#ChristmasSongOfTheDay 2019 – Part Two

It seems like several of you enjoyed the first selection of my #ChristmasSongOfTheDay so I’m hoping that there will also be something here that you like. For this second set, I’m taking you through days 7 to 13. Six more will follow next time, and I’ll be rounding off on Christmas Day with the final seven choices. That will make 26 in all – I do a bonus extra post on Christmas Day, for those seeking respite from the traumas of a family celebration, or who just have nothing better to do!

Last Saturday, the 7th, saw the return of one of my all time favourite Christmas songs. For me, this one is right up there with Greg Lake, who I posted in the first set. Jethro Tull have been one of my favourite bands since their beginning, more than 50 years ago. In that time they have released several Christmas songs and a whole album of seasonal fare. This is the one I like best, which is why I’ve shared it in each of the five years I’ve been doing this. This is actually a promotional video, specially made for the BBC’s Top Of The Pops programme, but that doesn’t take anything away from it, as it is the perfect accompaniment for the song:

A couple of weeks ago, before my thoughts turned towards Christmas, I posted Under The Covers, in which I shared a few covers by family-based bands of some great songs. One of the bands I featured in that post – Foxes and Fossils – has recently begun recording again after a bit of a hiatus, and for Sunday 8th, as I like to share a carol on Sundays, I gave you their latest. It was only four days old at that point and already had over 56k views (now approaching 75k): not bad for an unsigned band! Their version of Angels We Have Heard On High is stunningly beautiful. I hope you like it as much as I do:

On the 9th I rectified a (to me) surprising omission. As I said earlier, this is the fifth year that I have been doing this and in all that time I have never shared Steve Earle’s retelling of the nativity story. I can’t think why, as I’ve been a fan of his ever since his first album, back in 1986. This song, Nothing But A Child, is the final track on his third album – Copperhead Road – which was released in 1988, and it is lovely. Someone has made a slide show video to go with it, which complements it very well:

I have often remarked here that I am at heart a folk music fan. For eleven years the UK was blessed to have the talents of the ‘folk big band’ Bellowhead to enjoy. They are the band who I have seen play live the most often. I first saw them at the Royal Albert Hall in 2008, when there was a ‘Folk Prom’ as part of the BBC’s annual Proms season. They endeared themselves to me at the outset when Paul Sartin, who takes the first verse here, welcomed us to ‘the Kensington Folk Club’ and, on the strength of their success there, they were given a whole show to host on BBC4 for Christmas 2009. They played several Christmas songs in their own unique style, and had some guests from the folk world too. This one is the show’s finale, for which everyone who had been in the show joined them on stage – as well as Paul Sartin and Jon Boden, others singing in this are Jim Moray, Lisa Knapp, and the Unthanks. Much fun was had by all and riotous dancing ensued – a typical Bellowhead gig, really:

On Wednesday 11th I made a slight change to one of my usual choices. I have always posted Joni Mitchell’s song River as part of this series but, sadly, the cute video of Snoopy skating to the song seems to have disappeared from YouTube. I still wanted to include the song, but with a little difference. I have long enjoyed the music of Sarah Darling, who has a beautiful voice and writes most of the songs that she performs and records. But she does covers too, and her version of Joni’s song is lovely, so I shared it for you:

For day 12 I shared a version of a carol that I hadn’t included before. Annie Lennox has had a long career, from her early days in The Tourists, via Eurythmics into her solo time. I’ve not followed her that closely but, on the evidence of this, maybe I should have done. A fabulous version of the song, and I love the pagan feel to the video:

Today’s choice is another longstanding favourite of mine, which has featured every year I’ve done this. This is John Mellencamp (aka John Cougar, Johnny Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp) in a live concert performance of a Christmas pop classic and, whilst other versions have been chart hits, this one wasn’t – although it does appear on a benefit album, A Very Special Christmas, which was released to support Special Olympics International Inc. This performance is typically boisterous and features a cameo by his then three year old daughter Teddi, who rather steals the show at the end.  The ‘proud Dad’ look on his face is lovely and, thirty or so years on, I hope she is as proud of this as he clearly is:

I closed Part One of my compilation with a lovely Christmas advert which has taken this country by storm. Having done a little digging I’ve found that this is actually the third year that Hafod Hardware have done this, so I’m going to share their two previous productions with you. This is the first, from 2017, and features an early appearance by little Arthur. All three have a backing track from Andrea Von Kampen, who is a real bonus find for me: she is a singer/songwriter from Lincoln, Nebraska, and has the voice of an angel. A good choice by whoever made it: someone who clearly knows good music! This one also includes a subtle visual joke for fans of the Two Ronnies:

That’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll see you again for Part Three. Enjoy your Christmas music!

