filling Station," and it is delicate, powerful and moving. Jesse looks back on young romance with the wisdom of years and human folly with a patient chuckle.
Jesse Winchester is an American treasure, and this is perfect music for sitting in front of the fire on a cold night.
Finally, for those of you for whom money is not an object, back up the reindeer! "Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection." Forty years, fifty-two CDs!
Plus of course, a bonus DVD . . . just in case listening to 52 disks leaves you unsated.
Miles Davis was the greatest figure in post-War jazz. From "Kind of Blue" to "Sketches of Spain," "Bitches Brew" to "On the Corner," he created and abandoned styles like a musical Picasso. Those who came after him are still exploring the ramifications of his innovations. If you were moving to the North Pole and this collection were all the music you could take with you, it would be plenty.
Box: expensive. Music: priceless.
I have found that if you fit the stand on the tree BEFORE you bring it into the house, there's a lot less tension in the living room. Have a great Christmas!
For more info:
"Evening's Empire" by Bill Flanagan (Simon & Schuster)
Copyright 2009 CBS. All rights reserved.