Seasonal music – another good reason for the season

If you’d have said to me when I was a young adult that I’d be enjoying Christmas music later in my life, I would probably have laughed at you.

But here I am, it’s 2019 and I have many Christmas albums and it feels untrue how we develop and change. Now, it has to be said that any fascination for Christmas I had when I was younger had been turned right around by the time I hit my teens and in the intervening years some remarkable transitions have taken place in my life. These have caused me to re-evaluate why Christmas should be celebrated – and celebrated in a totally different way. But, back then I had exactly one Christmas-flavoured record. It revolved at 45rpm and had one song on each side. Now, I have more than thirty albums of seasonal music – mostly songs of faith and about the birth of Jesus but some that are just about the festival and carry their own joy.

This list may come too late for you to listen to them but at least it gives you some time to add to your own collection before next year. It is the nearer the day when the true love brought five gold rings than the day when we celebrate the birth of the Messiah – so perhaps you’ll find some jewels here for 2020:-

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Christmas in the Heart – Third Time Around

My friends just don’t get it – not even my Dylan-fan friends – but I remain fascinated by the 2009 release “Christmas in the Heart“.

It seems to me to be one of the consummate Christmas albums for several reasons which I will list below. I’ve written about this album on two occasions before –  most recently here:

But here’s my reasons that this is a classic of the seasonal kind:

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God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen

Place: St Brides Church, Fleet Street, London

Time: Yesterday Evening

Event: The "Jethro Tull Christmas Carol Service"

What? Those rockers who so ably debunked organised religion on their album, "Aqualung", in a Christian church and involved and leading an event full of Christmas Carols, prayers and Bible readings.

Surprising, indeed.

But this was an event aimed at raising money and support for London’s homeless and this proved an easy alliance. Aqualung, a wheezy old tramp of the old school, didn’t make an appearance but there was a portion of "Thick as a Brick". In short, Tull took care of seasonal entertainment whilst the clergy and church members added the spiritual decoration. And a fine night was had by all.

Highlights of the night? Gentle wintry folk, from Tull, including "Weathercock" from Heavy Horses, and "Jack-in-the-Green". They also turned their hand to jazzy renditions of traditional Christmas music – albeit in instrumental form – with "God Rest Ye, Merry, Gentlemen" and "We Five (Three) Kings of Orient Are". They even came over all Steeleye Span with their own re-working of "Gaudete", led by Ian Anderson and the church’s choir, with the congregation doing their best on the chorus.

Journalist, Gavin Esler and actor, Andrew Lincoln helped Ian and the men in dog-collars out with the scripture and poetry readings.

Apparently, the whole thing will be mixed down for a limited cd release.

A cool yule indeed!

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull gets into the Christmas Spirit  

Living with the past

Going to concerts is a strange game. I’ve been listening to music seriously now for thirty years and more and taking in live shows for more than twenty five. My problem is that I never seem to outgrow the music I once enjoyed and I never tire of finding new bands and sounds to enjoy. It makes for a wide-ranging taste and a smorgasbord of shows to choose from. Having said that last week (this was before the dreaded ‘flu) saw more grey hair on a stage than I’m used to. Ian Anderson and Martin Barre have had this little band called Jethro Tull going now for a few years and occasionally I’ll stop to see them and consider whether they can still cut the mustard. May 2008 in Lancashire suggest they still can though Ian’s voice is not what it once was and he has to over-rely on that flute just a little too much. They played for well over two hours and interestingly drew material mostly from their first three album although for me the highlights (Thick as a Brick, Heavy Horses, Aqualung, New Day Yesterday) were mostly drawn from a little later in their career. Tull, these days, are mainly a live band and seem to have little time devoted to developing new material. It would seem sensible to reverse that trend – rest Ian’s voice, see what this current bunch of musicians can develop in the twenty-first century – before they inevitably call it a day.

Set list (I think this is right but I’m older than I used to be):

My Sunday Feeling,
Living In The Past,
One For John Gee,
So Much Trouble,
A Song For Jeffrey,
Griminelli’s Lament,
Sossity: You’re A Woman/Reasons For Waiting,
Fat Man,
Serenade To A Cuckoo,
A New Day Yesterday

For A Thousand Mothers,
We Used To Know/With You There To Help Me,
Dharma For One
Heavy Horses,
Farm On The Freeway,
Thick As A Brick,
Locomotive Breath

Jethro Tull, Live May 2008


……. and a pair of Ian Andersons

If there was a downside to this concert, it was the drum solo. Why do must rock drummers persist in believing that there is any rhythm or motif to their efforts in hitting as many parts of their kit as often as they can. Please leave it to your infinitely more capable jazz brethren.