Sunday, 29 November 2015

Festive 4 Play

The difficult fourth album will not be hitting stores shortly, but may be passed onto you soon like a terrifying gypsy curse or persistent conjunctivitis.

I haven't yet managed to find a way to over-lay a 'clap track', but there's always next year...

This year’s carefully selected compilation of unforgivable hits once again features Christmas singles which you may have never heard before (and may not wish to hear again).  A request that this year’s album contain a little more in the way of traditional carols has been noted (kind of) combined with my  usual remit of finding ‘interesting’ recordings by well-known performers.  Lets lower the needle and get started.

1. Closing of the year (Bentley Jones)

Last year’s campstravaganza opening track by the Pet Shop Boys was never going to be matched, but this boy-bandish yet soulful number by Bentley Jones (perhaps better known under his mix pseudonym of PHUNKSTR) isn’t a bad attempt.  Believe it or not, the song first appeared in the Robin Williams film Toys, and was written by none other than 'film score-meister' Hans Zimmer!

(The original version, from the film Toys)

2. White Wine in the Sun. (Tim Minchin)

The guardian newspaper called Australian Tim Minchin’s song ‘a contrarian carol’.  Minchin himself says: “Christmas means much to billions of people who don’t believe in Jesus, and if you think that Christmas without Jesus is not Christmas, then you’re out of touch, and if you think altruism without Jesus is not altruism, then you’re a dick.”  He acknowledges the contradictions inherent in celebrating a festival he doesn’t believe in, but concedes that he still really likes it.  It’s about seeing his family at Christmas, who’ll be waiting… drinking white wine in the sun.  Sound familiar?

3. Oi to the world (No Doubt)

A ska/punk play on Joy to the world sounds like light-hearted fun, but the rapid fire lyrics actually tell the story of a bloody, racism-fuelled encounter between a Skinhead called Trevor and a Sikh Punk called Haji.  Despite a violent showdown, it’s the spirit of Christmas which ultimately triumphs. Another example of the infinitely adaptable message that we should all make an extra effort to be nice to each other at this time of the year.  The lyrics are well worth a read:

4. Angels from the Realms of Glory

Otherwise known as the one with the tricky chorus which no-one can actually sing.  Annie Lennox can, and even this older, throatier version of her instantly-recognisable voice makes it sound heavenly. Excelsior!

5. I have an ugly Christmas Tree (Oh, Hush)

Here’s a happy little number, recorded by Oh, Hush (Chris Sernal) a ‘secret artist’ who apparently has never played live or posted a single image of himself.  But he wants to keep his tree up until February and loves finding pine needles in July, so he’s my kind of guy.

6.The Holy and the Ivy (The Mediaeval Baebes)

Does anyone else remember the Mediaeval Baebes - an ensemble of young women who recorded traditional songs from the middle ages, in the 1990s? It’s a haunting sound, perfect for this years ‘ancient pagan chart-topper dressed up as a carol’.  One theory suggests that it was originally a battle of the sexes ‘sing-off’ between the masculine Holy and the feminine Ivy, which is eventually resolved beneath the mistletoe.

(Sadly I couldn't find the video for this particular carol,
but here's a different one by the Baebes instead)

7. I want you for Christmas (Cheap Trick)

Remember in Love Actually when Bill Nighy’s ageing rock star makes an assault on the festive charts by cynically shoe-horning the word Christmas into a former hit single?  Here Cheap Trick do that for real, but it was their song originally, so that makes it OK.  And besides, they aren’t taking themselves seriously for a second - they’re having fun and so will you.

(Once again, not quite the video you're looking for -
this is the original song from 1979)

8. Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle (Ariel)

A change of pace here - a 16th century French Carol recorded by US singer-songwriter Ariel Tebben on the Celtic Harp.  To this day in the Provence region, children dress up as shepherds and milkmaids, carrying torches and candles to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, while singing the carol.

9. Snoopy’s Christmas (The Royal Guardsmen)

Making their fourth consecutive appearance  - what would a New Zealand Christmas be without Snoopy and the Red Baron? 

And speaking of which:

10. A New Zealand Christmas (Chris Jones)

A celebration of BBQs burning into the night and, on the radio, the Red Baron making one more flight… It’s a New Zealand Christmas - the kind we all love.

11. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Busted)

I quite clearly know nothing about music, but this single by English band Busted seems to me a surprisingly sincere and enthusiastic take on the traditional carol, with some rather sophisticated musical arrangements.  Mike Oldfield-esque electric guitar, strings, piano and bells?  I’m there!

12. Christmas Lights (Coldplay)

Recorded in 2010, the video features Simon Pegg, as one of three violin-playing Elvis’s. A street level, reality-intrudes Christmas tale of a similar ilk to the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, but set in London’s Oxford street.

13. Blue Christmas (Sheryl Crow)

Ms Crow’s breathy rendition of this popular Christmas standard provides a stripped down alternative to other heavily orchestrated tracks on this compilation.  

(This is a different version to the unaccompanied
track which appears on the compilation)

And it gives you a chance to prepare yourself for what’s coming next:

14. Jingle Hell (Christopher Lee with Li Li)

I know I’m going to be defending the inclusion of this one for months to come.  But let me just say: unless we mere mortals really believe that we could record a Heavy Metal Christmas single at the age of 91 which breaks into the US Billboard top twenty, maybe we should just pull our heads in before you-know-who bites our jugulars.  Besides, this magnificent track by the late Sir Chris and classically- trained soprano Li- Li is on last so that you can always pretend there are only 13 tracks on this album (though why you’d ever want to do that is beyond me)

(Caution: the novelty of this video may pall as quickly as the single itself does)

No comments:

Post a Comment