2012 Christmas music bulletin

Continuing a recent tradition on this blog, I bring readers up to date on developments in my collection of Christmas music (much of which is decidedly odd). The 2010 bulletin is here, the 2011 one here. What’s new this year: the hyperkinetic Clubbing Christmas 2008, found by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky — a mixture of “Christmas songs”, broadly understood (“Feliz Navidad”, “Jingle Bells”, “White Christmas”; somehow, “Amazing Grace” and “Kumbaya” got in there) and traditional German holiday songs (“Von Himmel hoch”, “Ihr Kinderlein kommet”, usw.) The former items are relentlessly discofied, the latter ones arranged to alternate between more straightforward and heavy disco versions. I’d recommend against listening to more than a few tracks at a time, unless you have the right drugs for the occasion.

The album, a German production featuring various artists, has 31 tracks, listed at the end of this posting. But what is “club music”, you ask. The Wikipedia entry on electronic dance music wrestles with the question and pretty much obscures things:

club music, while broadly referring to whichever music genres are currently in vogue and associated with nightclubs, has become synonymous with all electronic dance music, or just those genres — or some subset thereof — that are typically played at mainstream discothèques … club music is ultimately based on what’s popular, whereas electronic dance music is based on attributes of the music itself.

It’s got a very heavy, insistent beat, at about twice the normal human heart rate. It is not restful music.

Otherwise, the Christmas music activity at my house has been focused on two albums that I very much admire, which I played yesterday to celebrate a day of achievements on the recuperation-from-surgery front.

The two albums are wonderful compilations of varied music, sung in each case by a collection of performers: The Bells of Dublin (1991), in which the Chieftains are joined by an amazing collection of artists, among them Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Marianne Faithfull, Nanci Griffith, Rickie Lee Jones and the actor Burgess Meredith (link); and The McGarrigle Christmas Hour (2005):

The McGarrigle Christmas Hour is a 2005 album by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. A sequel to their 1998 album The McGarrigle Hour, the album features a program of Christmas music recorded by the McGarrigles, their family and a number of friends and collaborators. … Performers on the album include Kate’s son and daughter Rufus and Martha, Anna’s husband Dane Lanken and their children Lily and Sylvan, and Kate and Anna’s sister Jane, as well as Emmylou Harris, Chaim Tannenbaum, Pierre Marchand, Joel Zifkin, Brad Albetta, Teddy Thompson and Beth Orton. (link)

Both albums have tracks artfully ordered to vary in tone. The McGarrigles’ album has a touching performance of:

“The Seven Joys of Mary” (Roud # 278) is a traditional carol about Mary’s happiness at moments in the life of Jesus, probably inspired by the trope of the Seven Joys of the Virgin in the devotional literature and art of Medieval Europe. Though not traditionally associated with Christmas, it has become so in the modern era.

I also have this in a recording by Maddy Prior and June Tabor.) And both have Jackson Browne’s The Rebel Jesus (which I also have on Browne’s 1997 album The Next Voice You Hear). The 1997 version:

On this song as a connection between the two albums, here’s John Nichols on 11/27/05 in The Nation:

Canadian singers Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s fine new holiday CD, The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, features a stirring rendition of … Jackson Browne’s “The Rebel Jesus.”

Originally recorded by Browne for the brilliant 1991 Chieftains holiday collaboration, The Bells of Dublin, “The Rebel Jesus” has taken on a life of its own. Along the way, it has become the most welcome antidote to the deadening dose of commercialism that Americans imbibe each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I quote the words in full here to illustrate the effect of Browne’s rising passion as the song goes on:

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks of God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Will they call him by the “Prince Of Peace”
And they call him by “The Saviour”
And they pray to him upon the sea
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber’s den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgement
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus

Quite in line with Browne’s fierce activism on behalf of many causes.

So these two albums were a gift to myself in the middle of a wonderful day (clear, crisp, not raining), on which I got to walk on my own (with my walker, and with Ned Deily accompanying me to give me support if necessary) to Gordon Biersch for lunch and then later was driven to Three Seasons for dinner. My first day out since my hip replacement. All very satisfying.

Appendix: tracks for CLUBBING CHRISTMAS 2008

1 Last Christmas (Groove Mix) – Caramelle

2 Amazing Grace (RnB Version) – Caramelle

3 Feliz Navidad (Dance Version) – Jason McKnight & Secret Layor

4 Little Star (Cascada Radio Edit) – Lazard

5 Jingle Bells – Micro X-Mas

6 Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer (2008 Club Version) – Less Affair

7 Go Tell It to the Mountain – Frozen Snowman

8 White Christmas – Groovestylerz

9 Wish You a Merry X-Mas – Roasted Turkey

10 Kumba Ya My Lord (Radio Version) -Yule

11 Silent Night (Radio Version) – Cinnamon

12 Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (2008 Club Edit) – Micro X-Mas

13 Auld Lang Syne (Radio Version) – Pathfinder

14 Little Drummer Boy – C.R.U.

15 Burning Lamp (2008 Radio Version) – Treysa

16 Oh Tannenbaum (Dance Version) – Frosty MC

17 Leise rieselt der Schnee – Villa & Vince

18 Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her (feat. Malaika) – Angelvoice

19 Still, still, wenn’s Kindlein schlafen will – 2 Chains

20 Kling Glöckchen kling – DJ Navidad

21 Lasst uns froh und munter sein – X-Mas Kingz

22 Kommet ihr Hirten – Cinnamon

23 Oh du fröhliche – Idela’s Dream

24 Alle Jahre wieder – Frosty MC

25 Süßer die Glocken nie klingen – Treysa

26 Ihr Kinderlein kommet – X-Mas Kingz

27 Es ist ein Ros entsprungen – X-Bass

28 Amazing Grace (Party Version) – Yule

29 Kling Glöckchen kling (Club Version) – X-Mas Kingz

30 Little Star (Unplugged Christmas Version) – Lazard

31 Last Christmas (Silent Radio Version) – Caramelle

One Response to “2012 Christmas music bulletin”

  1. Ellen Seebacher Says:

    Oh, that Browne song is worthwhile!

    (Browne’s album _Lives in the Balance_ is the first I ever bought myself in college, on the strength of the title track.)

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