Though I live in Los Angeles — a fact I relish roughly 11 months out of the year — come Christmastime I want nothing more than to be back in New England. I grew up outside of New Haven, Conn., and nothing gives me more yuletide cheer than a pizza from Frank Pepe's, an interesting Riesling from my uncle's "package store," my mother's apple pie and a spin through the record collection that remained behind when I left the Nutmeg State for more temperate climates.
My family's Christmas traditions include, of course, holiday music. The Clancy Brothers' Christmas is as important as a Spanish Black turkey to dear old Dad. I often dig out my mother's autographed copy of David Axelrod's Rock Interpretations of Handel's Messiah and place it on that same, worn turntable that I first tried to "scratch" on as a kid on Christmas Eve.
It's been a while — about six years, I'd guess — since we added anything to the Christmas rotation. I suppose it's hard to top Lou Rawls' Axelrod-produced Merry Christmas. Ho! Ho! Ho! and James Brown's Soulful Christmas, a high point in his King Records discography. But this year, I have a few choice selections that I think I can sneak into the lineup.