Recommended blogs

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A kind of seasonal playlist

Songs that, for me, conjure up Christmas, past and present. That’s Christmas, not Kissmass, Christingle, or Xmas. Not John Lewis, not the worship of babies or the family, but the festival that’s been marked in Britain ever since the 4th century when a pagan winter nosh-up and piss-up was superseded by a, well, pagan winter nosh-up and piss-up, coupled, in the last half century or so, with a commercial orgy.

Anyway, back to the music.

Every Grain of Sand - Bob Dylan (This is a good version but the original from 'Shot of Love' is by far the best)
Driving Home for Christmas – Chris Rea
A Soapbox Opera – Supertramp 
In the Ether – The Who (No online versions available; original is on 'Endless Wire')

I don’t know why I feel the need to list or write about this stuff. The reasons for my affection for these are intensely personal and therefore often hard to explain. I mean, Chris Rea? There’s a very Christian line in it that I find moving. ‘In The Ether’ has an extraordinary vocal (not by the Who’s lead singer). It's not an obviously Christian song, but it has emotional vulnerability and a strong sense of abandonment that recalls a certain story involving human frailty. ‘Every Grain of Sand’ is one of the greatest hymns ever written.

Mavis gets in twice with two overtly religious numbers; one is Gospel, the other is gospel truth. ‘A Soapbox Opera’ is by Supertramp's Roger Hodgson, who, like me, wanted gospel truths not Christian convenience. (Only Hodgson's live solo versions are available online; they seem clinical, cynical, less than emotional, by comparison to the Supertramp original on 'Crisis? What Crisis?').

Judy Garland has long been part of my Christmas consciousness because ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was first shown on British TV on Christmas Day circa 1974 when I was only 10. This phenomenal live version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from a famous 1961 concert isn’t about looking for Oz either, just peace. That is supposedly the heart of the Christmas message, and it’s a connection that Laura Nyro sings of her struggle to find. 

The version of ‘Both Sides Now’ Joni Mitchell recorded when she was much older makes much more emotional sense in its sad meditation on love than her youthful original (For better or worse it was used, poignantly, in a Christmas-related film too).

Curtis Mayfield so desperately wanted to communicate about those for whom a new world order is sorely needed that he recorded it one line at a time whilst lying in dire pain on the floor of the studio after a totally disabling accident a decade earlier. 

Any version of ‘One World’ by John Martyn is wonderful. However on this particular version his call for mutual help in a 'cold and lonely world' is performed with such power, beauty and, at times, pleading that it’s arguably the greatest love song of all time.

1 comment:

Neil Partrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.