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DOUG GALLANT: Sia delivers poppy holiday album while Celtic Woman sticks to traditional fare

Tom Chaplin penned eight original songs for his Christmas record and topped off the mix with covers of four songs he is particularly drawn to at this time of year. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Tom Chaplin penned eight original songs for his Christmas record and topped off the mix with covers of four songs he is particularly drawn to at this time of year. SUBMITTED PHOTO

BY DOUG GALLANT

SPECIAL TO THE GUARDIAN

Within days of the publication of this column many of you will take down your Christmas trees and your decorations and tuck them away for another year.

Others, myself included, will continue to bask in the glow of holiday lights until Old Christmas, traditionally observed Jan. 6.

Either way, there are still a few more days to enjoy the music of the season.

And if you’ve already grown tired of what you’ve been listening to, allow me to point you in the direction of a few seasonal releases you may not have come across yet.

“Twelve Tales Of Christmas” - Tom Chaplin

One of the more interesting offerings this holiday season belongs to Tom Chaplin.

Chaplin, best known as the lead singer for the hugely successful British pop act Keane, penned eight original songs for the record and topped off the mix with covers of four songs he is particularly drawn to at this time of year.

For his original material Chaplin chose, for the most part, to steer away from the usually upbeat, festive mood favoured by so many of his peers.

He focused instead on the full range of emotions people experience during the holidays. So while there are songs of joy and celebration there are also songs about being alone at Christmas, feeling isolated and experiencing sadness and loss.

For covers he chose, among others, “Walking In The Air”, from the popular animated holiday film, The Snowman, The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles” and a haunting cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.”

Of the originals I favour are “Under A Million Lights”, “Midnight Mass” and “London Lights.”

This is not a party record, but it would be just right for sitting back in your favourite chair, sipping a glass of wine and basking in the glow of your Christmas tree.

(3 1/3 out of 5 stars)

“Everyday Is Christmas” - Sia

Australian pop chanteuse Sia’s first foray into the music of the holiday season is a collection of original songs that hits on all the standard Christmas fare, Santa Claus, snow, snowmen, mistletoe and bright lights.

The set, much of which she co-wrote with Greg Kurstin, is almost evenly divided between upbeat seasonal entries that seem geared to the Christmas party dance floor and ballads best listened to while staring down the dying embers in the fireplace.

The writing is a little light but at Christmas most people aren’t looking for anything terribly deep. They’re looking for something fun and you will certainly find that here in songs like “Santa’s Coming For Us”, “Candy Cane Lane”, “Ho Ho Ho” and “Puppies Are Forever.” 

Of the ballads I’m particularly struck on  “Snowman.”

(Rating 3 out of 5 stars)

“The Best Of Christmas’’ - Celtic Woman

If you prefer something that follows more traditional lines you may drift towards this compilation that brings together some 20 songs of the season performed and recorded by the popular Irish ensemble since its first appearance in 2004.

Hymns, carols and holiday pop songs get the full treatment here with lush arrangements, full orchestra and big production values focused on their close vocal harmonies.

Carols like “Joy To The World”, “We Three Kings” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” vie for your attention with standards like “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland”.

Some may find this record a little tame, but if you’ve enjoyed their specials on PBS you’ll likely take a fancy to it.

(Rating 3 out of 5 stars)

More fun facts about Christmas music

1. Three of the most recorded Christmas songs, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” and “Holly Jolly Christmas” were all written by Johnny Marks, who was Jewish.

2. A group of church leaders in Boston tried to have “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” banned in the 1950s because they thought it “promoted physical intimacy.”

3. In 2013, a radio station in Syracuse, N.Y., started playing Christmas music the first week of October.

4. A goat farmer in the U.K. told the Daily Express newspaper in 2010 that when he plays Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You," his goats produce an extra pint of milk.

5. "The Magic of Christmas Day", featured on Celine Dion’s Christmas record “These Are Special Times”, was written by Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider. Snider wrote it for his wife Suzette.

 

Doug Gallant is a freelance writer and well-known connoisseur of a wide variety of music. His On Track column will appear in The Guardian every second Saturday. To comment on what he has to say or to offer suggestions for future reviews, email him at dpagallant@gmail.com.

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