A #ChristmasSongOfTheDay Part Two

As promised, here is the second compilation of Christmas songs which I have been posting each day on Twitter and on the Facebook page for my blog (usual plug – eyes right!). This also marks the day when I swap to a temporary Christmas theme for the blog – rather in keeping with the generally happy and festive posts I’m sharing this month (back to the usual misery in January!).

We all have our favourites and it would be very easy for me to post the same songs every year. Whilst the majority of this year’s selection have indeed featured at least once before in the four previous years in which I’ve done this, it’s always good to find something new. Sometimes these can arise from deliberate searches for artists on YouTube – often to see if there is a video for something I’ve heard on Apple Music – and on other occasions I just stumble into them! Day 7 was a case in point. This was someone of whom I’d never heard before, but I was rather taken by this one. It ranks at the Stinking Bishop end of cheesiness but is so much fun that I had to include it:

I was intrigued to learn more about Si Cranstoun, so I consulted the oracle – Google – which led me to a short Wikipedia article. What an interesting character! He had apparently been in ska and fifties revival bands, and had been a busker too, for twenty years before getting his first record deal a few years back. He has since made several albums of fifties-influenced songs, and his sheer exuberance deserves to win him a bigger audience – I hope he finds it, because his music is so much more fun than the dross we get on the radio nowadays! There are a number of other videos of him on YouTube, including some from his busking days, so do check him out if you enjoyed this one.

As the 8th was a Saturday, when many would no doubt have been braving the high street in search of Christmas goodies, I thought I’d choose something appropriate to help them on their way. Or maybe not! Tom Lehrer was a consummate writer and performer of satirical songs, and his Christmas offering is a little gem:

Lehrer only wrote 37 songs and performed just 109 times in a twenty year musical career – his day job was as a mathematics professor – but his fame and recognition grew slowly as people told each other about him. He once described it as having spread ‘like herpes, rather than Ebola’ which gives you an idea of his wit and style! He has long since retired from his ‘proper’ career as well as his sideline, but is apparently still enjoying life at the grand old age of 90. I fear that his style is unlikely to be popular today but he was rather good with words: try I Hold Your Hand In Mine or Poisoning Pigeons In The Park and you’ll see what I mean! Maybe we could get a Lehrer revival going, though I dread to think what he’d write about modern day politics on both sides of the Atlantic!

I usually try to post something more relaxed or traditional for a Sunday, like a carol, for instance. I’ve not shared this one before but it seemed to tick all of the boxes for day 9:

I’ve long been a fan of Alison Krauss – she has a beautiful voice and her brand of bluegrass music is very much to my liking. She has made several sorties into other types of music – notably on Raising Sand, the album she made with Robert Plant, formerly the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. That album won five Grammy awards – just a few of the twenty seven she has won to date! I also enjoy classical crossover as a genre, and this is a perfect example of the blending of styles that seems to come naturally to great musicians.

I marked day 10 with a bit of silliness from the best band I’ve ever seen live. Sadly, they split up in 2016, after more than ten years of making hugely enjoyable music and performing some occasionally outrageous live shows – their anti-Valentine’s Day show several years ago is still the only folk music gig I’ve attended where burlesque dancers were part of the show! This song made the BBC Radio 2 playlist on release, but didn’t trouble the charts – a pity, as it would have livened them up a bit. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the inimitable Bellowhead:

No one sleeps while they’re on!

Although, as I’ve said, I try to avoid chart hits – and my musical taste doesn’t really include many of them anyway – I do make the odd notable exception. This one, which I posted for day 11, is from one of my many favourite bands. It goes back to the 1970s when it seemed that everyone was making a Christmas record, many of dubious and variable quality. This is, I think, the only one of Jethro Tull’s three Christmas singles that charted, and they also recorded an entire album of seasonal music. I love this song, and this special promotional video that was made to accompany it on TV fits it perfectly:

And finally, for Part Two of this compilation, here is the song I posted today:

I bought the Band’s first album, Music From Big Pink, when it was first released, and played it to the point where the vinyl was almost transparent! There was just something about them, the songs they wrote, and the plaintive rawness of their performance that really got to me. This song was released on their album Islands in 1977, and typifies so much of what I like about them. There is a beauty and simplicity in the lyrics and the laid back musicianship that, to me, are very fitting for a Christmas song, and this seems a good point at which to conclude my Part Two. I’ll be back again next Tuesday with Part Three and hope to see you again then. In the meantime, you can see and hear each day’s song on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed, if you’d like to keep up to date – just click the links to the right if you don’t already follow me on either or both. If you do you’ll also see posts shared from my Instagram #AdventCalendar, though maybe the less said about that the better!

