If you ever wondered about the whole "Christmas In July" thing, it's actually a day, not the whole month. Officially, Christmas In July is July 25th. And that is today! Well, Elizabeth is working on her Christmas craft all year long. For her, Christmas In July has a particular importance. It's a bit of a target date for having the songs for her Christmas albums written, recorded and ready to go. And she's got to have some kind of a target date because having the songs ready to go, well, that's only like half of the work she has to do if she's going to get her music out there for Christmas.
Here is the point. Elizabeth Chan will be making some big announcements this evening. It's a live Facebook event. Be there or be square (God, could I sound any more old and decrepit?).
Word has come our way of a new vinyl single due out October 28. It's from one-half of the great 70s duo Hall & Oates. I used to play their albums over and over and over. Ask my college roommate; I don't think he's forgiven me for that yet. John Oates never got the attention Darryl Hall did, but I always liked him (actually preferred his "Jingle Bell Rock" to Darryl's).
Alright, now, I don't have all of the pieces of this puzzle, so I'm trying to fill in the blanks, and, as we know, that doesn't always work out so well. But stick with me for a sec.
Last year, there was an album that got by me from singer/songwriter Steven Davis. "This Is Christmas" featured only one standard, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". The other 11 songs were newly written. And one of those songs was written with John Oates. That song was "Santa Be Good To Me". While the lyrics were thoroughly modern, the music was clearly the stuff of Swing bands. John also plays on the track.
It appears that John decided to take his own--pardon me--swing at the thing. Or, at least, he's told interviewers that he's recording a song called "Santa Be Good" and that single is available for pre-order from Elusive Disc. To back him on the single, John got ahold of the Time Jumpers, a band that specializes in Country Swing and includes several people you might be familiar with, like Vince Gill and Kenny Sears. So now we've got a Blue-Eyed Soul/Pop/Rock artist playing and singing a Swing Jazz number with a Country Swing backing group. Yeah, you can count me in for that.
While we don't have sound for John's single, I don't see any reason not to play the Swing version from Steven Davis, do you? Incidentally, Steven did cut a few holiday standards that are not included on "This Is Christmas". You can download "Let It Snow" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" FREE from Soundcloud (while it lasts). First, though, Steven Davis featuring John Oates and "Santa Be Good To Me".
But I really wanted to start with this one. For two reasons. One, it just came out (July 24) and, Two, it made me smile.
"A Joyful Nativity" is some, pardon my French, kick-ass Gospel. It's an original Christmas Cantata written by Jay DeVaughn and sung by Jabez, a Gospel choir featuring some truly gifted soloists. The project is/was funded through GoFundMe. The plan was to press 1000 CDs and accompanying song books. And I suspect, with God's help, there will be CDs available at some point. But even if there end up being no hard copy CDs, I'm happy to hear this joyous sound in any format, and we know the digital version is available from Amazon. "A Joyful Nativity" alternates between the music and a narrative that ties it all together. And, OK, not every holiday mix is narrative friendly, but every holiday mix should have room for a bit of kick-ass Gospel.
Please check out the samples on Amazon, but we do have what I believe is a rehearsal of "Born In Bethlehem" and, man, if this doesn't reach down into your soul and pull you up to heaven, you might want to check your pulse to make sure you're still with us. This is awesomey awesomeness and I love it. As noted above, the digital download of "A Joyful Nativity" is already available.
2. Narrative: The Annunciation
3. THERE IS NOTHING IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD
4. Narrative: Mary's Acceptance
5. BEHOLD THE HANDMAID OF THE LORD
6. Narrative: Salutations Between Mary and Elizabeth
7. MY SOUL DOTH MAGNIFY THE LORD
8. Narrative: The Journey & The Birth of Our Saviour
9. BORN IN BETHLEHEM
10. Narrative: The Angels and The Shepherds
11. GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST
12. Narrative: The Search of The Magi
13. WE SEEK THE CHRIST
14. Narrative: For Unto Us/Rejoice
15. REJOICE AMAZON MP3
16. OH WHAT A MYSTERY GOFUNDME PAGE
For those who, like me, are unfamiliar with Jj Heller, she's a CCM artist whose early work was largely Folk, but whose more recent albums have tended towards Pop and even Alt Rock. For my head, I prefer the more recent Jj. But that's just me.
