THE SCHLANSKY FILES: All I Want for Christmas Is…

Ho, ho ho, brothers and sisters of the songwriting community! Christmas has arrived-and/or it’s already over, depending on when you’re reading this. (Are you looking forward to/did you have a nice holiday?)

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Ho, ho ho, brothers and sisters of the songwriting community! Christmas has arrived-and/or it’s already over, depending on when you’re reading this. (Are you looking forward to/did you have a nice holiday?)

Sometimes when I write these columns, they end up feeling somewhat dated by the time the issue comes out. I blame the time-space continuum.

Anyway, in an effort to be timelier, here’s a guide to what you might want to get yourself next Christmas, a whole year early. Or, you could return those socks you just got, and get yourself one of the following five super-gifts today. They’re more fun than a Red Ryder BB Gun.

The Mixtape About Nothing

One of hip-hop’s crowning achievements, Wale’s Mixtape About Nothing came out earlier this year (that’s 2008 to me) to less hype than a Kanye West bowel movement. Built around Seinfeld samples and jam-packed with incredible feats of lyrical prowess, it’s the album that poses the question, “what’s the deal with this rap stuff?” Wale truly “gets” the Tao of Seinfeld, and uses it to examine everything from hip-hop cliches to Michael Richard’s racist outbursts. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss even makes a cameo (you go, girl!). I recently downloaded it (it’s not available in stores), a painless process that took 10 seconds. In this Internet age, this gift is free. You could give it to yourself right now.

The Bootleg Series Vol. 8

If you haven’t gotten a copy of Bob Dylan’s Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8, do so post-haste. While it’s too much for all but the most ardent of Dylan fans to digest in one sitting, it’s an extraordinary collection, and makes a strong argument that Dylan’s recent output can stand up to that of his ‘60s heyday. One revelation: apparently, Dylan has been quietly releasing some of his best material (“Huck’s Tune,” “‘Cross the Green Mountain,” “Tell Ol’ Bill”) on movie soundtracks for years now.

“Mary and the Soldier” represents Dylan’s fertile World Gone Wrong period, the album that answered the question, what if Dylan had remained a singer of traditional folk songs? Elsewhere, songs from Time Out of Mind, Oh Mercy, and Modern Times are presented in their still-gestating forms, with alternate lyrics and melodies.

One of the themes that tie all these songs together is that of being haunted by a past relationship. “Tryin’ to Get To Heaven,” “Red River Shore,” etc.-it just goes on and on. With so many songs about lost love, is it possible that Dylan is still pining for ex-wife and Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands Sara Lownds? You heard it (speculated about) here first!

Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings

One guy who gets cited as an influence by just about every cool songwriter ever is Hank Williams. Well, Hank Williams’ archive got a whole lot bigger this year, thanks to The Unreleased Recordings, a new collection from Time Life that bundles 143 previously unreleased tracks, culled from William’s “Mother’s Best” radio series. That’s 143 reasons to pick up this box-set.

The Dark Side of Oz

Got some time on your hands? Do you believe in magic? Then head on over to, where the craziest experiment in rock music continues. Here you can pick up your own high-fidelity DVD copy of the Wizard of Oz synced with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, as well as 17 others-including The Lord of the Rings synced with Led Zeppelin’s IV and Nirvana’s Nevermind synced with Memento. Prepare to be amazed.

The Memory Master CD Recorder

The coolest piece of audio equipment I’ve encountered this year would be Crosley’s Memory Master CD Recorder. This little diddy comes with a turntable and a cassette deck, so you can burn all your old-school media onto CDs (there’s also a USB port so you can transfer your music to your computer).

All you songwriters who came up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, take note-I got mine so I could transfer my endless boxes of demo tapes (remember those?) to CD. There was a time when owning a CD of your own music was a seemingly impossible dream. Well, those days are over, in more ways than one.

The gift of nostalgia is a heady one. The Memory Master has given me so much to chew on, it’s inspired a whole other column. Look for it in the coming months, and, oh yeah… Happy New Year! Or something like that.


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