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A #ChristmasSongOfTheDay Part One

December 6, 2018 15 comments

You may have noticed that my blog’s tagline includes the phrase ‘with occasional music,’ and you may also have noticed that I have made the odd post or several on this theme. I think I’m now in the fourth year – or maybe the fifth, time flies – of posting a Christmas song on Twitter and Facebook every day in December, leading up to two on Christmas Day itself. This year, for the first time, I’m sharing them with my newish Facebook page for this blog (obligatory plug – please feel free to hit the ‘like’ button on the widget thingy to the right), as well as Twitter, of course. Last year, I began posting them here too, in several chunks rather than daily, and as it went tolerably well I thought I’d do it again. You may have seen last year’s posts: if so, I’m relying on your memory being poor, as a number of these songs have featured before! So, welcome to Part One of 2018’s imaginatively titled #ChristmasSongOfTheDay.

One of the things I try to avoid with my choices is falling back on the usual suspects. There are many very good Christmas songs which have done little or nothing on the pop charts, and those are probably more to my musical tastes anyway. So, if you’re looking for Slade, Mud, Wham etc kindly move along now – nothing for you to see here! Having said that, I do make a few honourable exceptions, and the song I’ve started with each year is one of those. This has been one of my favourites since it was a massive hit in 1970, and was written as a message against the rampant commercialisation of Christmas. Nearly fifty years later that message is just as relevant, if not more so:

For December Sundays I try to choose something reflective, maybe a little more serious than some of my other choices which, as you will see, can be a little raucous! This year, my first Sunday choice was this one, with a beautiful video to accompany it:

I’ve loved Jackson Browne’s music ever since I first heard it, around the time I went to university – 1972. You may know of him as the co-writer of the song from which my blog takes his name, and I rate him very highly as a singer-songwriter. I was lucky enough to see him play live in 2010, at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and he didn’t disappoint. And yes, he did play Take It Easy!

Another longstanding favourite of mine is John Mellencamp (aka John Cougar, Johnny Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp). This was my choice for Day 3: it is 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:

Continuing in rowdy mode into Day 4 I chose a song and video which encapsulate all the joys of a family Christmas. Or maybe not. You may not be familiar with the Dropkick Murphys but do watch this – the song is great, and the video is a hoot:

Something a little calmer for Day 5? OK, here you go – well, to begin with, anyway. Walk Off The Earth have made their career on the back of a whole raft of very creative videos, both cover versions and their own songs. If you like this, and haven’t come across them before, you can find loads more to watch on YouTube. Again, this is a Christmas pop standard which has featured in the charts, notably in the ‘duet’ by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. WOTE’s take on it is a little different:

The final song in this selection is the one I posted earlier today. Anyone with an interest in rock/folk/pop music will be aware of the Nobel Prize winner Mr Robert Zimmerman. But you may not be familiar with the album of Christmas songs he released in 2009: Christmas In The Heart. This is one of the tracks on that album, and shows a side of him you probably won’t have seen before:

That’s all for today, folks. There are so many songs to choose from, and I’m already afraid that I’m going to have to leave out some of my favourites. Oh well, there’s always next year. I’ll be back on Wednesday with songs 7 to 12 and I hope to see you again then. Do please let me know in the comments if there are any songs you would like me to include. I’m always open to suggestions: but be warned, I can always ignore them, unless they are very good, of course!

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#ChristmasSongADay – Part 2

December 12, 2017 30 comments

Keeping to my plan, for once, here is the second part of my Advent Calendar of Christmas songs that I have been sharing with Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Should you feel an uncontrollable urge to join either of those select groupings, the necessary buttons can be found to the right – and that way, you could enjoy the songs as I publish them, rather than having to await the retrospectives. Just a thought!

This collection covers days 7 to 12 and is, as usual, a fairly mixed bunch. I’m hoping that many – if not all – will be new to you, and am keeping my fingers crossed that there is at least one that you like.

On the 7th, I posted a song by the American/Irish band, Dropkick Murphys. This is, to say the least, a piece of irreverent fun. They’re a bit of an acquired taste, and the singer’s voice probably wouldn’t count as ‘dulcet,’ but they do make some great songs and videos. This one is a hoot right the way through:

I slowed the pace a little for the next choice. Brynn Andre is one of those singers who has made some lovely music without ever getting the support and following that she deserves. Sadly, it is a number of years since she released an album. I looked at her website and it seems she is restricting her musical appearances nowadays to performing at weddings. Her voice and songs deserve a wider audience. She previously made just the two albums – this is her version of a very well known Christmas standard, which doesn’t actually appear on either of her records. I absolutely love her version and the accompanying video is very sweet:

You may recall that when I brought back my #SaturdaySongs series a couple of months ago the second new post was my tribute to the sad passing of Tom Petty. You can find it here if you missed it, or would like another look. So far, all of the Christmas songs I had featured had appeared at least once before in the two previous years that I’ve done this, but when I found this one it was an easy choice to make it my first new one for this year. Filmed at the White House as part of a tv special, back in the days when they had a proper President, it is a nice little piece of nostalgia:

For Sunday 10th I posted a suitably mellow song. This is another making its first appearance in my selection this year. Most people will probably only know of the band from the original line up and their two classic songs Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama. This incarnation of the band broke up after Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines were killed in a plane crash in October 1977, but the band reformed ten years later and this is actually the title track from their eleventh studio album, released in 2000. It is quintessentially Lynyrd Skynyrd, both in terms of pace and vocals, and if I do this again next year, I think this one is a keeper:

Yesterday’s choice was also a new one, for the simple reason that it has only just been released. You may not be aware of the English folk singer Kate Rusby, but I hope this enchants you enough to explore her music further. She comes from Yorkshire, as you can probably tell from her accent, and grew up with the strong local tradition of carol singing. Her latest album is the fourth she has released of seasonal songs – quite appropriate that she does this, as she has the voice of an angel. She created the character of Big Brave Bill, a kind of Yorkshire superhero, for a song on her most recent non-seasonal album, released in 2016, and here he is with his very own Christmas song. The animated video is charming, right the way through to Kate herself at the end:

I got a ‘like’ on Twitter from the lady herself for posting that, so I guess I’m doing something right! Kate will be making another appearance before Christmas – I’ll be bestowing on her the honour accorded to a select few of having two songs in my choices. With any luck, she’ll be reet chuffed!

