#ChristmasSongOfTheDay 2019 – Part Four

IT’S CHRIIIISTMAS! But that’s as close as I’ll be getting to ‘that’ song, don’t worry. This is being posted on Christmas Day but I would imagine that most readers have far better things to do today than read my blog so, on the assumption that you are catching up after the main event, I hope it was a good one for you.

This is my final post of this year’s Christmas series, and I’m grateful to everyone who has read the three previous episodes and commented on their enjoyment of my musical choices. I’m guessing that anyone who thought they were rubbish just moved on without saying so! This part takes us from day 20 up to today, which should mean six songs – but as I’ve taken to doing, I posted a bonus track today, so there would actually have been seven. No prizes for guessing which was the bonus song, as it has already appeared in another post this month. But then a new video was uploaded to YouTube yesterday, which I just had to include. So, should I drop one of my choices? No, it’s Christmas, so I went a little mad and posted the new one as well! So there are now eight songs in this collection. Oh, and another bonus one too. Are you keeping up?

On the 20th I posted a version of Silent Night. I’ve included this song every year I’ve done this (all five of them) but, as there are so many versions of it, I try a different one each year. This time, I shared a very recent live performance by Sarah Darling, from her concert at the Union Chapel in London. That is one of my favourite venues and it has great acoustics, as you can hear from Sarah’s performance:

I think that is lovely, and is why I made a break from my usual habit of not featuring the same artist twice in this series: Sarah now shares that dubious honour with just four other acts that were double choices in previous years. It’s probably no coincidence that three of them are featured in this post.

One of those was the estimable Mary Chapin Carpenter, whose seasonal album Come Darkness, Come Light is required listening for me at this time of year. I chose the title track on the 21st, as it is a beautiful song and the video that someone has made to accompany it fits it well:

A song that I have featured each year was my song for the 22nd. I try to share a carol on Advent Sundays, and as Kate Rusby has now made five albums of these I’m rather spoilt for choice, as I love her voice and her music. I’ve seen her play live, so I know that she needs no studio trickery to make her sound good. This is the title track of her first Christmas album, Sweet Bells, which was released in 2008. If I’m honest, I still think this is her best of the five, but they are all fabulous. The animated video that accompanies this isn’t ‘official,’ but it is a perfect accompaniment, and the depiction of Kate is extremely good:

On Monday (23rd) I chose one that I’ve not featured before. You may well know Santa Baby from Marilyn Monroe or one of the countless other versions, but you probably haven’t seen the treatment given to it by Walk Off The Earth. This band has also been a double entry in a previous year: you may not know them but they have a very loyal following, get multi-million views for most of their videos – which are often very inventive – and their live shows are always sold out. Here’s a rather different Santa Baby or, in this case, Baby Santa:

And just to confirm, those puppets are very good likenesses of the band members, and the baby is the child of two of them, so I very much doubt that he was trying to drink real alcohol!

For Christmas Eve (i.e. yesterday) I chose the same song I have done every year. This may sound repetitious, but I never tire of hearing it, and given its title there is only one day on which it could be shared! Mindy Smith is another of that select band who have featured twice in the same set in a previous year. I think this video shows why, as her voice is lovely and the song captures what every parent of a small child is thinking on the night before the big day:

I try to vary my choices for Christmas Day itself and, whilst this one has been a selection in a previous year, this was not on Christmas Day. As its title is Christmas Must Be Tonight I may have been missing something! It’s a great song from the best band ever to be called ‘The Band’:

I am by nature a creature of habit and have shared today’s first bonus song every year, though not always on Christmas Day. But it is a fairly obvious choice for today, and has become a pop classic in the 32 years since it was first released. I featured it in my recent post Christmas Number Twos – my Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues:

I once saw a Snoopy cartoon which had the tagline ‘in every programme, Charlie Brown, there are some last minute changes.’ Courtesy of the lovely people who produce the live music show Live From Here, this is one such change. The show is fronted by Chris Thile, formerly of the excellent band Nickel Creek. Another former member, Sara Watkins, is now in a female trio called I’m With Her, with Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan, and the three of them are regular guests on the show, either solo or in combinations of two or three. A couple of weeks ago they had a little bit of pre-Christmas fun with a children’s song, and it is so charming that I just had to share it. I never thought I’d hear the lovely Sarah Jarosz singing I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas, but now I have and its fabulous:

I’ve ended the three previous episodes of this series with the wonderful adverts made by Hafod Hardware, a local store in the small Welsh town of Rhayader. Made with love by the family who run the business, on a budget of around £100 each year (for the beautiful backing music by Andrea Von Kampen) these really put to shame the big budget extravaganzas of the large UK retailers. So, as another Christmas bonus, here is this year’s again:

#BeAKidThisChristmas

I think there’s something in my eye….

