BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Christmastime Is Here”

BATTLE OF THE BANDS! (BOTB Top Photo)

It would seem that most everyone is doing a Christmas “Battle of the Bands” this time around. So, in the spirit of the season, I’ll do the same.

In December 1965, CBS broadcast A Charlie Brown Christmas for the very first time. I was nine and a huge Peanuts fan, as was nearly everyone at the time, and for the first time I would have the opportunity to see Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang moving and really talking. By the time the show began, I was really excited. What would the characters sound like? What would they look like walking and dancing and being knocked on their backsides when someone shouts at them?

I don’t think I was ready to fall in love…

Yeah, it was the song. The music. All of a sudden, what everyone looked like and sounded like meant nothing. I had to know who did it, who wrote it, and did he or she do anything else?

That was my introduction to the music of Vince Guaraldi. His music for A Charlie Brown Christmas and Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” made me a jazz fan for life.

So, today’s battle is over that song, “Christmastime Is Here.” There have been many, many versions of it recorded, both vocal and instrumental, and today we have two of them.

Our first contestant is an instrumental by guitar god Steve Vai. He played the devil’s guitar player in the 1986 movie Crossroads, but his arrangement of the song is heavenly. From his 2000 album The 7th Song.

Our second contestant is a vocal version by the beautiful Diana Krall. I love her vocal on this one, and the accompaniment is perfect for the performance. From her album Christmas Songs.

As you can probably tell, I’m fond of both versions, for different reasons. (Can you imagine a version by both of them together? The mind boggles.) So, I’d like to get your opinion: which of these appeals to you the most? Please vote in the comments. I’ll publish the results of this battle next Monday.

And, now that you’ve voted on this battle, how about checking out some of the other battles going on today? Lots of great Christmas music here!

Tossing It Out
Far Away Series
StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands
Your Daily Dose
DiscConnected
Creative Outlet of Stratplayer
Mike’s Ramblings
Curious as a Cathy

13 thoughts on “BATTLE OF THE BANDS: “Christmastime Is Here”

  1. When I first read your post, I thought sure I would vote for Dianna Krall, but I really don’t care for what she sis with this song. Steve Vai on the other hand did the original (which BTW, I love) some justice. Give that guitar man my vote.

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  2. Neither – I still love Vince only. However I would love to hear, and wonder if, a cover was ever done by Karen carpenter?!

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  3. Well, I’m voting against popular opinion. Mom and I are sitting here in our hotel room (so she is subjected to BOTB). About mid-way through the Steve Vai version she says, “He absolutely ruined that song.” I just turned it off, since I didn’t like it, either. I felt guilty subjecting her to it. The Krall version doesn’t come close to the original (which she said “Oooh, I love that song” when I played it. Then I told her it wasn’t one of the choices in the vote… Then Steve Vai happened…) So, the Krall version wins for both of us (but you don’t need to count her vote) simply because she “didn’t ruin that song.” In truth, I like her take on it. So chalk one for Diana Krall.

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  4. Well, like everyone else, I love the original and I am not a fan of either of these 2 versions:) If I was sitting in my library having to listen to one and feel Christmassy, I would actually pick the Diana Krall version. I don’t care for her at all (I know I am in the minority) but I like her simpler version of this classic song-more elegant

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  5. Before listening to the two versions, I had guessed that I’d be voting for Krall — but, no, I have to vote for Steve Vai, too. I do like the understated accompaniment for Krall’s version, but it’s so slow that I felt bogged down. Vai’s version, in contrast, had an amazingly light, ad-libbed feel to it. (Of course I prefer — and own — the Guaraldi version, but I was surprised at how much I liked Vai’s solo.)

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  6. I honestly don’t care for the Diana Krall version. I don’t really like her voice that much.

    Okay, now to the others. I never expected anything to come close to the Vince Guaraldi version. After all, it’s CHARLIE BROWN! It always gives me a happy feeling to hear this song. I know Steve Vai is a great musician, but I didn’t think he would pull this one off. Until I heard it. Absolutely beautiful!

    So now I must vote. And it’s hard! But I have to go with Guaraldi. It’s classic. It’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was SO close, but I have to stick with it.

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  7. Well, of course, the Vince Guaraldi classic is a… CLASSIC! No one’s gonna top his version, and I agree with Chris that the children’s voices go perfect in that original recording. I mean, children got it GOIN’ ON during Christmastime!

    This Steve Vai version is quite original-sounding (for a cover) and interesting. A little electric guitar played almost exclusively in the higher register goes a long, long way for me these days. But Vai plays it with such elegance and the piano work adds a very nice counter-texture to his guitar. Yeah, it gets a tad too screechy in a couple places, for my tastes, but overall I thought it was sleek and pretty.

    Diana Krall… To be brutally honest, although I’ve not heard more than a small handful of her recordings, nothing I’ve heard by her has yet changed my mind that she’s basically just a pasteurized, homogenized, White Bread version of a Jazz musician/singer for “Generation Text”.

    I have yet to hear her do ANYTHING that wasn’t done before by someone else, and better. (To me, she’s kind of the female version of Harry Connick, Jr. Why did the world need recordings by Connick? Because Frank Sinatra’s weren’t good enough? I mean, he was just a Sinatra wannabe for younger people. And that’s the way I feel about Krall.)

    And then there’s that moment right at the beginning of the song where she sings the words “Happiness and Cheer”. Sheesh! Could she have possibly sung them with any less happiness and cheerfulness?

    Runaway victory for Steve Vai, in my opinion. (Pretty playing for a guy who worked for the devil 🙂

    ~ D-FensDogg
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

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  8. This is the very same song I picked for my very first BOTB post last year, back on December 15th, 2013, lol! I LOVE this song! I even included the Steve Vai version last year!!!! But I had a John Zorn version to go along with Guaraldi’s instrumental version and Vai. 🙂

    Guaraldi won handily back in 2013, 7-3 over Vai with Zorn getting no votes:

    http://stratplayercjf.blogspot.com/2013/12/botb-121513-christmas-time-is-here.html

    Here, I like Diana Krall’s version, but mainly the instrumentals aspect. Her vocals are a little lackluster, I think. I really like the kids voices from the Guaraldi soundtrack in the vocal version, but really love the melancholy instrumental version.

    Between these two, I think I’m going with Vai, although the original Vince Guaraldi version is by far my favorite.

    BTW — I even chose another Guaraldi tune for my BOTB today: the “Linus and Lucy” theme. I kept the original out of the competition since I was sure it would beat any contender, lol.

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