Archive for December 2017

Happy New Year

December 31, 2017

Thanks to all of the people following this blog. I appreciate the feedback and look forward to see what comes in 2018.

Normally I put this blog to rest until July. Then I peek at what is supposed to be released for the upcoming holiday season, bookmark a few interesting things and start assembling December’s posts in November. Basically the site stays dormant until Thanksgiving. However, leaving the facebook page dormant all of that time makes the folks at facebook think I have left the site to die. Consequently, it stops getting any attention in search engines.
So in 2018 to keep the facebook page alive, I will post on occasion.

Tonight I’m featuring violinist and songwriter, Andrew Bird.

Bird was born in Illinois, attended Lake Forest High School and Northwestern University. As a child he was trained with the Suzuki Method at the age of four. He was a member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, wrote the music for The Muppets skit, The Whistling Caruso and theme for the TV program, Baskets.

In 2012 Starbucks released Holidays Rule, a compilation record featuring 17 artists covering mostly Christmas tunes. And one New Year’s Eve song, Andrew Bird’s version of Auld Lang Syne. had this to say:

“Andrew Bird’s bouncy, happy-go-lucky version of “Auld Lang Syne” unsurprisingly closes out the new “Holidays Rule” compilation, and the indie-folk star says it was curiosity that drove him to pick the New Year’s Eve staple.

“I’ve been determined for years to learn all the verses of this Scottish classic,” he tells Billboard. “It’s almost in the category of ‘happy birthday’ in that it’s second nature in our society to sing this song at a particular moment yet we have only a vague notion of what it’s about. ‘A right guid willie-waught’?’ Begging the question: what is a ‘willie-waught”?”

[The line roughly means to have a goodwill or friendly drink.]

Bird’s warm reading of the traditional song (set to a Robert Burns poem) is punctuated by his bright, jazz violin solos plus the strum of a mandolin and thoughtful background vocals.”

That’s a wrap for Tom’s Christmas Music Blog for 2017.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope your 2018 is fantastic.


Andrew Bird – Auld Lang Syne


I Will Not Feature Baby It’s Cold Outside (Even Though It Is)

December 30, 2017

It’s been frigid for several days in Wisconsin and it is forecast to stay that way for some time. Strangely, it happens every year (but really, it’s zero-ish and getting colder). I thought maybe I’d try to find a fine rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside, but I just can’t.

Instead, I’ll feature a couple winter themed songs, January Hymn from The Decemberists and Winter Song from the English band, Lindisfarne.

The writers of each song know winter well.

In their review of the album The King Is Dead, said this of January Hymn, [it is] a wonderfully simple and poignant vignette, [that] mixes wistful winter imagery with the melancholic memory of a lost love and magically captures the loneliness and solitude of a winter day.” The song was written by The Decemberists’ frontman, Colin Meloy.

“What were the words I meant to say
Before you left
When I could see your breath lead
Where you were going to”

If you’re a stranger to the bitterly cold, your breath appears like a smoke bomb when the temps get this low.

Lindisfarne is a British folk band formed in the late 60’s. Their first album, Nicely Out of Tune, featured Winter Song. Alan Hull wrote:

“When Winter’s shadowy fingers
first pursue you down the street
And your boots no longer lie
about the cold around your feet”

As kids we’d run around in winter with tennis shoes on our feet. It did not take long for those shoes to stop lying about the cold around our feet.

Lindisfarne broke up in the 70’s and consequently do not have either a website or a facebook page (not even a fan page).
However, their music is readily available and very good. I’ve been listening to them for decades.


The Decemberists – January Hymn

Lindisfarne – Winter Song

Elvis Costello – Winter Song

The History of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”

December 29, 2017

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Darlene Love said “it took three Jews [Phil Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich] to write the greatest Christmas song of all-time.” The song of which she speaks is Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

The song was written by the songwriting team of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry (with partial credit to Phil Spector). Greenwich and Barry were part of the many soon to be well-known songwriters, music publishers and producers working at the Brill Building in Manhattan in the 50’s and 60’s. Among them were Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (Kansas City, Hound Dog, Stand By Me), Burt Bacharach and Hal David (Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, This Guys In Love With You, What The World Needs Now Is Love) and Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Up On The Roof, Loco-Motion).

Among the dozens of hit songs Greenwich and Barry wrote were

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was included on the 1963 Phil Spector compilation album, A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records (later changed to A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector). Other than Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), the album listed twelve traditional songs by the stable of artists on Philles Records all getting the famous Phil Spector Wall of Sound treatment.