* * * * *

Well, that’s it for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed at least some of my choices across the four episodes. Twelve of the twenty seven have been first timers this year: I like to refresh things but it has been very hard to leave out so many good songs that I could have included. I suppose there’s always next year…

From tomorrow until New Year’s Day the daily songs on my Facebook page and Twitter will be #NewYearSongOfTheDay choices. Unless anything pops into my head in the meantime, you’ll next see me back here on New Year’s Day with a round up post of those.

One final word from me for this year: thank you to everyone who has read, ‘liked’ and/or commented on any of my posts this year. I am very aware that we all have pressures on our time, and I’m grateful to you for spending some of it with me and my ramblings.

Enjoy the rest of your Christmas: I hope it is a happy and peaceful one.

A #NewYearSongOfTheDay

For the first time ever I’ve been posting songs for the New Year on Twitter and the Facebook page for my blog (if you haven’t ‘liked’ the page yet the link is to the right – go on, you know you want to!). I began on Boxing Day and brought the sequence to an end today with a double, so there were eight in total. This is the full collection – I hope you enjoy them.

The approach of the New Year can be a positive time, when we look forward to what it may bring us, and can also be a time for reflection on the year that is drawing to a close. Both of these moods are represented in my choices. I began with a really positive, upbeat song: I don’t know much about the duo who go by the name of A Great Big World, but anyone who can create a song and video like this gets a thumbs up from me:

For the 27th I went for a long-time favourite song of mine. To me, this is the perfect song to match the mood of looking back, coupled with hope for the future. Counting Crows have long been a favourite band of mine too, since their first album way back in 1992. This song is from their second album, Recovering The Satellites, and includes what is probably Courtney Cox’s best acting performance ever (even better than when she danced with Bruce Springsteen 😉):

It was back to the upbeat and hopeful for the 28th. Semisonic were one of those bands who never got the success I felt they deserved. Their album Feeling Strangely Fine was a little gem, and produced three hit singles in the UK, of which this wasn’t one (!):

Alternating the mood again for the 29th I went for another of my long-time favourite singers and songs. This is from Kate Rusby’s first (of four) albums of Christmas and seasonal songs, Sweet Bells, but is not an original of hers. There are several attributions, including the one erroneously (and lazily) given by the guy who posted this video, but the generally accepted version is that the song was written in 1891 by Will Godwin and Leo Dryden. Dryden sang it in music hall performances and recorded it in 1898. It was also recorded by Peter Dawson (‘Australia’s first man of song’ in case you didn’t know – so not Rolf Harris, then). Dawson’s version is taken a little faster, which I find totally unsuited to what is actually a heart-breaking song from the perspective of a young man looking back at year end, and dreaming of home and family. I think Kate Rusby does it far more justice – this is beautiful:

I marked Sunday 30th with another reflective piece. There is no need for an introduction to Van The Man – like everything he does, this simply oozes class, style and laid-back coolness:

The song which I imagine most people associate with New Year’s Eve is Auld Lang Syne. There are countless versions of this, but none are quite as lovely as the one by Mindy Smith. If you’ve been keeping up with my seasonal music posts you’ll know that I featured Mindy on Christmas Eve – you can find her song here if you missed it. For the video to accompany her version of Auld Lang Syne she asked fans to send her photos of those they loved or had lost, or maybe both. The resulting collage is absolutely wonderful, and is made even better by the number of heartfelt comments from people whose photos were featured. This really does capture the end of year reflective mood so very well:

For today, I marked the New Year with two choices. The first is well-known and an obvious choice: it wasn’t that imagination had deserted me, just that I happen to like it! To begin with, then, here are ABBA:

And to round things off for this time, another selection from the incomparable Mary Chapin Carpenter. She also featured in my Christmas songs collection, on Christmas Day itself, and you can find her by following the link in the paragraph above about Mindy Smith. There is a video of MCC performing this song live, in which she explains the background to the song: it is based on a real life meeting, which she noted down and turned into the most beautiful song. I’m giving you the ‘official’ video from her record company, which is slightly clearer than the live version. As she says,

‘We dwell on possibility on New Year’s Day’

I only had a week to share these New Year songs and could have chosen many more. My YouTube playlist now comprises around 40 songs and can be found here if you’d like to see more.

Having said that I’d finished I’m going to cheat a little now, and add in a bonus just for you: this one wasn’t shared on Twitter or Facebook. One of my earliest childhood memories of New Year’s Day was the televised concert of Strauss family music from Vienna, which my Mum loved and we watched with her, along with the ski jumping from Garmisch-Partenkirchen which followed it. These were both rare treats in the late 1950s/early 1960s, before wall to wall TV took over. The closing delight of the concert was always the final encore, the Radetzky March, during which the conductor would turn to the audience and conduct their hand-clapping. This has always seemed to me to be the epitome of the joy and hopefulness that the start of a new year can bring, so I’ll leave you with this one from a few years ago, during which Daniel Barenboim does eventually keep up with tradition:

I hope that 2019 brings you all that you wish for. Happy New Year!

