17 December, 2010

Advent Calendar in Song: Leon Redbone Christmas Island

Our album week continues with an entry that's so smooth and mellow, it's difficult to say much about it. Leon Redbone is an artist I first found out about from a movie, the great Richard Dreyfus 60's throwback detective stuck in the 70's flick The Big Fix. Although a departure from his usual retro selections, a repertoire heavy on Jimmie Rodgers, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton and Irving Berlin, Leon Redbone recorded the contemporary song "I Wanna Be Seduced" for the soundtrack. Dreyfus also sang the song on a Saturday Night Live appearance. It's a humorous corker, and I spent a while tracking down the recording. I was sorely disappointed that when The Big Fix finally got shown on telly, they'd let the music rights drop and some really crap filler music was used in the pivotal scene it had occupied. I don't know if this has been rectified as the film hasn't been released on DVD.

Often in a white linen suit and sporting a slimline goatee and black shades, Redbone looks like the love child of Frank Zappa and Paul Henreid. His music is so laid back, you might be tempted to look for the drip in his arm, it's like ragtime collided with Portishead. There's something a bit Burl Ives about his vocal delivery, or is it just the choice of songs? It's no mistake that his first album has a cover featuring Michigan J. Frog, the Looney Tunes/Michael Maltese/Chuck Jones creation that sang old time tunes in grand vaudeville style. I was psyched when I discovered he'd recorded a Christmas album.

Christmas Island - Leon Redbone
1 White Christmas
2 Winter Wonderland
3 Frosty the Snowman
4 Blue Christmas
5 (There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays
6 Toyland
7 Christmas Island
8 That Old Christmas Moon
9 I'll Be Home for Christmas
10 Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
11 Christmas Ball Blues

The hey day of tin pan alley that Leon Redbone has so ably interpreted produced so much of our secular Christmas music that this fits his act to a tee. There's not a duff track on the list. All you need to go with it is something green to drink, a mint julep, perhaps, and your walking stick, as you stroll down the forgotten Main Street, so cool under its dusting of snow.

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