#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 One

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!

#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!