A #ChristmasSongOfTheDay Part Four

So here it is, Merry Christmas….no, wait, not that one please! Don’t worry, in keeping with the rest of Advent only two of my final set of eight choices for the remaining seven days have been chart hits. That makes a total of five out of twenty six, but I make no apologies – if you really want them the usual suspects can be found on every Christmas playlist on every streaming service! Having said that, this final set contains several of my own usual suspects, but they are so good that they deserve to be heard.

For the 19th I gave you one which I’ve featured for all five years that I have done this. It is clearly a favourite of mine, and displays my folkie roots. Kate Rusby is a folk singer-songwriter from Yorkshire, in the north of England. Her shows are full of lovely music and warm, friendly repartee, as I’ve been fortunate enough to witness. She comes from an area with a strong tradition of sharing Christmas songs and has to date released four albums of them. This is the title track from the first of those, and is accompanied by a lovely animated video – the singer in it is a very good likeness of Kate:

I went across the pond for the 20th. Continuing my choices of female singer-songwriters, I selected one from Shawn Colvin’s album Holiday Songs And Lullabies – sorry, my American friends, but I really don’t get your reluctance to call this by its proper name of ‘Christmas,’ as I said here. Again, this one is accompanied by an unofficial video, which complements the song well:

On the 21st – the Winter Solstice – I took a slightly different approach. This isn’t an obvious Christmas song, but a modern variation on the theme of a special baby with mystical powers. It seemed an appropriate choice to mark Yule:

Returning to Christian traditions on the 22nd I chose this one. I’ve seen the band perform this live and it is a magical moment. There is a video on YouTube of them from a 2004 concert DVD but I chose this version: it is the one they originally released in 1972 on their Below The Salt album, and the voice of Tim Hart can be clearly heard. Tim, sadly, died of cancer on Christmas Eve 2009, at the age of 61, and I selected this to pay my respects to him:

It being Sunday on the 23rd I kept to my habit of sharing a carol. This one is very well known and there are many versions to choose from. This, by the amazing Sinead O’Connor, is my favourite by miles, and the video is superb too:

My choice for Christmas Eve has been the same for all five years. For me, this is an absolute no-brainer and the fact that it is a lovely song helps no end! Mindy Smith deserves to be more widely known: she released five albums between 2004 and 2012, one of which – My Holiday – was a seasonal (ie. Christmas) album, and this song is from her most recent release, an EP entitled Snowed In, from 2013. Her website gives no details of any upcoming performances so it appears that she may have ‘retired’ from music – I hope not, and live in hope as she has recently been active on Twitter and Facebook. This is beautiful:

And finally to today. If you’re actually reading this on Christmas Day I thank you for being here and sharing this with me. If not, there is nothing wrong with catching up! There does seem to be a subtext of my liking for female singer-songwriters showing through my choices: this is another whom I’ve been lucky enough to see perform live, and I recommend her highly if you get the chance. She has a beautifully warm voice which is so well suited to her songs. This one is from her album Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs Of Christmas. For me this is the absolutely perfect choice for Christmas Day. Merry Christmas!

Ah, hold on. I promised you eight songs for this final compilation and if you care to count back you’ll see there have only been seven so far. I know it’s cheating, but I think I can be forgiven for adding in a bonus song for Christmas Day. This one has been a chart hit many times, including this year, but has never been the Christmas Number One – a criminal oversight by the British record-buying public, to my eyes. Even in the first year of release it only made number two, kept off the top spot by the Pet Shop Boys’ wilful destruction of a Willie Nelson song. I really think we should have tried harder! You *may* have heard this one before:

So that’s it for another year. I hope you have enjoyed my choices, especially those which may have been new to you. I do try and steer as far clear of the charts as I can, and my disappointment is that I have to leave out so many other good songs. If you are interested, my YouTube playlist is ever growing, currently standing at around 120 songs (including some alternative versions) and can be found here.

Thank you for following, reading, liking and commenting on my posts. As another year draws to a close, I marvel yet again at the wonders of modern technology that allow us to communicate like this, and to share our thoughts, hopes, dreams and, in my case, our love of music. On which point, something new for me: I will be sharing on Twitter and my Facebook page a ‘new year’ song each day from tomorrow up until New Year’s Day, when I will return here with a compilation post of these, for those who won’t have seen each daily offering as they happen. I hope you’ll join me again then.

Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year!