The Happy Return of Christmas Oldies A vintage holiday record from Merle Haggard gets a new spin, along with releases from Michael Buble and Kellie Pickler. And, of course, there's another Charlie Brown Christmas tribute album.
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The Happy Return of Christmas Oldies

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The Happy Return of Christmas Oldies


The Happy Return of Christmas Oldies

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Okay. So it's - what is it? Does December - it's not even December yet.


Not December yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Well, everybody in New York City has decided that it's Christmas season. And so we figured, fine, we'll play. We'll play that game. I mean, we did announce the beginning of Christmas earlier this season back in August, because we're so ahead of that game. But we wanted to pay tribute to this holiday season with an all-holiday, all-the-time new music Tuesday.

And Lizzie Goodman of Blender magazine joins us to talk about some great oldies being dusted off and re-released, and some other new stuff that's out - Michael Buble, Kellie Pickler and Charlie Brown, who's always a good one.

Lizzie Goodman.

Ms. LIZZIE GOODMAN (Editor-at-large, Blender Magazine): Hi.

MARTIN: Thanks for joining us. How's it going?

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you for having me. Yes, Christmas. It's here.

MARTIN: I know. I mean, you know, I am that person that everybody wants to hate. Like, in July, I start singing these songs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Humming them quietly until someone gives me a dirty look, and then I'm…

Ms. GOODMAN: oh-oh.

MARTIN: …just, you know…

Ms. GOODMAN: You're that person.

MARTIN: I know. It's so annoying, but I love Christmas songs.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. I mean, holiday music is sort of part of the fun. It's - and there really are a lot of classically great Christmas albums that, I think, to choose from, so you don't have to endure the sort of horrible, like drugstore shopping cart music. (unintelligible)

MARTIN: Yeah. It's gotten better, right?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.

MARTIN: Okay, well let's start with this - with our favorite little guy, Charlie Brown.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: He's my favorite little guy. Let's listen to it, first.

(Soundbite of song, "Linus and Lucy")

MARTIN: Okay. I wish we have the video cameras, because Alison is totally boogying.

STEWART: Well, I'm doing the dance.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.

STEWART: You know, the side-to-side dance, the arms up dance from "Charlie Brown Christmas." Love it.

MARTIN: You just cannot not be happy when you hear that, Lizzie.

Ms. GOODMAN: I know. It's heartwarming. It really is. It goes right to where it's supposed to go for holiday spirit.

MARTIN: And they just release this every year. It just keeps…

Ms. GOODMAN: I - right? Yeah. I mean, you know, it's - I think all the vinyl collectors are out there scouring the bins for old versions, but there is a new reissued, repackaged version that's coming out this year, that just came out, and it's really good. Love it.

MARTIN: But doesn't it - it just sounds the same every time? Any different piano player plays this song?

Ms. GOODMAN: I mean, I think, yeah, they change up things like that. But - and, you know, the music is classic. And it's good that they don't mess with it too much.

MARTIN: There she goes again. She got up again. She's doing it again.

Ms. GOODMAN: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I want to hear the Merle Haggard Christmas song (unintelligible) that you tease me with.

MARTIN: This is so fun. I love Merle Haggard.

Ms. GOODMAN: I love him, too.

MARTIN: And so I was so excited when I found that you love him, too.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes. This album is really good.


Ms. GOODMAN: It's really good.

MARTIN: What's good about it?

Ms. GOODMAN: I just think it's, I mean, he's just kind of an - he's a sort of institution, an American institution at this point, and it's - and at that point when it's - it's a reissue as well of an older album, but it's - I love it because it sort of manages to make Christmas music sort of a, like, not dreary, but sort of dark and like…

MARTIN: A little dark. A little…


(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: …hopeless. A little hopeless. Who doesn't want hopeless music around Christmas time?

Ms. GOODMAN: Who doesn't like hopeless Christmas music? I mean, come on.

MARTIN: No, I like it. Let's play a little bit of it. Do you have it?

(Soundbite of song, "If We Make It Through December")

Mr. MERLE HAGGARD (Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) If we make it through December…

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: See that's good.

(Soundbite of song, "If We Make It Through December")

Mr. HAGGARD: (Singing) Everything's gonna be all right, I know. It's the coldest time of winter, and I shiver when I see the falling snow.

MARTIN: See, that's just real to me. That's just - that's what country music is supposed to do.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.

MARTIN: Call it like it is, people.

Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly.

MARTIN: December's cold, and it's dark.

Ms. GOODMAN: It's hard. We may not make it through it. There's all kinds of problems in December.

MARTIN: My grandma died, my wife left me, my dog got run over.

Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly.

MARTIN: December's cold.

Ms. GOODMAN: No, it just has a tinge of sadness, even to the sort of more familiar Christmas songs that are on it. There's just this sort of like sense of sorrow which is kind of weirdly - it's kind of intimate that way, and it's a different sort of Christmas sound. I'm really into it.

MARTIN: Okay. And I'm going to move to a different kind of country. This young woman, Kellie Pickler, the ultimate American country girl right now, she's got a new album out, stacking up against the likes of Carrie Underwood's. How does this measure up?

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, her take is sort of a - I like her sort of non-sexy take on this song, and it's - she's - I like her just in general because she's, you know, she's an "American Idol" alum like Carrie Underwood, but she's got her own style going. And she's been doing - her album has been doing well, and she's sort part of the "American Idol" wave that's taking over Nashville, and she's cute and she's blond.

MARTIN: Well, and she sings this song great. Let's listen to it.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, exactly.

MARTIN: I love this song.

(Soundbite of song, "Santa Baby")

Ms. KELLIE PICKLER (Singer): (Singing) Santa Baby, just slip a sable under the tree for me. Been an awful good girl. Santa Baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

STEWART: That's fun. It takes a lot of hairspray to take on Eartha Kitt.

MARTIN: That is exactly…

STEWART: …version. You know what I think I kind of like about her? Don't write me letters, people - shades of Dolly Parton with Kellie Pickler.

Ms. GOODMAN: Who is her hero. So that - I'm sure she'll thrilled to hear that.

MARTIN: A much skinnier version of Dolly.

STEWART: (unintelligible) places.

MARTIN: And I know - we might not have time to listen to a clip, but Michael Buble, can we just give a shout out for his new album? Because I love him in the vein of kind of cheesy lounge singer Christmas stuff. What do you think about his album?

Ms. GOODMAN: I think that in that vein, he's right up there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: But he is what he is, you know?

Ms. GOODMAN: He is. And he dates my favorite actress, ever, Emily Blunt. Well, not ever, but currently, I meant.

MARTIN: See, which makes him totally cool.

Ms. GOODMAN: It really does. That gives me major points, major points to Michael Buble. But yeah, his Christmas - I mean, he's - it's exactly what he does well. And his style really suits the music. And if that's what you're expecting, that's what you're going to get. And that's kind of nice.

MARTIN: Great.

STEWART: Let's go out on a little Michael Buble as we say thanks to Lizzie Goodman, editor-at-large at Blender Magazine.

Let it - cheese begin. Or let it snow, or let it do something that will allow him to croon and make you think that he is a sexy (unintelligible).

MARTIN: Just the fire burning, chestnuts roasting…

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. GOODMAN: Chocolate.

MARTIN: …there is Buble. I just like to say his name. All right. Well, thanks for the…

STEWART: Rachel, curls up with a cup of cocoa and a little Michael Buble…

MARTIN: Don't mind me. I'll be over here.

STEWART: That's it for THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT. Come visit us online at

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