Tony Hadley – Former Lead Singer of Spandau Ballet

December 21, 2016

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that while researching music for this blog, there are always a few times where I’m blown away by a song. Tony Hadley’s cover of  Train’s, Shake Up Christmas is one of the four or five I discovered this year that indeed blow me away. Hadley is in fine form and it’s a great tune.

Hadley is the former lead singer of the 80’s band, Spandau Ballet (their biggest hit was True). The band broke up in 1989 and Hadley has been performing as a solo artist ever since (including playing Jesus for BBC 2 Radio’s Jesus Christ Superstar in 1996). And after a few attempts, Spandau Ballet has reformed – link below.

Last year Hadley released The Christmas Album and it’s actually quite good (although his version of Fairytale of New York is tamed down considerably). The record does face the same criticism I have of most new Christmas records in that it’s difficult to breathe new life into well worn holiday stand-bys. Hadley does cover of several modern day holiday hits very well including Keane’s Somewhere Only We Know,  and Chris Rea’s Drivin’ Home For Christmas. He also gives UK glam band Mud’s “Lonely For Christmas the respect it deserves instead of performing it as a novelty song (as Mud generally did). Hadley even does a lovely job with English boy band East 17’s Stay Another Day. In addition to all that, he includes three original tunes and covers Train’s Shake Up Christmas from their 2015 Christmas record. Not being a fan of Train, I didn’t give their Christmas release a listen — I have since and well, it’s still Train. However, Shake Up Christmas is a great song and Hadley nails it. I have no idea if this song gets radio airplay. It should.

Tony Hadley
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Purchase Hadley’s The Christmas Album
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Shake Up Christmas – Tony Hadley

Shane & Shane & Phil Wickham

December 20, 2016

Shane Barnard and Shane Everett are two friends from Texas who met while attending Texas A&M University and formed a band which eventually became, cleverly enough, Shane & Shane.

They built a studio and regularly collaborate with fellow musicians. For their most recent record, Bring Your Nothing, they invited several friends and recorded most of the record live and in seven days. Pretty cool.

In 2008, Shane & Shane released Glory In The Highest: A Christmas Record and then A Worship Christmas Initiative in 2014. They’re both pretty good but both were met with mixed reviews. Shane & Shane have a breezy, acoustic jazzy feel and both records reflect that style. You can check both out in the links below. I’m not featuring either but instead will focus on their work with another Christian artist.

Over the past few years the duo has teamed up with fellow Christian artist Phil Wickham for a Christmas tour (they’re on one of those tours right now). And tonight I’ll feature Shane & Shane and Phil performing O Holy Night and The First Noel.

More on Shane & Shane
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Purchase Glory In The Highest: A Christmas Record
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Purchase A Worship Christmas Initiative
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Phil Wickham
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PhilWickham.com 

The First Noel – Shane & Shane featuring Phil Wickham

O Holy Night – Shane & Shane featuring Phil Wickham

Snow – Sleeping At Last

December 19, 2016

I know several of you are big fans of Pentatonix’ Christmas music — that’s all good and fine. My beef with most of their facebook posts are the headlines, This Pentatonix Version of (insert song here) Will Make You Cry. It all gets a bit old after a while. What’s my point?

Well, the artist I’m featuring tonight (Sleeping At Last) has been featured in ads that actually WILL bring you to tears (see Lost Dog Budweiser ad below).And his songs are 10,000 times more original (and better).

Sleeping At Last is the moniker of Chicago based singer/songwriter, producer and director, Ryan O’Neal.
Similar to Aaron Espe (who I featured back on December 9), you  may not be familiar with O’Neal by name, but it’s very likely you’ve heard his music featured in movies, tv shows and commercials. From Jane the Virgin, to The Twilight Saga to Budweiser’s Lost Dog Super Bowl 2015 ad, the list of Sleeping At Last appearances is very long and very impressive.

Nearly every year, Sleeping At Last records a Christmas record and gives it away. Here’s what O’Neal has to say this year:

Merry Christmas!!! Each year around this time, I record a Christmas song and give it away for free. (My version of a Christmas card.) This tradition has accumulated into this full 16-song Christmas album, “Christmas Collection 2016

One of the main reasons behind this tradition (aside from wanting to thank you for supporting me!!) is to support charities I believe in. This year, 100% of “tips” given on NoiseTrade will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I humbly ask that you’ll consider giving to this important cause by leaving a “tip” here on Noisetrade. 100% of all tips received on this album will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

I’ll provide the link below — if you are so inclined, download his music and make a donation to a very worthy cause.