I hope your pre-Christmas is going well, and look forward to seeing you again next time.

#ChristmasSongADay – Part 3

Continuing my series of the songs I have been posting each day for Advent on Twitter and Facebook, here are those I featured from Days 13 to today, Day 18.

One of my favourite singer/songwriters is Mary Chapin Carpenter. I have every album she has released in her 30 year career and have been lucky enough to see her play live: a magical experience. In 2008 she released an album of Christmas songs, called Come Darkness, Come Light. Six of the twelve songs were written by her, including this one, the title track, which was my choice for the 13th. I think it’s lovely, and hope you like it too:

That turned out to be the start of a three day run of songs from female singer/songwriters. I’ve always had a soft spot for this style of music, going back to when I first became interested in music in the 60s. One of the first to get my attention was the peerless Joni Mitchell. Even after all these years, my favourite of all of her albums is Blue, which was released in 1971. My vinyl copy of that album wore very thin during my university days, and it is still my ‘go to’ Joni album. It is a very introspective album – classic bedsit music! One of the best of a set of fine tracks is this one, which I chose on the 14th. I believe it is complemented perfectly by the Snoopy video:

The third song in this run of three, which I posted on the 15th, is by another artist whose albums all feature in my collection. Shawn Colvin released her debut album a couple of years after Mary Chapin Carpenter’s first record. The two are friends and have played live together many times, although I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Shawn live – there are plenty of videos on YouTube though! She beat Mary to a Christmas album by ten years, releasing Holiday Songs And Lullabies in 1998. This is another fine album, and the track I chose is this one:

Isn’t that lovely, so beautiful in its simplicity? How could I follow that up? I didn’t try! Instead, I took a completely different approach, and went loud:

That dark little song about a department store Father Christmas being duffed up by a bunch of kids was released as a single in 1977. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t trouble the charts. As far as I know it has only appeared since then on a couple of Kinks compilation albums: they went through a period of making their studio releases ‘concept albums’ and it’s hard to see where this song would have fitted in! Still, it raises a smile of nostalgia for me, and I’d be surprised if you’d heard it before – which is, after all, one of the reasons why I make this selection each year! As a complete aside, you might like to take a look at a much more heart-warming view of a child’s Christmas, written by Enda, a fellow blogger. I think this is a wonderful piece of writing, and I hope you can read it too.

As yesterday, Day 17, was a Sunday I thought it fitting to share a Christmas carol as my song for the day. But, rather than go for a version from a religious setting, I chose this:

You may well recognise Maddy Prior as being a longstanding member of Steeleye Span, who – along with Fairport Convention – were one of the forerunners of the electric folk scene which developed in England in the late 1960s. You may also recall them having a novelty Christmas hit in 1972 with Gaudete, to the best of my knowledge still one of only two chart hits sung entirely in Latin (the other is Pie Jesu). I could have chosen that, but went for this one instead as it is a little further off the beaten track. Whilst remaining a Steeleye Span member, Maddy has regularly undertaken Christmas tours with the Carnival Band, and that is taken from a DVD made of their 2004 tour.

For today’s choice I stayed in the folk music area. I featured Bellowhead earlier in the series, and here they are again, leading a massed folk band ensemble that featured in a one-off special programme shown on BBC4 in 2009. It really doesn’t seem that long ago since I first saw this! This song, although not this version, was the b-side of Bellowhead’s Christmas Bells single (which is in Part 1 of this series – link is on the right). I bet you haven’t seen it done like this before, though:

So, that’s it for Part 3 of my #ChristmasSongADay series. I’ll be back on Christmas Day with the final seven songs, and hope to see you again then. After all, you’re going to need something to take your mind off the eggnog, yet still more gifts of socks, and arguments with the family, aren’t you! Have a great week, and I hope all of your Christmas preparations go well. See you on the 25th 😊