Monday, April 28, 2008

Deep, Crisp and Even part four

25. The Ravens-White Christmas

There is nothing rare or hard to find about this track. In fact, I am certain this is used in a movie soundtrack or two. But as for versions of White Christmas go, this is perhaps one of my personal favorites, and the one that, to this day, remains the version that I prefer just as much to the original classic.

26. Her Space Holiday-Let It Snow

I know I have shared this one on the blog before, as this was one of the My Space finds in December 2007. I wish the sound quality was a tad better...hopefully I will find this on an actual CD release by the band at some point.

27. Findlay Brown-Last Christmas

You know, considering I never particularly liked the original version, I sure do like the various cover versions of this song I come across. And I love cover versions of up-beat 80's bland pop that manage to bring out the true beauty of the original song (not Christmas related, but I have an acoustic cover version of Billy Idol's White Wedding that is stop-in-your-tracks astonishing. Behind all the power pop and awful music of the 80's, there were some darn fine songs being written in that decade that just needed proper production.)

And I know I shared a cover version of this song previously on this same compilation, but the ghostly whistle on this version makes for quite a haunting rendition, as if Scrooge's ghost of Christmas past is singing this from beyond.

I don't remember where I got original MP3 says "unknown album."

28. Sinead O'Connor-Silent Night, Holy Night

Speaking of haunting beauty.... There may be those who don't agree with this woman's politics/religious views, but I sure hope that doesn't detract from the stark beauty she brings to this song. This song is always played plaintively, and with very quiet tones. This version offers nothing new in instrumentation, but certainly brings something in terms of vocal performance that I have not heard in previous versions.

29. Blind Boys of Alabama ft. Chrissie Hynde and Richard Thompson-In the Bleak Midwinter

The Blind Boys of Alabama have been together for an astonishing 69 years. If they want to do a cover version of a Christmas standard, you know it's going to trump any version that came before it, and this is no exception.

30. Bruce Cockburn-Early One Christmas Morn

Not too many versions of this song to go around, unfortunately (though I do have the original.) Like the Blind Boys of Alabama, you know if Bruce is going to do a cover version of a Christmas song, he's going to give it his own personal touch and totally make it his own.

31. The Weavers-Go Tell It on the Mountain

Though I did not take the title of this compilation from this track, this is actually the song I was listening to when I thought of doing this compilation. This may be quite a traditional version compared to some of the versions of other songs I shared on here, but when I first heard this I really was taken by this take. This comes from their album, We Wish You A Merry Christmas. (I'd give a link on more of these, but is glitchy right now for some reason and it's not improving.)

32. Felice Brothers-Saint Stephen

I contemplated quite a bit on what song to end this compilation with. I do have other cover versions to share but I recently discovered the Felice Brothers (who has made some AWESOME Christmas music you WILL hear at this blog in the future!) and was quite taken by this song. It is not a Christmas song, but a song that is about the stoning of St. Stephen. Well, I considered two things: 1) There are not many songs about St. Stephen and the title of this compilation is taken from a song about St. Stephen and 2) how many people put out collections of ORIGINAL Christmas music only to have one or two cover versions on it? So I thought I would include one original song on my compilation of cover versions. It seemed to be a fair balance.

And I know I said I would have tray art and disc art ready. I haven't had time to make the files yet for those, but I will update this post at a future date when they are ready. (I like making physical copies of my personal comps such as this, so I guarantee the art work will get made!) I have been busy with other things, and hopefully more exciting things, things I will be sharing here, and hopefully soon. Stay tuned.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Deep, Crisp and Even part three

17. Crash Vinyl-Snow Miser

This track comes from the compilation Electric Ornaments. Perhaps the only cover version of Snow Miser I have, but a pretty darn good one at that.

18. Morgan Fisher-O Come All Ye Faithful (Remix)

Yet another track from Claws, which I featured a track from in part one of this compilation.

19. Whirlees-The Grinch

This kind of goes along with Snow Miser, though this one has been covered a few more times. This version comes from the compilation, It's Finally Christmas!

20. Dean Plays Hardball-Little Retail Boy

Little Drummer Boy has always been a personal favorite of mine; it has seemed to be an oddity in of itself among other traditional Christmas songs. And there are plenty of cover versions to be found of this one, but I chose this one from the A Very Standard Christmas compilation because I liked the little twist Dean Plays Hardball puts on the song.

21. Prewar Yardsale-Marshmellow World

And, yes, the title is spelled that way on the CD back cover. This comes from the Get Thee Behind Me, Santa compilation put out by Puppy Dog Records from England in 2002. Marshmallow World (as we commonly know the song) has been covered several times, but the cover versions are often uninspired and not very impressive. I happened to think that this particular version was the best among those I have heard. While still a simple tune, not changing the original that dramatically, it's a nice version.

