December 5: Sleigh Ride

Do you take your “Sleigh Ride” with words, or without?

Anyone who was ever in high school band will probably either have fond or bitter memories of Leroy Anderson’s original composition:

The whip and the horse whinny solos are pretty much the the pinnacle of any high school band career, amirite? As a one-time clarinetist, I mostly remember a lot of grace notes and trying not to squawk too much on the high notes. 

According to Wikipedia, the lyrics to the song were written a few years later than Anderson’s orchestral piece. Since 1949, this song has been recorded approximately eight bajillion times. I would not recommend trying to listen to every single version. But here are a few highlights:

  • The Andrews Sisters did the first vocal recording of the song in 1950:
  • I cannot stand The Carpenter’s version, no disrespect to Karen….it’s all Richard’s take on the ‘Farmer Grey’ bridge. Blech.  Props, though, for his iconic execution of “these wonderful things are the things we’ll remember all through our lives.”
  • Oh God, Chicago’s version is miserable. At first I thought I liked the more laid back tempo, but no. No. Giddyup, Giddyup, Giddyup, let’s go….right over this cliff….
  • If you’re looking for a contemporary indie version, Sufjan Stevens’ version has a long instrumental intro with some fun robotic/electronic background sounds…but then it transitions into a very boring, traditional rendering of the vocals. The bridge is all electronic instrumental, which is a good thing, but then it derails into cheering and sound effects, which I don’t enjoy:
  • She & Him’s version is pretty bland, although the instrumental break is nice. Their only twist is to randomly delay certain lines, which adds nothing, but makes it harder to sing along:
  • In terms of energy and style, my favorite version of all time is the one by the Ronettes (no surprise there):
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