Tonight I’m featuring the absolutely lovely Sleeping At Last song titled, Snow.  O’Neal wrote the song in 2010 and it was his annual Christmas gift that year. You should have Snow in your annual Christmas playlist.

Get some tissues handy.

More on Sleeping At Last
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Download Sleeping At Last’s Christmas Collection 2016 – All Tips Given To This Project Go To St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
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Purchase Sleeping At Last
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Lost Dog Budweiser Super Bowl 2015 Ad Featuring Sleeping At Last

Snow – Sleeping At Last

Two Takes On “O Come O Come Emmanuel”

December 18, 2016

Two takes on O Come O Come Emmanuel tonight. One is a modern mostly acoustic take performed by the worship team at Cross Point Church (Kansas). Jason Waller is the Worship Pastor at Cross Point Salina and this recording is his arrangement. Waller has recorded a fair amount of very good Christian music — and through Christmas you can download all of it for free. FREE! Click here.

The other version is from The Robert Shaw Chamber Singers and is one of the most majestic versions of this song ever recorded (in my humble opinion).

O Come O Come Emmanuel – Cross Point

O Come O Come Emmanuel Robert Shaw Choral

A Few Takes On “A Fairytale of New York”

December 17, 2016

Tonight’s blog post started out a a simple acoustic take on the oft recorded Pogues tune, Fairytale of New York as performed by the great Irish folksinger, Christy Moore.

The goal of this blog as you know is to present Christmas tunes that are a bit more off the beaten path. Fairytale of New York does NOT fit that description.

This from The Telegraph

Polls about the song have been as plentiful as mince pies: it is the most-played Christmas song of the 21st century; the best to cook to; the best to drive to; the best to dance with your mother-in-law to (OK, I made up that one).  The polls are harmless and meaningless. Heinz Frozen UK announced in 2011 that the Pogues’ classic was the nations’ “favourite Christmas song to cook to”. Poor old Bing Crosby’s White Christmas song was past its sell-by-date, apparently.

More significantly, the 1987 song by the Pogues – once censored by the BBC for its raw language – was announced as the most-played Christmas song of the century by music licensing body PPL, leapfrogging Wham’s Last Christmas. Fairytale of New York certainly still sells in big numbers. It has been in the Christmas Top 20 over seven different years and was went back into the UK charts in 2014, thanks in part to support from streaming services.

My guess is you’ve all heard it – time and again. There is a story behind the song. It’s sweet and ultimately very sad. So much so, that on the 25th anniversary of the song’s release, the BBC produced a documentary about it.

If you like this song, it’s well worth investing an hour.

Fairytale of New York – Christy Moore

Fairytale of New York – The Pogues (the original version)

Fairytale of New York – The Story Behind The Pogues Christmas Classic – BBC Documentary

Nuclear Winter Wonderland & Frosty’s Death March

December 16, 2016

I think it’s just a coincidence that I’m doing back to back days of tunes in minor keys. When I scheduled Nuclear Winter Wonderland (Winter Wonderland in a minor key) I figured everyone might just need something completely different – and this fills the bill (and just happens to follow Frightened Rabbit)

The artist is Sean Wesche who by all accounts is a software engineer (his website is blank and his facebook pace doesn’t reveal much detail — as it should be). The record is Evil Christmas Carols and the titles alone should make you laugh

  • Sleigh Ride (Lovely Weather for Pedestrian Casualties)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (and Reaper of Souls)
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (to Kill You While You Sleep)
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas (Each More Horrifying Than the Last)

I think Wesch has a sense of humor. Oh, he’s a pretty good pianist to boot.

Since we’re in the spirit I’ll feature another fun little diddy, Zombie Christmas by Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler.

Enjoy.

Sean Wesche – Facebook
Purchase Evil Christmas Carols
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Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler
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Nuclear Winter Wonderland – Sean Wesche

Frosty’s Death March – Sean Wesche

Zombie – Christmas – Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler

Home For The Holidays – Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler

Not In The Vein Of Mitch Miller

December 15, 2016

It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop is probably the most cynical song I’ve ever posted. One reviewer calls the song a “classic” stating it “is one of restrained disillusionment and the sensual assault that is the excess of Christmas.” And that pretty much sums it up!  I’ll include the lyrics so you can follow along like an old Mitch Miller tune (only not as happy). I think it’s a great tune.

