14 December: The London Sound 70 Orchestra And Chorus: Deck The Hall

Published December 14, 2012

Sometimes I think the late Sixties and early Seventies must be the best era in popular music. On average, I mean. I can't think of a genre that wasn't good or excellent at the time: pop was good, rock was good, bubblegum was good, soul music was good...and so on.

And easy listening was good too. A case in point would be this version of the traditional Christmas carol 'Deck The Hall', as performed by The London 70 Orchestra and Chorus. Released in November 1970, it attempts to straddle the gulf between then-modern pop and the "familiar hits played in easy listening versions by a full orchestra and an anonymous choir" style. It starts out quite traditional, then around 0:25 goes into semi-funk mode, then around 01:00 enters a kind of 'Good Vibrations' style interlude phase, and finally just goes overboard with it all in a most fabulous way. It's all quite mad and quite fantastic at the same time.

Click here to listen to 'Deck The Hall'.

13 December: Jackie DeShannon: Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?

Published December 13, 2012

Children's voices on pop records - always a tricky subject. Here's an example where I personally wish there was some way I could remove them.

Originally from the James Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service, 'Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?' was a John Barry/Hal David composition recorded by Jackie DeShannon in 1969. It's a lovely recording in every respect - the song itself, the arrangement, the production, DeShannons lead vocals - except for the children's choir that warbles itself through the choruses. Bad choice. I can't help wondering if this is why this recording failed to become a hit at the time, and doesn't seem to have become a Christmas classic after the fact either. You be the judge.

Listen to the song here.

12 December: Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm: Snow Flake

Published December 12, 2012

It's amazing to think that there was a time when children's music was allowed to be this...well, druggy. Flintstones characters Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm released their very own Christmas album in 1965, from which the very cool 'Snow Flake' has been taken. The rest of the album offers quite a traditional selection of holiday season chestnuts, but, presumably as a nod to the contemporary pop music their young audience would have been into, the album closes with this electric guitar-driven, trippy tune.

Listen to it here.

11 December: Paul Revere & The Raiders: Rain, Sleet, Snow

Published December 11, 2012

Be like Paul Revere & The Raiders and spare a thought for the postman who braves all kinds of weather to bring us our Christmas cards. This very grooovy track was originally released in 1967.

Listen to it here.

10 December: The Trapp Family Singers: Nu är det jul igen

Published December 10, 2012

We haven't had much Swedish christmas music in the Advent Calendar so far, but that is about to change right now as the von Trapp family tackles 'Nu är det jul igen' ("Now It's Christmas Again"). No, not the ersatz posse led by Julie Andrews in the movie version of The Sound Of Music, but the REAL von Trapps. And despite being Austrian, they're singing in Swedish. Doing quite well with the pronunciation as well, I might add, although some of the lyrics are unfamiliar to me. Maybe the song was still sung like that in the early Fifties, when this recording was made.

Listen to it here.

09 December: The Free Design: Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas)

Published December 09, 2012

The wonderful American group The Free Design consisted of siblings from the Dedrick family. The leader and main song writer - and, indeed, the writer of this Christmas song - was Chris Dedrick, who sadly died in 2010. Although the band never experienced much commercial success, the recordings from their heyday in the period 1967-1972 are not to be missed if you like classic soft-pop with great harmony singing.

'Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas)' was the A-side of a Christmas single released in 1968 and it's quite lovely. Listen to it here.

08 December: Siouxsie & The Banshees: Il est né le divin enfant

Published December 08, 2012

After being very much stuck in the Fifties and Sixties for the first seven songs in the Advent Calendar, let's venture into Modern Times, i.e. the Eighties. Siouxsie & The Banshees' version of the traditional French Christmas carol 'Il est né le divin enfant' was originally released as a double A-side together with 'Melt!' in November 1982. However, the single wasn't very successful so I don't think 'Il est né le divin enfant' made much of an impact at the time, and it wasn't until the band released a B-sides collection in 2004 that the track appeared on CD.

I've always liked it, though, so here it is.


06 December: The Beatles: Christmas Time (Is Here Again) + 07 December: Unknown Child Of Asian Origin: Silent Night

Published December 07, 2012

So, yesterday was a very busy day at CMP headquarters and before I knew it I had to dash off to attend Pet Sounds' Music Quiz here in Stockholm (we finished third), which meant that I never had the time to post an advent calendar song for December 6. I ought to be ashamed of myself!

To compensate, here are the songs for yesterday and today - both on the same day! Yesterday's contribution is my own edit (or early fade, really) of The Beatles' Christmas Time (Is Here Again). Recorded in 1967 for the annual Christmas record sent out to their British fan club members, it was only released in its unedited version as an extra track on the Free As A Bird CD single in 1995. Paul, John and George all take turns singing the same lines solo in the recording, but since Paul is the only one singing with any conviction whatsoever, I decided to fade the song after his contribution. The three-part harmonies are as great as always, however.

Today's song is a version of Silent Night by an unknown child who seems to have recorded a number of Christmas songs in her native tongue. All I can make out is that it's an Asian language. If there's anyone out there who knows what language it is, I'd really like to know. The person who posted this at a Christmas blog believes it may be Japanese. I, for some reason, have the theory that it's Korean. So does anyone out there know?

Anyway, it's one of those recordings that has to be heard to believed. The girl sings with what can only be described as strong discipline. And my favourite bit is when she recites a bit of the English lyrics. Not to be missed!

Listen to The Beatles here.

Listen to Silent Night here.

05 December: Chris & Peter Allen: Ten Below

Published December 05, 2012

Today Stockholm has been wrapped up in what the media like to refer to as "snow chaos". It's been snowing constantly all day, and in combination with low temperatures and strong winds, well, it tends to affect the infrastructure. No buses are running, the subway has major problems, and only the odd commuter train is taking people to where they need to go. Most flights from Arlanda airport have been cancelled. And so on.

Being a freelancer who works from home, fortunately I've been able to just stay indoors and sit it all out, as it were. But what song could be more suitable for today's Advent Calendar tune than the lovely sunshine pop track 'Ten Below' by Chris & Peter Allen (yes, that Peter Allen). Enjoy it here.

04 December: Lenny Dee: Sleigh Ride

Published December 04, 2012

I owe a great debt to various Christmas music blogs that specialise in ripping and uploading long-out-of-print vinyl of the fairly obscure variety. I found this particular track - organist and Easy Listening legend Lenny Dee's take on perennial favourite 'Sleigh Ride' - on one such blog. It comes from his 1961 album Happy Holi-Dee (geddit?). What could I possibly add except that this has to be heard to be believed.

Listen to it here.