Some interesting facts about Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

  • The album was released on November 22nd of 1963 – the same day President Kennedy was assassinated, and consequently flopped. Spector blamed the events of the day for the record’s failure.
  • The Beatles’ first US album, With The Beatles, was released the same day.
  • Leon Russell as part of The Wrecking Crew played piano on the song and according to Love, Spector was so thrilled by how Leon played that he “leaped out of the control room and handed the stunned Russell a check for $100 on the spot.”
  • Cher is a background vocalist on the original. Her then husband Sonny played percussion.
  • The song was intended to be sung by Ronnie Spector but her husband and producer Phil decided she did not have the pipes and picked Darlene Love instead.
  • Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was released as a single in both 1963 and 1964 — it did not chart either year.
  • In 1968, the four members of the Beatles started their own record label, Apple Records. In 1972, Apple Records reissued the record titled, Phil Spector’s Christmas Album. This time around, it charted.
  • A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector is listed at #142 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top 500 greatest albums of all time.
  • In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine listed Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) the #1 all-time greatest Rock and Roll Christmas songs. “It’s been covered by everybody from U2 to Leighton Meester, but nobody can match Love’s emotion and sheer vocal power.”
  • Phil Spector thought the song had so much power and potential, he recorded a different, non-seasonal version titled, Johnny (Baby Please Come Home).
  • David Letterman first had Darlene Love sing the song in his program in 1986 and had her back every year through 2014, the final Christmas program Letterman aired. The one exception was 2007 when there was a writer’s strike. They replayed the 2006 rendition instead.

Tonight’s post all started when I found a very good rendition of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by a Nashville bluegrass band called The Barefoot Movement. It’s an outstanding version of the song (and it’ll be featured tonight). And since I featured Jars of Clay covering it back on December 17th, I figured I’d write a post about the song’s history.

In addition to The Barefoot Movement, I’ll feature the original, the alternate, Johnny (Baby Please Come Home) version and three from the David Letterman Show, the first time Love appeared singing the song in 1986, the finale in 2014 and a version form 2000 featuring the US Air Force Singing Sergeants

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – The Original


Johnny (Baby Please Come Home)

The Barefoot Movement – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

First Letterman Appearance 1986

Final Letterman Appearance 2014

Letterman Show w/ Us Air Force Singing Sergeants (2000 – Broadcast live to US troops in Bosnia)

A Glen Campbell Christmas

December 28, 2017

Glen Campbell was an amazing talent having played with great like Elvis, Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson and The Mamas and the Papas to name just a few. He played on the Beach Boys famous Pet Sounds album and toured as the band’s guitarist. Campbell was a big part of The Wrecking Crew, a team of session musicians who appear on almost every hit song in the 60’s. (If you ever want to see a great behind the scenes look at the early days of pop and rock music, check out the documentary, The Wrecking Crew.)

Campbell struggled with Alzheimer’s for nearly a decade before succumbing to the disease August 8th of this year.

As do many popular recording artists, Campbell released quite a bit of Christmas material.  His first Christmas record, That Christmas Feeling was released in December of 1968 and was Billboard’s #1 Christmas release that year. It was released in 1969 and went to #4, again in 1970 where it topped out at #24 and yet again in 1971 where it was the #14 Christmas release.  Pretty impressive.

Campbell’s Home For The Holidays was released in 1993 and was his 53rd record.
1995 – Christmas With Glen Campbell – his 55th album.
1998 A Glen Campbell Christmas, his 56th album won the Dove Award for Best Country Album of 1999
Then through the years the music appearing on all of these records has been repackaged several times on several different labels.

In addition to all of his recordings, Campbell was a TV star and either appeared on or hosted several Christmas programs including a TNN special with his then wife, Tanya Tucker, A Country Christmas in 1998 and several Christmas songs on his Goodtime Hour.
Tonight I’m going to feature his cover of Roger Miller’s Little Toy Trains (from That Christmas Feeling) and then his duet with Tucker from the 1980 CBS Special, A Country Christmas (hosted by Minnie Pearl).

Glen Campbell – Little Toy Trains

Glen Campbell & Tanya Tucker – It Must’ve Been The Mistletoe

A Starbucks Ad Featuring Matt Pond PA

December 27, 2017

Matt Pond PA is a band from Pennsylvania led by Matt Pond (clever). Pond formed the band back in 1998 – they’ve changed members frequently but have released 13 records since. In 2005 the band released Winter Songs and I’m featuring the song, Snow Day from it tonight. Ten years after its release, the song was featured in a Starbucks ad. I’m guessing that made them more money that they had previously ever seen.

