Twas the Night Before Hanukkah
The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights
Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation; 2012
This double CD is a wonderful mix of holiday songs from both sides of the aisle. On it, we find Jewish artists performing Christmas tunes and Christian performers giving their take on Hanukkah songs. The concept isn’t as strange as it first sounds, given that Irving Berlin (a Jewish Russian immigrant himself) wrote the iconic holiday standard “White Christmas.” The first disc offers a tribute to the Festival of Lights that mixes traditional songs with some less serious novelty numbers. There are two renditions of “Rock of Ages,” one by David Putterman and the other by Sol Zim under the Hebrew title “Ma’oz Tzur.” Famed cantor Yossele Rosenblatt’s “Yevonim” is another highlight. Lighter moments include Woody Guthrie singing “Hanukkah Dance” and Don McLean’s poppy reading of “Dreidel.” The CD closes on a high note from blues guitarists Jeremiah Lockwood, Ethan Miller, and Luther Dickinson jamming on “Dreidel” before the song transforms into the Zydeco standard “Iko Iko.” On The Merry Christmas disc, the back-to-back combination of The Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” and Mel Tormé’s warm baritone delivering a smoky rendition of “The Christmas Song” is irresistible. Benny Goodman’s completely forgotten “Santa Came in the Spring,” is happily included here, and its displacement from the holiday music canon seems criminal. The best thing to do with this collection is download it to MP3, press shuffle, and play. And be sure you open your windows to share it with your neighbors.