22. Shaft-Must Be Santa

This comes from a compilation I picked up from New Zealand, Christmas On the Rocks. It is a highly recommended compilation if you can find it. It features a TON of original tracks. In fact, this is one of the rare cover versions found on the disc. Awesome stuff.

23. Chillaz-Clint Frostwood

Is it kind of cheating to pick a song that is a cover version of TWO songs? This comes from the annual Kevin and Bean Christmas collections (Swallow My Eggnog for this track) and I have yet to find a version of Frosty the Snowman that is more satisfying than this.

24. The Ricketts-God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Yet another track from my favorite compilation of late: Get Thee Behind Me, Santa

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Deep, Crisp and Even part two

Sorry for the late posting of this...I meant to get this up on Sunday or Monday, but time really got away from me. (Especially with figuring my taxes last night! I should find a way to deduct my Christmas music purchases then I'd be OK!!!)

Very well....on to part two of the collection....

9. Kanute-Last Christmas

Last Christmas is probably one of my least favorite Christmas songs, but has yielded some of my most favorite cover versions. It turns out the Wham boys wrote a pretty great song (though my understanding it was originally an Easter song but changed to Christmas by the record execs to sell more copies! Hey, whatever works!) I felt this plaintive version was a great follow up to the stark beauty of Hugh Downs.

I found this track at a wonderful blog that is dedicated to nothing but Last Christmas cover versions...

Most the links are dead right now, but I hope he posts a whole lot new ones next year...certainly one to drop in my links list on this site. Bookmark it today!

10. Meaghan Smith-Little Drummer Boy

This version came to my attention from Todd MacEwan, of SPUD 102 fame. He strongly recommends the compilation this song came from: A New Kind of Light (featured towards the bottom of his blog, linked above...not sure if it's still for sale though.)

11. Jerry Chamberlain, Sharon McCall, Riki Michelle, Derri Daugherty-I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

From the collection Noel on Via Records from 1995 (Sorry, I am not finding a link for this one right now.) Every song on this CD is a cover version of a familiar traditional song, but all are awesome. I purchased it because of the strength of the talent involved.

12. Peter Wood Singers-Winter Wonderland

If I recall right, I found this first from our friends at FaLaLaLa. The Peter Wood record he posted is a great recording over it out by all means if you haven't already. This version just pops and hits every right note. Peter Wood certainly makes this song his own with this recording.

13. Apollo Zero-Do You Hear Rainbows I Hear?

Is a mash-up also a cover version? Well, I guess I will let you debate that among yourselves. For the sake of me and this compilation, I am going to go ahead and say, yes, yes it does.

This came from our friends at DJBC.

14. Starflyer 59-Christmas Time Is Here
15. Bon Voyage-Holly Jolly Christmas

I put these on the compilation not only because they are excellent cover versions, but also because the lead singer of Starflyer 59 is married to the lead singer of Bon Voyage. This comes from the Happy Christmas series.

I really like Starflyer 59's spacy take on Christmas Time Is Here, and with Bon Voyage...well, I have to say that Burl Ives' version of that song really has a special place in my heart. It may be a standard, heard by so many, but rightfully so. I really haven't heard a version that tops his. And, to be fair, Bon Voyage doesn't top it, but I think the vocals on this particular version are very memorable in their own way. Jason Martin and his clan are a very talented bunch....I always appreciate what they put out.

16. Elephant Micha-Jesus Christ

This is an oft covered version of this song, and I was torn between a few for this compilation. I finally settled on this one because I really preferred the arrangement to other versions I have heard. It was purely a personal preference. This comes from the compilation A Very Standard Christmas. (Which was one of my favorite comps I picked up in 2007.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Remembering Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston (born John Charles Carter; October 4, 1923April 5, 2008)

And what better way to honor him than with a Christmas song?

Catscan-Christmas on the Planet of the Apes

RIP, Mr. Heston.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Deep, Crisp and Even part one

I don’t think anybody who has been checking up on this blog would be too shocked to learn that I am not particularly drawn to collections of Christmas music that has a long list of all too familiar titles on the back cover. Unless I am already familiar with the artist, or perhaps the compilation is coming from a record label that has a reputation for mining the deep caves for jewels, when I am looking for interesting Christmas music to add to my collection, the more familiar it looks to me, the more likely I am to pass it up.

Granted, that probably means I have missed some really incredible versions of “Winter Wonderland,” “Silver Bells,” “Silent Night” and so many others along the way. So be it. Limited $$$$ means I have to be quite choosy, and the vast majority of Christmas albumbs I pick up are blind purchases. I don’t have time or money or even the storage space to be fooling around with just any compilation that has cover versions.