For today’s song I’ve chosen the most serious of my selection. I’ve loved Jackson Browne’s music since his career started 45 years ago, I have all of his albums and have been lucky enough to see him play live. To my knowledge, this only appears on The Next Voice You Hear as a new, bonus track on that compilation album. That someone can add something like this as a one-off is, to me, astounding. This is a powerful song, haunting and beautiful, with a message we would all do well to heed:

So, that’s the second batch of six all done and dusted. As I said at the beginning, I’m hoping that there will be at least one among them that you enjoy, even if all six aren’t to your taste. Enjoy your Christmas preparations, and I’ll see you again for Part 3.

#SaturdaySongs No.1 – Take It Easy

October 22, 2016 12 comments

Some months ago I added the words ‘with occasional music’ to the tagline for this blog. Over the four years I’ve been doing this I have shared many music videos with you, and last week as part of the 3 Days 3 Quotes challenge I chose music as one of the themed days for my quotes. I’ve been thinking about starting this series for quite a while now, and here at last is the first of my new #SaturdaySongs. I’m hoping that I have the discipline to do this every Saturday, and that you will like them and keep coming back each week to see what I have chosen to share. The point of this isn’t just to give you songs I like, though it is a given that I do actually like the songs I share! What I’m doing with this series is to highlight songs which have an importance in my life, that represent a memory for me. In preparing for this series I have identified more than 30 songs that I could feature, so I don’t think I’ll be running out of ideas any time soon.

Choosing the first song for this new series was pretty easy: you don’t have to look very hard to see that I am an Eagles fan – where do you think I got the name for my blog from? The spirit of that title chimes perfectly with my aim in retirement, and was a natural for me to choose when I ‘rebranded’ a couple of years ago. Take It Easy is the opening track on the Eagles’ first album, which was imaginatively titled Eagles. It is a song largely written by Jackson Browne, who gave it to Glenn Frey  – a room mate in Los Angeles – to finish off and record with his new band, who became the Eagles. In a later interview Browne credited Frey with adding some words that he couldn’t have written himself, although they related to an experience of his own, and with arranging the song in the way that it came out. Browne also issued his own version the following year on his second album, For Everyman,  but by then it was destined to play second fiddle to the Eagles, who had achieved a major hit with it. This version is from a live performance in 1977, and shows why the Eagles were such a huge breath of fresh air for music, at least until disco and punk came along to destroy the 1970s:

Don’t underestimate the popularity of this band. The Eagles have sold over 150 million albums, including 42 million for their first Greatest Hits compilation and 32 million for Hotel California. They disbanded in 1980 but reformed in 1994 and have toured consistently to huge audiences since then. They may not be fashion icons, and may have been reviled as much as revered, but they have kept a lot of music fans very happy over the years. I regret that I never saw them play live, but I did see Jackson Browne some years ago and he obligingly sang Take It Easy – it is one of those ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ moments that you never forget. As Don Henley says on the Hell Freezes Over live album, after the band reformed, ‘this is where it all began.’

Country rock, as this became known, has been a major part of my musical taste since the 1960s, starting with the Byrds, the Loving Spoonful, then passing through Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in all their incarnations, Gram Parsons, Jackson Browne, Poco, the Grateful Dead, Little Feat and many more. The Eagles’ first album was released in 1972, which was the year I went to university. Obviously, I’d heard Take It Easy and some of the other tracks before, but hadn’t listened to the whole album until my first weekend at uni. One of the guys along the corridor had the album and we spent many happy hours in his room, putting the world to rights over coffee and the occasional alcoholic beverage, with this as the soundtrack. I soon bought the album, which has become a longstanding favourite and still gets played to this day.

winslowI was 18/19 when this was released, that age when we are filled with dreams about changing the world. Maybe those dreams are likely to remain just that, just hopes and wishes, but the music we grew up with remains with us for ever. To illustrate the fact that this is an iconic song not just for me, have you heard of this before? One of the lines in the song – credited to Glenn Frey by Jackson Browne – is the one about Browne’s own experience. It runs ‘I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see.‘ I’ve never been to Winslow but if I ever do I want to see this statue, built in recognition of the song. I’m suitably impressed!

I’ve mentioned that Jackson Browne also recorded his song. To save you having to seek it out, here it is:

You may not be aware that a tribute album – Common Thread – was released some years ago to the Eagles’ songs, with a stellar array of country musicians performing some of their favourites. The version of Take It Easy on that album was recorded by the hirsute Travis Tritt. The video for his version has him hanging around with the guys, a bit like I was doing back in the 70s. Only in his case, the guys, who are also his backing band, are actually the Eagles – a nice touch:

The story goes that it was at Tritt’s request that the Eagles appeared in his video. They had disbanded in 1980 but it appears that the pleasure that they show in the video in getting together again was genuine, as within two months they had reformed the band.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first trip back through my musical mind. If so, please come back soon, tell all your friends, etc etc 🙂

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