Leon Redbone: Blue Christmas
Blue Christmas provides the template for the holiday heartbreak song. Usually, the emotion gets heaped on, with big string sections, cloying background vocals, and a lead vocal performance that milks the song for every ounce of emotion it contains and then some. Elvis Presley’s version of Blue Christmas is exactly the sort of thing I mean, but the song is treated this way by almost everyone who records it. There are some odd counter-examples that set the song against a sterile techno backdrop, with a passionless vocal up front. But Leon Redbone shows in his version what can be done with the song by taking it at face value. The emotions here are real, not pumped up to theatrical proportions. The heartbreak is presented honestly, not glossed over or denied. I always hated the song until I heard this version. To me, Redbone finds the essence that so eludes others, and delivers a fine performance.