The band writes catchy, poppy tunes and they’re very good (good enough to get featured in a worldwide ad campaign).

Matt Pond PA – Snow Day

Starbucks Ad


December 26th

December 26, 2017

I find it sad that Christmas season now wraps up at midnight Christmas Day. I suppose it happens this way because it starts in October and everyone had simply had enough.

I’ve mentioned this before but since there are new people reading this blog, my first professional radio gig was with WSQR in Sycamore, IL. The way we worked Christmas music was
one song per hour in the first week of december
2 per hour in the second week
3 per in week three
and then all Christmas music the week prior.
Then, from the 26th through the 31st, we’d taper off.
A nice easy transition back to normal.
So I’ll continue to post through the end of the year.

Also, I know some people get the post-Christmas blues. On the day after Christmas I tend to favor music that has more of a melancholy approach.
I’ve featured such happy tunes as
My Troubles from Andrew Greer
Don’t Wanna Let Christmas Go from Gabe Dixon (Dixon plays piano in Paul McCartney’s band)
All I Ever Get For Christmas is Blue from Over The Rhine
And Farewell Jingle Bells from Dave Brubeck

I’ll continue the parade with two similarly upbeat numbers (note the sarcasm)
Cold White Christmas from Casiotone For The Painfully Alone and Holiday from Angel Snow.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone is the name of a solo-music project/band formed by musician Owen Ashworth. He released five records over 13 years and then retired the project and started another, similar project call Advance Base. Ashworth’s music has a similar feel to that of Sufjan Stevens but perhaps a bit less produced.


Her name is Angel Snow and the song is Holiday. Searching for her gives even Google fits. She is a singer/songwriter from Nashville who actually released a Christmas EP this year. It’s mostly covers of old standards with one original. Holiday is from her first album, Fortune Tellers. It’s a song about a bad relationship and the holidays. What more could you want in a depressing song.


Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – Cold White Christmas

Angel Snow – Holiday

Rejoice! It’s Christmas Day

December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas from Tom’s Christmas Music Blog and from The Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Official Website

Dallas Symphony Orchestra – Christmas Day H. 109

Dallas Symphony Orchestra – Christmas Toons

Pax Hominibus Bonae Voluntatis – Noel: Christmas Eve 1913

December 24, 2017

On a long drive home from far western Iowa (four miles from South Dakota) I was listening to the St. Olaf Choir on some Minnesota Public Radio station. I asked Siri if she could name the tune they were singing, and she did!

It was Noel: Christmas Eve 1913. I thought, “hey, that’s a John Denver tune”. Lo and behold, it’s a Robert Bridges poem that the Director Emeritus of St. Olaf’s Choir, Kenneth Jennings put to music years ago (AND it’s a John Denver tune). There isn’t a video of the choir singing this interpretation but I found a site with a player and I’ll link to it in the usual spot below. More on John Denver below as well.

St. Olaf Choir
St. Olaf Bookstore

(Please note Noel: Christmas Eve 1913 by the St. Olaf Choir is only available via the St. Olaf Choir bookstore. The other links above will send you to Christmas music from the choir.)

Composer and orchestrator, Lee Holdridge adapted the Bridges poem and set it to music for John Denver as part of the 1979 ABC TV special, John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. I don’tknow when Jennings wrote his version for choir so no idea who came first. They are related only in they are interpretations of the same poem.

I like them both.

Here is the original Bridges poem:

Noel: Christmas Eve 1913

Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis 

A frosty Christmas Eve
when the stars were shining
Fared I forth alone
where westward falls the hill,
And from many a village
in the water’d valley
Distant music reach’d me
peals of bells aringing:
The constellated sounds
ran sprinkling on earth’s floor
As the dark vault above
with stars was spangled o’er.
Then sped my thoughts to keep
that first Christmas of all
When the shepherds watching
by their folds ere the dawn
Heard music in the fields
and marveling could not tell
Whether it were angels
or the bright stars singing.

Now blessed be the tow’rs
that crown England so fair
That stand up strong in prayer
unto God for our souls
Blessed be their founders
(said I) an’ our country folk
Who are ringing for Christ
in the belfries to-night
With arms lifted to clutch
the rattling ropes that race
Into the dark above
and the mad romping din.

But to me heard afar
it was starry music
Angels’ song, comforting
as the comfort of Christ
When he spake tenderly
to his sorrowful flock:
The old words came to me
by the riches of time
Mellow’d and transfigured
as I stood on the hill
Heark’ning in the aspect
of th’ eternal silence.