The band  is Frightened Rabbit. They hail from Glasgow, Scotland and have been recording music since 2003. It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop was released in 2007. There are two versions of this tune. I guess one is the regular version. The other is an orchestral take both below the lyrics.

More on Frightened Rabbit
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It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop – Lyrics

It’s Christmas so we’ll stop
It’s on with the lights to warm the dark
It can cloak elsewhere
As the rot stops for today
Let the rot stop just for one day
Only good red eyes, red suits, and faces will radiate
And the cold will hide its face
Now the cold is turned away
We can be best friends with the people we hate
‘Cause we’ve all got blood
And it’s warmer than you think
Yeah it is warm and it is thick
We all breathe out clouds
We’re built to give at least once each year
Now that’s better than never I guess
And life might never get better than this
With the perfect excuse for our natures to change
And wear shiny clothes
Oh it’s Christmas so press pause and we’ll go

Oh it’s Christmas so we’ll stop
‘Cause the wine on our breath puts the love in our tongues
So forget the names
I called you on Christmas Eve
In fact forget the entire year
Don’t reflect just pretend and you won’t feel scared
You won’t feel a thing
‘Cause it’s all been tucked away
And once you’re tucked in bed
You’ll hold on to the day for the last few seconds
Your gray dull face is protected from the wind
And I’ll protect you I promise I will
And the rest of our lives will be just like Christmas
With fewer toys
You’re a good girl I’m a good boy
So I thought

Oh it’s Christmas so we stopped
Were it not for the tick of the clock
And the spinning of the Earth in space
We could always be this way
And as we sleep at the fall of the day
In the room next door the tree lights brighten the rodents’ eyes
And catches a glimpse of the dust beginning to rise

The next day life went back to its bad self

It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop

It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop – Orchestral

Unto Us plus 2 from JJ Heller

December 14, 2016

Indie music and radio favorite JJ Heller released her first full length Christmas record in November this year. It’s titled Unto Us. (I featured a Heller Christmas single on December 16th last year.)

She and her husband hail from California and have had several Christian radio hits including Your Hands and What Love Really Means. Heller credits the great Patty Griffin (who wrote and sang the wonderful tune, Mary) as one of her main influences.

Unto Us is mainly an album of covers and like thousands of other artists, i feel she struggles to come up with fresh arrangements. To her credit, at least one of her covers strays from the usual suspects. Count Your Blessings from the movie White Christmas is very well done and may be the best track on the record.

Tonight I’ll feature the two original Heller tunes from Unto Us, the title track, Oh To See Christmas and her cover of Count Your Blessings.

JJ Heller on Facebook
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Unto Us

Count Your Blessings

Oh To See Christmas

Goodbye England, Covered In Snow

December 13, 2016

Pressed for time. Laura Marling is a singer/songwriter from England and her song, Goodbye England, Covered In Snow is simply lovely.

More on Laura here:
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Goodbye England, Covered In Snow

Christmas Songs on the Lam and Other Songs for the Season

December 12, 2016

St. Paul Minnesota’s Red House Records works up their first ever Christmas album with Christmas Songs on the Lam and Other Songs for the Season.  Featuring a dozen cuts from their artists, it’s a fun and interesting new holiday album that music fans of several genres will enjoy.

First off, a bit about Red House Records. The artists signed to this label are quite diverse and range from blues legends, rock legends, honky tonk country to straight up bluegrass. David Bromberg, Jorma Kaukonen, Hot Tuna, Michael Johnson, The Wailin’ Jennys, Dale Watson and John Gorka are just a few of the artists signed to Red House. Mighty fine collection.

As for Christmas Songs On The Lam, I’ll let the folks at Red House describe the record: “We at Red House Records, based in the nation’s icebox of Minnesota, have a lot of experience with below-zero temperatures and dark, snowy nights. Oddly enough, we’ve never put out a record to mark the holiday season. Until now. We saw the light (no pun intended) and thought why can’t a holiday compilation be a great record too? Like the season itself, it’s an eclectic mix of lust, lament, and gratitude.”

While this compilation may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I loved it and will feature four songs from it tonight.

Cold Hard Wind – Suzzy Roche
Mittens – Heather Masse
Holed Up In Mason City – John Gorka
The Wailin’ Jennys – Glory Bound

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Cold Hard Wind – Suzzy Roche

Mittens – Heather  Masse


Holed Up In Mason City – John Gorka

Glory Bound – The Wailin’ Jennys