Watching Jj Heller's Kickstarter video for her upcoming "Unto Us" Christmas album reminded me of the "Mary Tyler Moore" pilot where Lou Grant says, "You know what? You've got spunk." Mary blushes a little bit and says, "Well..." and Lou comes back with "I hate spunk!" Me, I don't hate spunk at all; I just like to smile. Jj seems very perky and bright and that makes me smile on yet another 100 degree day here in the south. For "Unto Us", Jj says she sought inspiration from her favorite seasonal albums (such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas", the soundtrack from "White Christmas", and more recent albums from Amy Grant and Sara McLachlan). She's recorded with a youth choir and an 18 piece string orchestra so, all together, it sounds like her album will have a familiar, traditional, chestnuts roasting on an open fire kinda feeling.
As with all Kickstarter campaigns, if Jj falls short of her goal, she'll get nothing. And there are all kinds of incentives for those who want to do more than (essentially) pre-ordering the album. With just over 3 weeks to go, it looked to me like she was well on her way to reaching her goal. Then again, if she raises more, she can do more. And if you need just one more gentle nudge, Jj has promised to donate a copy of her album of lullabies, "I Dream Of You", to a hospital for every $15 raised (targeting children's hospitals, it sounds like).
Head to Kickstarter, watch the video, read the write-up and pledge, if you're so inclined.
As a Christian artist, it should be no surprise that Jj Heller has previously recorded a seasonal song or two (or three). "The Perfect Gift" was released in 2014 and it's available from Amazon and iTunes (and, I'm sure, at other digital outlets).
Friday Music has released word of their first holiday release of 2016. Friday Music has re-issued some interesting Christmas music over the past several years--some on vinyl and some on CD. This one is a CD two-fer of B.J. Thomas recordings from the 80s. There's the Christmas album, "All Is Calm, All Is Bright", and they've paired that with "Love Shines". The latter was a Gospel set--not Christmassy at all, BUT..."Love Shines" has never been issued on CD before, so its of interest in that regard. They've both been remastered and the release is touted as "Limited Edition". Release is scheduled for September 16 and you can pre-order through Amazon.
There's also an overseas listing for "A Broadway Christmas" by Daniel Radcliffe. You might know him better as Harry Potter, but he's been doing an awful lot of Broadway since those movies ended. No details are given (not even a release date) and not only could I not find anything else about it, I couldn't even find another listing. So I'm not including it on The List as yet. Really need to see more than one listing at the very least (and this one was Japanese, so I can't even swear to the translation). Anyway, just be alert, if you're interested in Harry Potter singing Christmas show tunes. I will say, you have to give the man credit for covering Tom Lehrer's "Christmas Carol" a few years back. Although it pales in comparison to the original, you can find/purchase the Radcliffe version here.
Anyway, they're finally getting around to recording a Christmas album. They've turned their weary eyes to crowd funding to finance the CD (as yet untitled). I hope they raise enough to put together a professional video, too. I know the kinds of places their live videos are recorded in and the acoustics of such places do them no favors. Just sayin'. Getting back on track, Apocalypse Kow is raising money through Indiegogo. Unlike Kickstarter, with Indiegogo, the band gets whatever is pledged regardless of whether or not they reach their goal. But they do promise that all money raised through this campaign will go towards the Christmas album, even if they fall short and have to delay the record for a month or two (the plan is for a December release). As with Kickstarter, there are different levels of support and different incentives for those different levels.
Since Apocalypse Kow has been performing Christmas shows for years, there's no shortage of material for them to pick from. On the Indiegogo page is a song called "Gifts" (a parody of George Michael's "Faith"). But, even though this one is only Christmas in the middle, it's the one I liked so "Jessie's Girl" is the one you get. Later, peeps.