Robert Seymour Bridges
(If the link above does not open, try here.)
 John Denver – Noel: Christmas Eve 1913


Traveling Day (Three Songs Tonight)

December 23, 2017

A few years ago I discovered that December 23rd is the busiest traveling day of the Christmas season. On this day I try to find songs about people coming home or missing those that aren’t. I’m featuring two that fit both categories nicely. And one that is close.

First up is a beautiful tune from Caroline Pennel. If you’re a follower of the TV program, The Voice, you might recognize Pennel as a contestant from season five of the show. Her song tonight is titled This Year and also features vocals from the very talented Aaron Espe who I presented on December 9th of last year.

This Year
“This year I´m coming home instead of staying wishing I was there
This year I´m gonna be there for all”

Next up is I’m Coming Home from Robert Shirey Kelly, a Nashville based singer/songwriter (I’d write more about him but his ‘about’ pages on his website and his facebook page share very little information). The song is excellent nonetheless.

I’m Coming Home
“I guess you could say that I’ve been waiting
Since around the 26th of last December
I’ll be home by Christmas Eve”

Last year was the first Christmas my wife and I spent as empty-nesters. Consequently, I expanded the traveling day theme to include melancholy songs about parents missing their kids. The final song tonight is a cover of Toyland from the band SHEL. If you’re just considering the lyrics of Toyland, then it fits neither category. The accompanying video from SHEL however features a young lady who discovers someone’s long forgotten stuffed toy and then seeks out its owner. Lovely cover and very sweet video.

SHEL by the way is a folk quartet from Fort Collins, CO featuring the sisters Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza. They write, direct and shoot all of their own videos (which is a feat). In 2015 their song, Exactly What You Wish For was featured in a Toys r Us ad. Watch it here (tearjerker alert).


Caroline Pennell – This Year (featuring Aaron Espe)

Robert Shirey Kelly – I’m Coming Home

SHEL – Toyland

Garrett Viggers and Thin Places

December 22, 2017

Part of the fun of writing this blog is discovering artists whose music blows me away. Paul Kelly yesterday was one. The guy I’m featuring tonight is another.

Garrett Viggers is a very talented musician, singer/songwriter. Several years ago he picked up a hammered dulcimer, fell in love with the music it created and “sought to connect those ancient sounds into the modern world of music.” Viggers has been a worship pastor, played small solo dulcimer gigs and huge productions with his band, A Thin Places Band.

He has also performed in studio and live gigs with Third Day, Brandon Heath, Randy Stonehill, Jeremy Riddle, Bethel Music, Jim Brickman and several others.  Pretty impressive list. Oh and the guy playing the hammered dulcimer parts in the movie Ragamuffin The True Story of Rich Mullins? Yep. That’s Garrett Viggers.

It was back in 2010 or so when Viggers formed A Thin Places Band. (The term “thin places” is an ancient Celtic term that was later used by Celtic Christians to describe the veil between this world and the eternal world as being “tissue thin.” If one felt the presence of God, they would say “this is a thin place.”) They have recorded two records, Thin Places and A Thin Places Christmas.

In 2012 Viggers and Thin Places performed a Christmas concert that is a stunningly powerful show. I’m going to feature two songs from this concert tonight, Our God Is Hungry and Shatter The Dreams of Darkness.

Our God Is Hungry.
I love everything about this song.
The message.
The arrangement.
The performances.
The title of the song is a biblical concept — and is literal: Mary & Joseph, your newborn son, God, is hungry. Feed him.

Our God Is Hungry

Virgin Mary
in your belly
was a wonder wrapped in flesh

oh the scandal, heaven’s gamble
born so lowly wordless world

Father Joseph
could’ve rose up
with stones to throw
at your girl

but an angel came to tell you
incarnation is knocking at your door

Jumpin’ Johnny
inside your mommy
baby prophet
speakin’ truth

have to mention her redemption
through your cousin
and your king

holy holy
our God is hungry

God is with us
dumping our weakness

Virgin Mary
Father Joseph
Jumpin’ Johnny
Our God is hungry

Such a great song.

Shatter The Dreams of Darkness

Shatter the Dreams of Darkness is about the hopes of the Jewish people who await the coming of their Messiah who will come and deliver his people from darkness and oppression.
An amazing message, song and performance.

Both of tonight’s featured songs are available as a free download from NoiseTrade (along with three other songs from the show). Go get it!

Facebook (site has not been updated in several years)

Garrett Viggers and A Thin Places Band – Our God Is Hungry

Garrett Viggers and A Thin Places Band – Shatter The Dreams Of Darkness

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