Monday, 21 December 2009

Crimbo Choons 4, 5 & 6

For my next selections for my top Crimbo tracks, I've gone down the slightly more mainstream route. These three songs are solid Christmas compilation CD fodder that you're more than likely to hear as you walk into a shop/cafe/funeral home over the festive period. But that shouldn't take away from them as selections of top quality Christmas songs.

Jona Lewie - Stop The Cavalry

The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping

Chris Rea - Driving Home For Christmas

So, why have I grouped these three together? And, more importantly, why have I selected them at all? Without doing a detailed analysis of each song, here's a few points that relate to all three songs. Firstly, they're all most definitely festive, but they also sound like "proper" songs too. Lots of Christmas music gets caught up in novelty or twee-ness, but all of these actually have some substance to them. True, The Waitresses song is somewhat cheesy, and the Chris Rea track is very cheesy, but they maintain a credible level of cheesiness which is all the more acceptable when coupled with Christmassiness (which is now unofficially a word).

Secondly, the Christmas factor in them is more subtle. The songs aren't actually about Christmas, but use Christmas in telling their story. Jona Lewie wishes he could be home for Christmas, but isn't actually there yet; The Waitresses are actually telling a modern love story over twelve months that culminates at Christmas; Chris Rea is driving home for Christmas, but like Mr. Lewie previously, he hasn't reached it yet. The relative subtlety in the use of Christmas in the songs sets them apart from all the songs about reindeer, Santa and mistletoe you hear for the rest of the festive season. But at the same time, they are actually related to Christmas (which some other Christmas songs, weirdly, are not).

And lastly, they are, for want of a more descriptive word, jolly. They bounce along putting a smile on your face. They're not sombre or serious (although Jona Lewie's track does have a somewhat serious undertone, but not in a way that takes away from the celebratory mood of the song, largely provided by the brass band sections featured throughout the song). Another key element that some Christmas songs sorely lack.

So, there we go. In the last of these entries, which will come sometime before Christmas Day itself, I'll round things off with my all-time best and worst Christmas songs. Until then, keep enjoying the Crimbo choonage.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Crimbo Choons 3: "Jingle Bells"

The Brian Setzer Orchestra - Jingle Bells [Instrumental Version]

For me, Jingle Bells as a traditional Christmas song sits there with all the other traditional Christmas songs. I like it, but that's about as far as it goes. Traditional Christmas songs are an integral part of what Christmas has become for many people in the modern day, but many of them have been around so long that any festive image or sentiment they may contain has become faded and cliched to the point of them becoming almost meaningless.

The Brian Setzer Orchestra's instrumental version of Jingle Bells completely wipes out any of this. Setzer injects life and fun into the well-worn tune transforming it from just another Christmas song into a rocking, swinging, brash and cool rock & roll big band number. The whole piece from start to finish is infectious, building to an irresistable finish that simply blows you away. Never has Jingle Bells had such attitude and swagger. Just awesome.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Crimbo Choons 2: "A Merry Jingle"

So, what do you get when you mix together Thin Lizzy, The Sex Pistols and some traditional Christmas ditties? Well, this...

For some reason, A Merry Jingle by The Greedies (a one-off band made up of members of the two aforementioned bands) really hasn't caught on as a mainstream Christmas track, and I honestly don't know why. Maybe it has just a bit too much of a hard rock sound. Maybe it doesn't have the same cheesy value as more popular Christmas tunes. Or maybe it's just never received enough exposure to really grab people's attention. Who knows. But it's a track, thanks to my dad, that has been part of every one of my Christmases since I was very little. It brings back a lot of memories and it's one of those Christmas songs that, when I hear it, signifies to me that Christmas really has arrived. Listening to this song has become as important as eating my first mince pie of the year or putting up the Christmas tree. So, that's the first reason why it's on my list of top Crimbo choons.

Also, it just rocks. You've got a combination of two of the most legendary rock groups bashing out a medley of We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells as if this might be the last Christmas they get the chance to do it. It's simple but very effective, and whilst falling firmly into the novelty cash-in pile of Christmas singles, it's neither nauseatingly commercial nor excruciatingly awful. As I said before, it just rocks. So stick a Santa hat on and bang your head to the festive beat.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Does your granny always tell yer that the old songs are the best...?

I've wanted to do an entry on Christmas music for a week or so now. I've started writing one a couple of times now, but each time when I read back what I've written it just sounds, for want of a better phrase, wank. So I'm biting the bullet tonight and just going for it. I love Christmas music; it's one of my most favourite things about this time of year. Christmas music has produced some of the most memorable songs ever written. It's also produced some of the most painfully awful words and music of all time. As with a great many things, I have opinions to share on the subject of Christmas music, and I intend to share them here song by song in the run-up to Christmas.

The first Crimbo song I've chosen to share is one introduced to me fairly recently, and is an absolute festive corker:

I could write a huge long analysis of why this is such a brilliant Christmas song. I could go into great detail about the musical credentials Bob Dylan brings. But I don't need to. I defy you to listen to that song and not start smiling and wanting to dance around in a Christmas frenzy. It's just that awesome.

So, keep reading for more Christmassy musical type musings.