#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 1

With Christmas approaching I’ve decided to keep things lighthearted here for the festive season, so you won’t be seeing any rants until January! As has become my custom – I’m now in my third year of doing it – I have been treating (I think that’s the right word!) my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to a Christmas Song each day for Advent. I have in the past shared an edited highlights package of these but have never shared the full set on my blog, so it’s about time I put that right. It isn’t really my style to post every day, so the current plan is to split this into four parts: three sets of six and the final seven on Christmas Day. But plans can change, so if you’d prefer that I posted here each day in parallel with Twitter and Facebook please let me know.

I try to make this selection a little different from those you usually find on the compilation albums. Only about a quarter of my choices will have featured on a chart listing at any time – so if you’re looking for Slade or Wizzard I’m afraid you’ll be out of luck! But the one thing they have in common is that I like them, which I suppose should really go without saying! So, let’s get this show on the road…..

Having said that I generally avoid the pop charts, Day 1 immediately broke that rule. This has been a favourite of mine and although it was a huge Christmas hit it was actually written as a protest against commercialism. It is also a great song:

For Day 2 I chose a song by the best live band I’ve ever seen. Sadly, they disbanded a couple of years ago but their brand of folk music, blended with all sorts of other influences, brilliantly played with a large dose of lunacy lives on in their videos. This was released as a Christmas single but it made very little impact on the charts, sadly, peaking at no.188:

As Day 3 was a Sunday, I chose something more restful. This is a cover of an Enya song: I could have gone for the original but preferred this version. The fact that Viktoria is a Facebook friend had absolutely nothing to do with that – just listen to this and you’ll be seduced into the song even though, like me, you probably won’t know what the words mean. I understand it to have a seasonal meaning, though. This is one of the most beautiful voices you’ll ever hear:

I went back into protest mode for Day 4. If you haven’t come across him before, Tom Lehrer is a writer and performer of satirical songs. His heyday was during the 1950s and 1960s but he’s still with us, at the grand age of 89. If I tell you that one of his best known songs is called Poisoning Pigeons In The Park you’ll probably get an inkling of what is to come – this is his take on Christmas:

There are some songs which have become adopted as ‘pop standards’ for Christmas. As I said, I tend to avoid these, unless I find a version that gives them a new and, to my taste, a more enjoyable treatment. This is where Day 5 comes in. You will find so many versions of this song, and it’s probably on every pop Christmas compilation album ever, but not done like this. John Mellencamp has long been one of my favourite artists, with his brand of rootsy rock, and I think this is great. Stick with it to the end and there’s an adorable cameo from his daughter Teddi who was probably about 4 or 5 years old at the time. This was thirty years ago, and I hope she still enjoys her performance!

Today’s choice is another of the few that ruffled the pop charts. Again, it’s a long time favourite of mine from one of my favourite bands. Jethro Tull have made several Christmas songs and an album, but this is my preferred choice. This version was used by the BBC for their Top Of The Pops programme. There is also a clip on YouTube of the band performing the song in the studio, but I think this animation enhances the song beautifully:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first selection, and I’ll see you again for more in a few days. Good luck with all your preparations for Christmas!