Another thing about cover versions is I often have my standard favorite with just about any given song out there. It’s hard for me to warm up to another version of “Holly Jolly Christmas,” for example, when I feel that Burl Ives nailed it already. Most cover versions are pale versions of songs people did better long ago, and I find the whole concept of somebody giving a half-rearended effort to a Christmas standard to be a complete turn off.

So when I come across a cover version that really stands out to me, I sit up and take notice. And I’ve failed to share a lot of those cover versions with you through the course of this blog so far because I’ve been busy focusing on mainly original Christmas music that I have found interesting. But there are good cover versions, and over the course of this coming month I am making this “Cover Versions Month” at the Twelve Months of Christmas.

I have compiled my favorites into one collection that I’ve titled “Deep, Crisp and Even.” The name of the compilation comes from a cover version of Good King Wenceslas that is included in this collection (those words are part of the lyrics.) (Which reminds me…there’s not nearly enough songs out there about the Feast of Stephen!) 32 tracks in all, and I am going to share 8 each week this month. By the end of it, I will included full cover art, disc art, and tray card art so you can print your own CD case if you’d like and the collection will be complete.

So onto the first eight tracks…

01-Ich Bin Chimp-Mary's Boy Child

To me, there has never been a better version than that by Boney M. It may be a radio standard, over played at the holidays and heard just about anywhere you go. But there’s something about that song that just is so perfect…like the stars aligned when Boney M recorded their version of that song. Every other cover version has failed to really come close to Boney M’s version. They try, they get close, but fall short. Ich Bin Chimp doesn’t try to sound like Boney M’s version, which is why I guess is why I love this version so much that I chose to kick off my collection with it. Ich Bin Chimp totally makes this version their own and brings it up to a new standard. This comes from the online compilation, “`Tis the Season to be Filthy.”

02-Tom Tom Club-Il Est NĂ© (trad.)

I have to admit I never heard this song before I purchased Tom Tom Club’s CD “Mistletunes.” But this is a traditional French Christmas carol, so I am sure others have performed this song in the past. And while this may be my first exposure to the song, I am betting money that it’s better than most of the versions that came before it.

As an added bonus, I did find a slightly older version of this song that’s not part of my compilation, but a great thing to share nonetheless…it’s the song performed by Siouxie and the Banshees. A solidly great version as well…

03-Casiotone for the Painfully Alone-Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone first came to my attention through their My Space page and it came apparent to me they were friends to some great Christmas music. This is perhaps the only cover version I’ve found by them, and it’s pretty well done.

04-Morgan Fisher-Good King Wenceslas

This is the song I take the title of my compilation from. Good King Wenceslas has never been much of a real favorite of mine. It’s been more of a curiosity…Why do we only have one song about the Feast of Stephen when it’s a Christmas tradition for many? I’ve heard capable and acceptable versions in the past, but this one really takes it to a whole new level.

I came across Morgan Fisher completely by chance. For a while now I have owned Pillows and Prayers, a collection of punk rock singles put out by Cherry Red Records from 1981-1984. While it does not have any Christmas songs on the compilation, it did strike me that Cherry Red Records must have put out some Christmas songs in its time on this planet. So a Google search away was Claws, by Morgan Fisher. Apparently, this was released on Cherry Red Records sometime back in the day, and I tracked down a copy on CD put out by Blueprint records in 1997. Great, great stuff. It’s a collection that I would never have found normally because it doesn’t have Christmas anywhere in the title or in anything you’d really search for online.

05-Abbey Garage-In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter has long been a Christmas standard with…well, pretty much standard cover versions. This comes from a compilation I just tracked down this year: Get thee Behind Me, Santa. It’s hard to find, but well worth the effort. I am sure I will share more from this compilation later on.

06-Infant-Goodnight, We 3 Kings

Another selection from Get thee Behind Me, Santa.

07-Thunderbirds are Now-Winter Wonderland

I wish I could say where I found this, but I don’t recall. Online somewhere, that much I know. We are all familiar with the traditional version we hear on the radio at Christmas time, and that version is great. It became a classic for a reason. But Thunderbirds are Now make this song their own with this version.

08-Hugh Downs-I Wonder As I Wander

Yes, this is 20/20’s Hugh Downs. I Wonder As I Wander is a typically slow and plaintive song, and this really is no exception. In fact, it’s about as a traditional version as you’re probably going to find, and you may wonder why I included it here. Simply enough, because I like it; it’s beautiful in its stark simplicity and trumps any other version I’ve heard. This comes from Nick At Nite’s compilation, A TV Christmas Dinner.

More to come….