The Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . .

It’s That Time of Year again. (Or –TToY)

You know, when children dream of sugar plum fairies and parents dream of one day paying off the credit card debt from TToY. But fear not, dear reader, I shall not attack TToY. I am here to bring joy and recommendations for What to Watch at TToY.

For the Sentimentalist: Meet Me In St Louis. One of Judy Garland’s best movies and that’s saying something. Set in 1903 during the St Louis World’s Fair, Garland was never more radiant or delightful than in this film. The film was directed by Vincent Minnelli who was falling in love with Garland as they were filming, and, boy, it shows.

I defy anyone to watch the penultimate moment in the film, Garland singing a bittersweet version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” without bawling like a wee little baby.

But it isn’t just this great scene that makes the movie such a treat this time of year. It’s the whole megillah. Garland singing “The Boy Next Door” and “The Trolley Song.” The Halloween scene — the only thing Margaret O’Brien has ever done that won’t make you want to throttle her.

Minnelli’s film is a love letter to an ideal of small town American life — while casting a knowing eye toward its foibles.
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The Anti-Clapton

vai.jpgSteve Vai is likely the most technically proficient guitar slinger who’s ever lived. From reading his columns in Guitar Player magazine, back when hair bands stalked the earth, I also know that the inside of his head is complex and fascinating. He’s not just another shredder.

This is probably the most extreme example of guitar-wankery you’re ever likely to see:

I Know You’re Here

You’ll either hate it or be blown away by it. As a guitarist and hippie freak, I worship at the altars of Clapton, Hendrix, and Page.

But Vai is definitely also one of the deities in an alternate universe.

He first got national exposure in ‘Crossroads’, which starred Ralph Macchio as a punk Juilliard student who learns to play the Real Bluze while following elderly harp master Willie Brown around the South. Vai played Satan’s guitarist in the final shootout for possession of Willie’s soul. He composed and played both his part and Macchio’s:

‘Crossroads’ Duel

This is still my most favorite wank-off of all time. Even though the ending promoted exactly the wrong philosophy about music, that technical competence can trump emotion.

EDIT: From an on-going discussion at KVR on shredding, which triggered this post by me, one of the KVR posters says that the slide guitar playing in the ‘Crossroads’ duel is actually by Ry Cooder. Given the disparity in styles, I’m inclined to think that he’s right. And, not to take away from Vai, the slide part of the duel is the best part. IMHO.