It seems strange to me that every Christmas we tend to hear pretty much just the same dozen or so Christmas songs on the radio. This year I even got requests from people wanting to enlighten me that “Stevie Nicks does a really good version of Silent Night.” No kidding – that’s one of the same dozen!
What’s odd is that there isn’t a Christmas that goes by without a whole new batch of Christmas albums with this year’s* lot including releases by Rod Stewart, Michael Buble and Colbie Caillat. So what you get are the same dozen you’ve heard on the radio for at least the last 15-20 years, plus whatever is new for the current year. 12 months on, Rod, Michael and Colbie will likely be forgotten.
Which is of course ridiculous. Are Mariah Carey’s mid 90s All I Want For Christmas and her version of O Holy Night truly the only worthy recent-ish Christmas songs to firmly establish themselves into the public’s psyche? This is despite Christmas albums from the likes of Josh Groban having sold by the million as recently as 2007, but as for radio play beyond that initial Christmas, it appears to be a different story.
So it’s with this frustration of the same old, same old (which off the top of my head would be Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas and O Holy Night, the Royal Guardmens’ Snoopy’s Christmas, Stevie Nicks’ Silent Night, Jose Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad, Boney M’s Mary’s Boy Child, the Pogues’ Fairytale Of New York, Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe And Wine, John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), Chris Rea’s Driving Home For Christmas, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Johnny Mathis’ When A Child Is Born) that I have attempted to broaden the Christmas music landscape a little.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like the songs in the most played dozen, it’s just that it’s good to hear Cliff Richard’s excellent early-80s reworking of O Little Town Of Bethlehem (simply called Little Town) as well as the more played Mistletoe And Wine. It also means digging out the late Dan Fogelberg’s sad, melancholy Christmas masterpiece Same Old Lang Syne and Kenny Loggins’ soulful Celebrate Me Home. But for the purposes of this blog, I’ve chosen just three of the lesser heard, but equally deserving Christmas songs. Here they are:
I reminded my audience that Josh Groban’s 2007 LP Noel became the fastest selling Christmas album since Elvis put one out decades earlier for a reason – it was genuinely very good. Unafraid to tackle the traditional material, below is his version of The First Noel (featuring Faith Hill):
The broadening of the Christmas playlist also includes a desire to bed-in actual new Christmas songs, not just new versions of old songs. Coldplay managed one of the best original Christmas tracks in living memory with Christmas Lights – a UK top 20 / US top 30 hit from 2010. But no-one’s going to remember it if we don’t keep playing it! Here it is:
And finally, this is a Christmas song first introduced to me by way of a Hall & Oates cover, a beautiful original work by Robbie Robertson and The Band from their 1977 album Islands entitled Christmas Must Be Tonight. With lyrics echoing the Biblical imagery of Roberton’s most famous song The Weight, (though this time literal rather than metaphoric), this song deserves some attention again for the first time in a long time. Enjoy, thanks for reading, thanks for listening, Merry Christmas and all the best for 2016: