James Galway – Christmas Carol (1986)

FrontCover1.jpgSir James Galway is internationally regarded as both a matchless interpreter of the classical repertoire and a consummate entertainer. With his unique sound, superb musicianship and dazzling virtuosity, he has a charismatic appeal that crosses all musical boundaries and has made him one of the most respected and sought-after performing artists of our time. He also devotes much of his free time to his duties as President of Flutewise, a non-profit organization that donates instruments to low-income students and young people with disabilities.

Born in Belfast in 1939, Sir James played the penny whistle as a small child before switching to the flute. He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London and continued his studies at the Guildhall School of Music and later the Paris Conservatoire.

Sir James began his career at the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden which led to positions with the BBC Symphony Orchestra where he played piccolo. He was then appointed principal flautist of the London Symphony Orchestra and subsequently of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1969, Sir James Galway was appointed principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic. In 1975 Sir James launched his career as a soloist and, with the help of best-selling discs and frequent television appearances, quickly became a household name. Since then he has travelled extensively, giving recitals, performing with the world’s leading orchestras, participating in chamber-music engagements, popular music concerts and giving master classes. In 1990 he took part in the historic “The Wall” concert in Berlin and in 1998 he was the only classical musician to participate in the Nobel Peace Concert in Oslo. He is also a frequent guest on television programmes in the USA.


On 4 July 2000 he helped celebrate the first Independence Day of the century as a guest soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra in a nationally televised PBS special entitled “A Capitol Fourth”, broadcast live from the West Lawn of the Capitol. Sir James has also taken up the baton and in addition to numerous conducting engagements around the world he is Principal Guest Conductor of the London Mozart Players.

In 1978 Sir James Galway was awarded the Order of the British Empire and in June 2001 he received the honour of knighthood from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In 1997 he was named “Musician of the Year” by Musical America and has received Record of the Year awards from Billboard and Cash Box, as well as the Grand Prix du Disque for his recordings of Mozart’s Flute Concertos and numerous gold and platinum discs. In 2004 he received the President’s Merit Award from the Recording Academy at the Grammy’s 8th annual “Salute to Classical Music and in 2005 he was honoured at the prestigious Classic Brits Awards held in London’s Royal Albert Hall for his “Outstanding Contribution to Classical Music” in celebration of his 30 years as one of the top classical musicians of our time.


In March 2004 Sir James signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. His first release, Wings of Song, reached the no. 1 spot on the classical charts immediately after its release in August 2004. His second album followed in March 2006: Ich war ein Berliner is a collection of orchestral recordings (plus some chamber music recordings made with fellow members of the renowned BP wind section), which spotlight his solos and documents his time in Berlin. His latest recording, My Magic Flute, features Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp (with Catrin Finch) plus a collection of favourite arias, sonatas and concerto movements, all arranged for flute, flute duet (with Sir James’s wife, Lady Jeanne) or flute and harp with orchestra and is scheduled for release in autumn 2006. (by wikipedia)


Although I’m a fan of the Christmas recordings that Sir David Willcocks abd Stephen Cleobury did with the King’s College Choir, this little gem of a classical Christmas album has its own unexpected beauties. I discovered this Christmas album in the collection of a family member, and was struck by its transcendent loveliness. It’s a joyful, uplifting, and exquisite celebration of Christmas, and specifically the Reason for the Season, and it’s a skilful blend of the old and the new. It’s a perfect blend of instrumental and vocal, lively and tender moments, and James Galway’s flute wraps around you like a rich velvety fur coat.

The opening track of Silent Night sets the tone of the recording almost immediately. The choir sings it beautifully, accompanied by Galway’s obligato descant. Although I would have liked them to sing the original John Freeman Young translation that we all know, it’s still a lovely rendition. The choir shines on some of the other tracks, such as John Rutter’s famous Shepherd’s Pipe Carol and the Czech Zither Carol, but most of the time JamesGalway04Galway accompanies them, contrasting the tenderness of What Child Is This and I Wonder as I Wander with the boisterous Past Three A Clock. Elsewhere, Galway really shines in the many solos he plays throughout the recording. His rendition of John Ireland’s The Holy Boy is beautiful beyond words and reason. In more upbeat mood the Fantasia on I Saw Three Ships blends the well-known carol with other carols, and one can really hear a certain joie de vivre here. It’s as if Galway really enjoyed playing this piece, and I think the listener can soak in the infectious gaiety here. By the time you reach the closing minutes of this album, you feel like you’re in good Christmas cheer, after you’ve soaked in the distinctly old-world charm of this Christmas offering, far away from the cacophony of commercialism that has ravaged the season many times.

In short, a self-recommending Christmas album that can serve as lovely background music to a Christmas party and yet it stands up well to serious listening. I’m convinced it appeals to those who haven’t yet grown to love the ethereal, plaintive yet crystal-clear timbre of the flute, and I think it has something to please everyone, in varying moods and style. (by Yi-Peng)


James Galway (flute)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Barry Griffiths
BBC Singers + Chapel Choir Of King’s School conducted by Barry Rose and John Poole
John Birch (organ)

01. Silent Night (Gruber) 4.09
02. Shepherd’s Pipe Carol (Rutter) 3.11
03. Air From Suite No. 3 In D (Bach) 3.59
04. Fantasia On ‘I Saw Three Ships’ (Overton) 3.10
05. Greensleeves (Traditional) 3.36
06. Zither Carol (Traditional) 2.54
07. The Holy Boy (Traditional) 2.47
08. Patapan (Traditional) 1.24
09. Past Three O’Clock (Traditional)  3.04
10. Sinfonia From The Christmas Oratorio (Bach) 2.57
11. Ave Maria (Gounod/Bach) 2.45
12. Chorale From The Christmas Oratorio (Bach) 1.42
13. I Wonder As I Wander (Traditional) 2.55
14. Sheep May Safely Graze (Bach) 5.51
15. Jesus Christ The Apple Tree (Poston) 3.30
16. We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Warrell/Ryan) 1.35



Dallas Brass – Christmas Brass (1994)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Dallas Brass is a brass quintet started by Michael Levine in 1983. Its repertoire contains patriotic music, classical, and romantic, among others. The music ensemble continues to inspire young musicians and motivates its audience through a comedic workshop it provides.

The seven members of the group include Michael A. Levine (director), Buddy Deshler (trumpet), Garrett Klein (trumpet), Juan Berrios (horn), Ryan Christianson (trombone), Paul Carlson (tuba), and Joel Alexander (percussion).

The Dallas Brass has performed for Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. The group has also made appearances with Cincinnati Pops, New York Pops, at Carnegie Hall, and around Europe. The Dallas Brass frequently travels to public schools to present clinics to students as well as work with them on a selection of music.

Six recordings of the Dallas Brass have been released: Debut, Dallas Brass II, A Merry Christmas with Brass, Windborne, Nutcracker, and American Musical Journey. (y wikipedia)

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And here´s their Christmas lbum with lots of unknown, rare Christmas tunes from the last centuries.

I’ve grown up listening to this album at Christmas and because it was on tape I hadn’t heard it for several years. Recently someone gave me a digital copy and I fell in love with it all over again. The Christmas carols are played with style and verve. Every note sounds clean, which I would notice having played the trumpet for some time myself. This is my favorite Christmas album. (by Bob D.)

I’ve owned this album for about ten years now and I love listening to it when Christmas rolls around. I used to play trumpet and I enjoy listening to brass ensembles. The instruments in this brass ensemble fit together perfectly. None of the music is over the top and it’s very tasteful.

I honestly recommend this album to anyone looking for a good instrumental Christmas CD.

My ONLY complaint is I wish it were longer. Honestly. I’m not just saying that to be funny. I wish they had another Christmas album available because I’d have it in a heartbeat. (by AdamB5000)

Indeed, one of the finest brass albums with Christmas music !

And here´s their beautful Christmas album with a lot of very unknown Christmas tunes from the last centuries.


Michael Levin (trombone)
Grant Peters (trumpet)
Wiff Rudd (trumpet)
Alex Shuhan (french horn)
Charles Villarrubia (tuba)
Robert Ward (drums, percussion)

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01. O Come, All Ye Faithful (Traditional) 3.30
02. Go Tell It On The Mountain (Traditional) 2.08
03. Carol Of The Bells (Leontovych) 2.40
04. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (Sears) 3.04
05. Angels From The Realm Of Glory (Traditional) 1.33
06. What Child Is This? (Greensleeves) (Traditional) 2.49
07. Joy To The World (Traditional) 3.00
08. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Mendelssohn) 2.10
09. Good Christian Men, Rejoice (Alington) 3.02
10. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day (Traditional) 2.41
11. Angels We Have Heard On High (Traditional) 2.29
12. Deck The Halls (Traditional) 3.48
13. Silent Night (Gruber) / Away In A Manger (Kirkpatrick/Murray) 2.19
14. We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Traditional) 1.38



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Blackmore’s Night – Winter Carols (2006/ 2013)

FrontCover1.jpgWinter Carols is the sixth studio album by the group Blackmore’s Night, released in the United Kingdom on October, 2006, and in the United States on November 7, 2006. It is a Christmas themed album. The cover artwork for this album, painted by Karsten Topelmann, is an adaptation of a street in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, in line with the band’s heavy Renaissance influence. The same street is portrayed in the cover of Blackmore’s Night’s second studio album, Under a Violet Moon. In the cover of “Winter Carols” the street is painted as winter time, whereas Under a Violet Moon’s cover takes place on apparently a summer night. While the selections “Winter (Basse Dance)” is credited to Ritchie Blackmore as composer, it is an adaptation of the second section of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Fantasía para un gentilhombre,” which Rodrigo composed for classical guitar virtuoso Andres Segovia in 1954.

On December 2006, Winter Carols entered at #7 on USA Billboard New Age Charts.[4]

The album won the New Age Reporter Lifestyle Music Award as the Best Holiday Album. (by wikipedia)


Ever wonder what Christmas carols sounded like back in time when the finest form of transportation was by horse and wearing armor was a hip fashion statement? Well then, the second release of 2006 by Blackmore’s Night, Winter Carols, may offer some insight. As with their previous efforts, the music on Winter Carols is of the Renaissance-inspired folk variety. And while the majority of the songs are traditional compositions, there are also a few originals, including “Winter (Basse Dance),” which includes some simply gorgeous acoustic guitar doodling by once Fender Strat/Marshall amp abuser Blackmore. Elsewhere, songs such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Come All Ye Faithful” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” would sound splendid sung around the campfire — if it were still the 15th century. Unfortunately, a rendition of the Chipmunks’ “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” is not included. (by Greg Prato)


This is one of the most refreshing albums of Christmas music released in many years! There are no Santa Clauses, Rudolphs, or Sleigh Rides here. Candice Night (vocals) and Ritchie Blackmore celebrate Christmas without all the commercialism that saturates most Christmas albums and tastefully interpret carols with a few original compositions added for flavor. Of the originals, “Christmas Eve” and “Winter (Basse Dance) are most notable, although the latter is an adaptation of a classical guitar piece written for Andres Segovia by Joaquin Rodrigo (“Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre”). Candice Night’s vocals are perfectly suited to the music on the album, and if you want to celebrate the season by listening instead of partying, WINTER CAROLS comes highly recommended! (Tom Daly)


Ritchie Blackmore (guitar, mandola, nyckelharpa, hurdy-gurdy, percussion)
David “Bard David of Larchmont” Baranowski (keyboards)
Robert “Sir Robert of Normandie” Curiano (bass)
Albert Dannemann (bagpipes, background vocals)
Anton Fig (drums)
Candice Night (vocals, shawm, pennywhistle)
Pat Regan (keyboards)
Sarah Steiding (violin)
background vocals:

Sisters of the Moon:
Lady Madeline and Lady Nancy (Madeline and Nancy Posner)
Ian Robertson – Jim Manngard



CD 1:
01. Hark the Herald Angels Sing / Come All Ye Faithful (Traditional) trad. 3.50
02. I Saw Three Ships (Traditional) 2.40
03. Winter (Basse Dance) (Blackmore) 3.08
04. Ding Dong Merrily On High (Traditional) 3.17
05. Ma-O-Tzur (Traditional) 2.19
06. Good King Wenceslas (Traditional) 4.44
07. Lord Of The Dance / Simple Gifts (Carter/Brackett) 3.34
08. We Three Kings (Traditional) 4.49
09. Wish You Were Here (song from Shadow of the Moon) (Teijo) 5.02
10. Emmanuel (Traditional) 3.33
11. Christmas Eve (Blackmore/Night) 4.20
12. We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Traditional) 1.21

CD 2:
01. Hark the Herald Angels Sing / Come All Ye Faithful (live from Minstal Hall 2013) (Traditional) 4.11
02. Emmanuel (live from Minstal Hall 2013) (Traditional) 4.34
03. We Three Kings (live from Minstal Hall 2013) (Traditional) 5.24
04. Ma-O-Tzur (live from Minstal Hall 2013) (Traditional) 2.11
05. Good King Wenceslas (live from Minstal Hall 2013 (Traditional) 6.15
06. Christmas Eve (2013 version) (Blackmore/Nigh) 4.34
07. Christmas Eve (German radio edit) (Blackmore/Night) 3.58
08. Christmas Eve (English & German radio edit) (Blackmore/Night) 3.58
09. Christmas Eve (English radio edit) (Blackmore/Night) 3.56



The cover artwork for this album, painted by Karsten Topelmann, is an adaptation of a street in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, in line with the band’s heavy Renaissance influence. The same street is portrayed in the cover of Blackmore’s Night’s second studio album, Under a Violet Moon. In the cover of “Winter Carols” the street is painted as winter time, whereas Under a Violet Moon’s cover takes place on apparently a summer night.

And here´s the same scene … in our time:



Connie Francis – Christmas With Connie (Christmas In My Heart) (1959)

FrontCover1.jpgChristmas With Connie (or: Christmas in Heart) is a studio album of Christmas music recorded by Connie Francis. The album features popular songs of the season on the A-side and the sacred music of Christmas on the B-side. It was re-released as Connie’s Christmas in 1966. (by wikipedia)

Although some people might argue that not every song here is truly a Christmas song, every song here is entitled to appear on such an album. And any idea that a song has to mention Christmas in the lyrics in order to be classed as a Christmas song is clearly nonsense as that would rule out Silent night, the most popular Christmas song of all, and a whole hot of other Christmas perennials. I agree that some Christmas albums stretch the boundaries a bit too far, but this isn’t one of them.

So to the actual music, which Connie recorded at at a time when her popularity was extremely high. Here, Connie was in top form as usual. Most of the songs are Christmas standards including Winter wonderland, The Christmas song, White Christmas, I’ll be home for Christmas, Have yourself a merry little Christmas, Twelve days of Christmas, Ave Maria, Silent night, O little town of Bethlehem, The first Noel and Adeste fidelis (O come all ye faithful). Yes, Ave Maria is a Christmas standard, whether it was intended to be or not.

Connie Francis

The album closes with The Lord’s prayer, which is fair enough. Connie is certainly not the only singer to include this on a Christmas album; among others, Barbra Streisand did so on her first Christmas album. With so many familiar songs, this album was no doubt popular with record buyers when first released and deserves to remain so.

That leaves three other songs, these being Baby’s first Christmas (a track that you may have come across on Christmas compilations by various artists), Blue winter (which sounds as though it was inspired by the more famous Blue Christmas) and I’m gonna be warm this winter (perhaps my favorite here, being the one song that I was unfamiliar with at the time of purchase).

This is an excellent Christmas album of its type and is a most welcome addition to my ever-growing collection of Christmas music. (Peter Durward Harris)


Connie Francis (vocals)
Geoff Live & His Orchestra


01. White Christmas (Berlin) 3.24
02. Winter Wonderland (Smith/Bernard) 2.44
03. The Christmas Song (Torme/Wells) 3.26
04. I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Gannon/Kent/Ram) 3.28
05. Twelve Days Of Christmas (Traditional) 5.21
06. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Blane/Martin) 4.33
07. Adeste Fidelis (O Come, All Ye Faithful) (Traditional) 3.08
08. O Little Town Of Bethlehem (Traditional) 3.00
09. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) 3.56
10. The First Noel (Traditional) 3.06
11. Ave Maria (Schubert) 2.52
12. The Lord’s Prayer (Malotte) 3.00



Ashes Remain – Christmas (2012)

FrontCover1Ashes Remain is an American Christian rock band, formed in 2001 and based in Baltimore, Maryland. The band was founded by Josh Smith and Ryan Nalepa. While they released two albums in their first six years, the band is popularly known for its third album, What I’ve Become, which was released in 2011. They have released four albums, Lose the Alibis (2003), Last Day Breathing (2007), What I’ve Become (2011), and Let the Light In (2017), two EPs, Red Devotion (2009) and Christmas EP (2012) and two non-album singles, “Separated” (2004) and “Here For a Reason” (2014).

Ashes Remain is from Baltimore, Maryland, where Josh Smith of Florida and Ryan Nalepa met at a summer youth camp during worship services. They prayed about forming a band, which they did when the opportunity arose for Smith to become worship leader at a church. This church was just minutes from Nalepa’s home, so this facilitated the band’s creation. The other members of the band, which comprised Rob Tahan, Jonathan Hively and Ben Kirk, were not added until some years later. In the summer of 2003, Ashes Remain released their first independent record, Lose the Alibis. According to the band, the album moved around 2,000 copies in one year.

On August 2, 2003, the band announced on their official website that they competed and won the “Philadelphia Regional Christian Artist Talent Search 2003”. Later on, they went to Charlotte, NC for the next round of competition on September 24, 2003.

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On February 17, 2004, Ashes Remain stated on their website that they will be interviewed on February 29, on Baltimore’s 98 Rock. On March 13, 2004, they stated on their website that their live DVD had gone into post production, and they had already started working on their second album.

On September 4, 2004, bass guitar player Ben Ogden left the group, and hand-picked Jon Hively as the band’s new bassist before leaving. Lose the Alibis was followed by Last Day Breathing on March 13, 2007 and the Red Devotion EP on July 22, 2009. In early 2010, Ashes Remain signed with Fair Trade Services. Ashes Remain has been together for ten years as of 2011.[1] Their album What I’ve Become was made “from the perspective of feeling like there’s no hope but finding out that there really is.”[2] The band feels that the “journey from dark to light isn’t overnight and sometimes has to be traveled many times, but it’s a journey the band is familiar with and feels called to travel with its fans.”[2] They have widespread appeal and their songs are played on CCM and Christian Rock and Rap stations around the country. Ashes Remain toured with Fireflight on the Stay Close Tour in early 2012.

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On November 14, the band announced their release of their Christmas EP on Facebook, which was released on November 20. They announced that the song off of the album “Gift Of Love” will be the band’s new single and was available for free download on December 12.

“All of Me”, was released on August 15, 2017.

Let the Light In was released through BEC Recordings on October 27, 2017. (by wikipedia)

I really like the original Christmas music on this album. True to form, Ashes Remain’s songs are grounded in the Word and they sing with a passion that you seldom hear. I highly recommend this album if you are looking for an album with original Christmas music that celebrates the True Reason for Christmas! (Vicki Williamson)

And I was surprised, how powerful this album is … sounds like a soft version of post-grunge.

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Jon Hively (bass, background vocals)
Ben Kirk (drums, percussion)
Ryan Nalepa (guitar)
Josh Smith (vocals)
Rob Tahan (lead guitar, background vocals)

Ashes Remain04
01. Joy To The World 2:56
02. Gift Of Love 3:58
03. O Holy Night 4:27
04. Room For A King 4:17
05.Christmas Medley 3:52

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Blind Boys Of Alabama & Taj Mahal – Talkin’ Christmas! (2014)

FrontCover1.jpgAlthough this wonderful Christmas set is billed as a joint project between Taj Mahal and the Blind Boys of Alabama, and Taj does play guitar, banjo, ukulele, and harmonica here and sings on a couple of tracks (“What Can I Do?” and “There’s a Reason We Call It Christmas”), it’s really a Blind Boys holiday album, which is hardly a bad thing. It isn’t a blend of blues and gospel, either, as some of the promotional material suggests. It’s a seasonally bright and sincere mix of gospel and lightly swinging R&B, which is exactly what the Blind Boys have been doing so well for so many years. Four of the tracks are originals, and they fit nicely with covers of traditional Christmas songs and hymns like the opener “Do You Hear What I Hear?,” speeded up and done with a graceful dash of funk, and the lovely, delicate and halting acoustic version of “Silent Night.” The original “Who Will Remember?,” a gentle gospel waltz, is another highlight. All of it is delivered in signature Blind Boys style, making this one of the season’s nicest releases. (Steve Leggett)



Ben Moore – Jimmy Carter – Paul Beasley – Joey Williams – Ben Moore – Ricke McKinnie
Michael Jerome (drums, percussion)
Jonny Lam (lap steel-guitar)
Taj Mahal (guitar, banjo, vocals, harmonica, ukulele)
Mark Nishita (keyboards)

Ben Odom (bass, vocals)
Joey Williams (guitar)

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01. Do You Hear What I Hear? (Shayne/Regney) 2.50
02. Christ Was Born On Christmas Morn (Traditional) 3.28
03. What Can I Do? (Goldsmith/Moore/Carter/Beasley/Williams/Moore/McKinnie/Bell) 3.09
04. Talkin’ Christmas (Goldsmith/Moore/Carter/Beasley/Williams/Moore/McKinnie) 3.38
05. Merry Christmas To You (Davis/Bass) 3.55
06. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) 2.44
07. There’s A Reason We Call It Christmas (Goldsmith/Moore/Carter/Beasley/ Williams/Moore/McKinnie/Bell) 3.18
08. The Sun Is Rising (Goldsmith/Moore/Carter/Beasley/Williams/Moore/McKinnie) 3.53
09. No Room In The Inn (Jeter) 3.17
10. Jesus Was Born (Goldsmith/Moore/Carter/Beasley/Williams/Moore/McKinnie) 3.01
11. Who Will Remember? (McBride/Bell) 4.57
12. Merry Christmas! (Goldsmith/Moore/Carter/Beasley/Williams/Moore/McKinnie) 2.22



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The Playtones – Rock’N’Roll Christmas Party (2010)

FrontCover1.jpgThe Playtones is a Swedish 1950s rock n roll band formed in 2008 in Kallinge. Their music is influenced by rockabilly. It was called Boppin’ Steve & The Playtones before 2008. The Playtones won the dansband competition Dansbandskampen in 2009.[1] 2011 the band appeared in Melodifestivalen, the Swedish preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest. (by wikipedia)

Originally known as Boppin’ Steve & The Playtones, under which name they released their first two albums, The Playtones have gone on to become one of Sweden’s most popular bands.
They have even taken their 1950s style Rock ‘n’ Roll sound to Number One in the national album charts.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas Party is exactly what the title suggests – a rockin’ collections of Christmas Rock ‘n’ Roll songs which mixes rockin’ oldies with brand new Christmas rockers. (raucousrecords.com)

Don´t wait … join this funny Christmas party !


Jonas Holmberg (guitar)
Stefan Jonasson – vocals, piano
Mattias Schertell (bass)
Johan Svensson (drums)

01. Here Comes Santa Claus Again 2.14
02. Fira Jul På Fyra Hjul 2.44
03. Christmas Time Has Found Me 3.18
04. Trucking Trees For Christmas 2.01
05. Tomten Är Aldrig Sen 2.43
06. Run Run Rudolph 2.40
07. Ingen Jul Utan Dig 3.39
08. Santa’s On The Go 2.31
09. All I Want For Christmas Dear Is You 2.29
10. Christmas Bug 2.35
11. Julnatt 3.00
12. Julmedley 4.39
13 Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy 3.02





Greek Byzantine Choir – Christmas Hymnes (1993)

FrontCover1.jpgByzantine music is the music of the Byzantine Empire. Originally it consisted of songs and hymns composed to Greek texts used for courtly ceremonials, during festivals, or as paraliturgical and liturgical music. The ecclesiastical forms of Byzantine music are the best known forms today, because different Orthodox traditions still identify with the heritage of Byzantine music, when their cantors sing monodic chant out of the traditional chant books such as sticherarion, which in fact consisted of five books, and the heirmologion.

Byzantine music did not disappear after the fall of Constantinople. Its traditions continued under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 was granted administrative responsibilities over all Orthodox Christians. During the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, burgeoning splinter nations in the Balkans declared autonomy or “autocephaly” against the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The new self-declared patriarchates were independent nations defined by their religion.


In this context, Christian religious chant practiced in the Ottoman empire, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece among other nations, was based on the historical roots of the art tracing back to the Byzantine Empire, while the music of the Patriarchate created during the Ottoman period was often regarded as “post-Byzantine”. This explains why Byzantine music refers to several Orthodox Christian chant traditions of the Mediterranean and of the Caucasus practiced in recent history and even today, and this article cannot be limited to the music culture of the Byzantine past. (by wikipedia)


These are hundreds to over a thousand year old Byzantine hymns, of ancient beauty and devotion. Features one of the best chanters (Psalti) and choruses, Angelopoulis, who also appears on several CD’s of ancient Roman chant (was Byzantine in style) done by Harmonia Mundi label’s Marcel Peres, who brings to life ancient church music. The melodies are often in a minor key, are of great beauty and the words are from or paraphrased from the Bible. Entrancing. Getting an English translation would make it easier to appreciate if you don’t know Greek; see the booklet. One of the best. (by Karl Schulte)


Greek Byzantine Choir conducted by Lycourgos Angelopoulos


01. Romanos the Melodist, Kontakion: Today the Virgin 1.28
02. Petros Bereketis, 3 Heirmoi: Odes 1,5,9 / 4.36
03. Iakevos Protopsaltis, Doxastikon for the Sunday preceding Christmas: Glory Be To The Father 6.44
04. Kathisma: Come, O Ye Faithful and Let Us Behold 1.34
05. Heirmoi for the 1st Canon of Christmas: Odes 1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 / 7.54
06. Petros Lambadarios: Glory to God in the Highest 1.56
07. Petros Lambadarios & Verses from the Great Doxology: Today Christ is Born 4.06
08. Chant for Communion: The Lord Hath Sent Deliverence Unto His People 10.30
09. Petros Lambadarios, Troparion: Thou Wast Born Secretly in the Cave 2.25
10. Petros Lambadarios, Exapostilarion: Our Savior Has Descended Unto us From on High 1.17
11. Petros Lambadarios, Doxastikon: Glory to the Father, to the Son & to the Holy Spirit (The Magi, Kings of Persia) 2.48
12. Petros Lambadarios, Sticheron: All the Angels in Heaven 1.54
13. Petros Lambadarios, Apolytikion: Thy Nativity, O Christ Our God 0.59
14. Balasios The Priest, Calophonic Heirmoi: A Star Has Already Risen 4.38
15. Ioannis Trapezountios: Kratima 4.26



The Moody Blues – December (2003)

FrontCover1.jpgDecember is the sixteenth and final album by the Moody Blues. The Christmas themed album released in 2003 is their first album since The Magnificent Moodies to feature covers in addition to original material. It is also their first album following Ray Thomas’ retirement from the band. (by wikipedia)

One must give the Moody Blues credit for tenacity and a single-pointed focus. For 37 years they’ve put forth a startlingly consistent series of themes: optimism, a kind of blind-faith spirituality that the universe is in good hands and that people are by and large decent and kind, and love songs that can be a bit twee, but nonetheless connect when one is in the emotional space to hear them. Their music has always been intimate and pretentious in the best sense of the words. December is the Moodies’ first Christmas album. The classic lineup has been whittled down to three: John Lodge, Justin Hayward, and Graeme Edge; Ray Thomas decided to call it quitsin 2002.


The band is augmented by unofficial member and producer Danilo Madonia in the studio. This is the most curious of Christmas recordings. December is an album about the spirit of Christmas but, with its lack of carols (though it does feature Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” near the end), it sounds more like another chapter in the Moody Blues’ legend, and that’s exactly what it is. Like many Moody Blues records since the 1980s, the original songs are nostalgic, pointing listeners back to memories of an idyllic past when things were simpler, and toward the hope that social and spiritual renewal are just around the corner. The set features a number of Hayward and Lodge originals, obscure and traditional Anglo folk songs, a transposed piece by Bach, and a cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” — alas, if only that were true. If you’re a fan or a detractor, you already know what the album sounds like.

MoodyBlues01Unpredictability left the band’s vocabulary in the 1970s, but that doesn’t mean that this collection is without merit. For starters, it is one of the most original Christmas albums you’ll hear all year. There is no new age drivel here; its topics and themes are indeed Christian, but weigh on the side of those that are universally held: brotherhood, compassion, hope, goodwill, and generosity. In addition, it’s beautifully orchestrated and produced. Its sound is pristine, and Hayward and Lodge with their trademark elegance sound as if they mean every word they write and sing. And it’s easy to believe that. It most certainly is sentimental and lush, and has nothing whatsoever to do with rock & roll, but that hardly matters. As the latest Moody Blues album, it likely lives up to fans’ expectations; as a holiday recording, it’s unlike anything else out there. (by Thom Jurek)


Graeme Edge (drums, percussion)
Justin Hayward (vocals, guitar)
John Lodge (vocals, bass)
Danilo Madonia (keyboards, sequencing)
Norda Mullen (flute)


01. Don’t Need A Reindeer (Hayward) 4.00
02. December Snow (Hayward) 5.11
03. In The Quiet Of Christmas Morning (Bach/Hayward/Lodge) 2.51
04. On This Christmas Day (Lodge) 3.40
05. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (Lennon/Ono) 2.37
06. A Winter’s Tale (Batt/Rice) 4.28
07. The Spirit Of Christmas (Lodge) 4.53
08. Yes I Believe (Hayward) 4.21
09. When A Child Is Born (Zacar/Jay) 3.34
10. White Christmas (Berlin) 3.09
11. In The Bleak Midwinter (Holst/Rossetti) 3.22




Maria Muldaur – Christmas At The Oasis (2010)


If you’re seeing this and thinking, I didn’t know Maria Muldaur ever recorded a Christmas album, well, welcome to the club. The background here is that Christmas at the Oasis, recorded live at a 2010 show at San Francisco’s now-defunct Rrazz Room, was recorded for broadcast locally as part of a Christmas special. Ms. Muldaur never had any intention of recording a Christmas album (see her own notes below), but the producer kept nudging her, telling her how good the set was, and when she listened back, her reaction was, as she told Dan MacIntosh of Songfacts, “‘Oh, my God, that sounds fantastic.’ I have this stellar jazz band that I work with up here, and they were just smoking. And so finally I was pressured and persuaded on all sides to release it. So we did. I mean, we just went in there and tried to clean up the sound a little bit.”

An album could hardly have been lower profile than this. Initially sold only at her live dates, it then migrated to be a website-only purchase. Now, however, it’s available on Amazon as a manufactured-on-demand CD-R—whatever it takes to get it into wider circulation, because it’s one grand, swinging affair, as rollicking a Yuletide celebration as one could ask, with our gal cutting loose in splendid, attitudinous voice throughout and a powerhouse band kicking it behind her on some vintage holiday fare, including three chestnuts most associated with Louis Armstrong, as well as some evergreens from some of the female blues singers of yore she admires so much.


But first, here’s what the lady of the hour has to say about this project in her liner notes:

Year after year, as the holidays approach, we are all inundated endlessly on every side by an onslaught of the same old sentimental, sappy, overdone, pedestrian Christmas tunes. Over the years, as an antidote to that, I have collected and enjoyed some wonderfully hip, swinging, humorous, irreverent Christmas songs by some of my very favorite artists in the Jazz & Blues idioms (Louis Armstrong, Louie Prima, Bessie Smith, Charles Brown, Victoria Spivey & Mabel Scott to name a few) and in the last dozen years or so, have performed this special collection of rare gems live on numerous occasions. Many people have delighted in these tunes and have suggested I record them on a Christmas album of my own, but for years I resisted the idea, as I saw just how very many artists of every stripe put out Christmas albums, and had decided that I would be the one artist on the planet who didn’t release a Christmas album!

Last year, much to my utter astonishment, an artist I consider to be the Hippest of the Hip, The King Of Cool, Bob Dylan, came out with his very own Christmas album, Christmas In The Heart, the proceeds of which were donated to the charity, Feeding America. “Now, there’s a cool idea–and a swell gesture,” I thought. But still, I resisted the idea. The second event was a Christmas concert I gave with my stellar band of top-notch Jazz musicians, which was recorded at The Rrazz Room in San Francisco for a special Christmas TV broadcast. The evening exceeded my every expectation. The band was rockin’ and swingin’ so hard, we all had a great time, and the audience just loved it! Many of them asked if a CD of the music they had heard would become available.

So……after hearing all the wonderful, spirited music on our live Christmas recording, and being urged on every hand to consider releasing our performance as a live Christmas CD, I finally succumbed, and have thrown my hat (my Santa hat!) into the ring, deciding at last to leave the lonely outpost of being the only artist on the planet without a Christmas album, and finally join the fun, and all my fellow artists, with a Christmas release of my own! We had a ball making this music and hope you will enjoy this refreshing collection of Christmas tunes throughout the Holiday Season!

Jim Rothermel.jpg

Indeed! She lets the band take charge at the outset with a Dixieland-tinged romp through Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” the first of many moments when musical director Jim Rothermel enlivens the proceedings with his spirited clarinet solos aided and is abetted in his efforts by the lively guitar work of Jeff Massanari. This sets the stage for Maria’s entrance, wailing “Well, lookee here, Jack, comin’ down the track, he’s got a rhythm in his feet, but nothin’ in his sack…he’s a boogie-woogie Santa Claus…” Yes, it’s Mabel Scott’s rousing 1948 take on Kris Kringle’s modus operandi in which Muldaur’s swinging vocal over the brisk shuffle beat is complemented by Massanari’s hot picking (funny guy, he even interpolates a snippet of “Jingle Bells” as he surges ahead) and a terrific bluesy fusillade on the 88s from John R. Burr. A lowdown “Christmas Blues” follows, with Rothermel’s bluesy clarinet embellishments setting the stage before Muldaur enters singing a low down “the merry bells are ringing today/but they don’t mean nothin’ to me/I hear the children playing today/but I’m as blue as I can be/ol’ Santa Claus forgot my address/that is something I can plainly see…” The whole shebang promplty jets into an overdrive Kansas City blues originally crafted by Jay McShann as “No Money No Honey.” Muldaur’s tackled this one before, on a 2000 Stony Plain compilation, Stony Plain’s Christmas Blues, backed by the Duke Robillard Band, but she’s even more freewheeling in her attack here and the band is right there with her. And for all the despair in McShann’s lyrics, Muldaur and company have a party with it.


Anyone who’s followed Muldaur’s career knows of her sense of history, which is in full flower here. She may have been averse to the idea of cutting a Christmas album, but when she took the plunge (even if it didn’t start out as an album project, per se) she was going to pay homage to the tradition in her own way. “Sleigh Ride” is one example but that’s the band only. She offers a slinky, seductive “Santa Baby” (with a salty reading of the sentiment “think of all the fellas I haven’t kissed” that would surely impress Miss Eartha Kitt) during which Massanari crafts a an equally salacious guitar solo; a take on Charles Brown’s “Merry Christmas Baby” that has levels of sensuality and longing even its author and its otherwise most famous interpreter, one Elvis Presley, didn’t plumb, aided and abetted by Rothermel’s lusty alto sax and moody solos from Massanari and Burr; like “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland,” which dates back to 1934, is an occasion for the band to bop through a delightful theme-and-variation attack, led by Rothermel’s sax but with equal time for Massanari and Burr to fashion fanciful statements of their own as well. She goes back to what is generally acknowledged to be the start of the blues Christmas tradition with a swaggering, multi-textured take on “At the Christmas Ball,” introduced in 1925 by Bessie Smith.

Jeff Massanari.jpg

Armstrong’s “Zat You Santa Claus” elicits a comical treatment with Muldaur vocally trembling at the thought that her late-night visitor might be someone other than Kris Kringle as the drums and sax heighten the element of danger lurking nearby. Two other Armstrong-associated tunes are occasions for the singer and her band to swing free and easy, “Yule That’s Cool” and “Christmas Night in Harlem,” and it could be argued that the delight the musicians take in these—from the way Muldaur plays with the lyrics and the soloists frolic through their spotlight moments—lends these performances a special buoyancy. For good measure, add to these treats the jumping jive the dramatis personae deliver on Louis Prima’s “What Will Santa Claus Say.”


For her long-time fans, Muldaur has a couple of special treats. Those that go back with her to the Even Dozen Jug Band days may remember a holiday parody that irreverent bunch did with the Don Redman-penned tune “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You,” first recorded in 1929 by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. With a little lyric tweaking by Duke Ellington collaborator Andy Razaf, Nat King Cole cut it during his first session for Capitol Records in 1943 and in ’44 it followed Cole’s first hit, “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” onto the national charts. Muldaur doesn’t reprise the Jug Band parody here but simply digs into the tune’s deep lovestruck blues in a tender, medium-cool smoldering style with plaintive, atmospheric soloing by Rothermel (clarinet), Burr and Massanari enhancing the yearning mood. And then there is the title track, an on-the-spot rewrite of her breakout hit, the David Nichtern-penned “Midnight at the Oasis,” given a suggestive Yule twist—“let’s slip off to the North Pole…real soon…and kick up a little snow”—in which the camel is supplanted by Rudolph (“our friend…he’ll light up the way…come on, until the evening ends, ‘til the evening ends”), although she does retain, “I’ll be your belly dancer, prancer/and you can be my sheik…,” presumably because, well, prancer fits, doesn’t it? Who knew?

In the end, if Maria Muldaur simply had to be the last person on the planet to release a Christmas album, at least she made the wait worthwhile. Christmas at the Oasis is an instant swinging seasonal classic. (by David McGee)

Ruth Davies
Maria Muldaur’s live Christmas set was recorded at the Razz Room in San Francisco in 2009. What a wonderful blast of Christmas cheer! The recording is technically excellent with Muldaur’s crack Dixieland band giving a new twist to these secular Christmas favorites. A swinging instrumental version of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” warms up the audience before Muldaur starts her vocal blast on “Boogie Woogie Santa.” Steve Allen’s “Yule That’s Cool” that Bette Midler recorded on her Christmas set Cool Yule sways delightfully. Louis Prima’s “What Will Santa Claus Say” bubbles delightfully. “Christmas Night in Harlem” sways relentlessly. “Winter Wonderland” jives with Jim Rothermel’s sax on the upbeat swing track. “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” has a blusey smoke-filled lounge feel, “I bought you a fur coat for Christmas & a diamond ring, big Cadillac car & everything.” The set concludes with Muldaur’s lyrical twist on her familiar hit “Midnight at the Oasis” which transforms to the title track, “Let’s slip off to the North Pole, real soon, and kick up a little snow.” This is not your religious Christmas record. This is a Christmas party that is as fun as it is addictive. Enjoy! (by Lee Armstrong)

John R. Burr

John R. Burr (piano)
Kent Bryson (drums)
Craig Caffall (guitar)
Ruth Davies (bass)
Jeff Massanari (guitar)
Maria Muldaur (vocals)
Jim Rothermel (saxophone, clarinet)


01. Sleigh Ride (Anderson) 2.58
02. Boogie Woogie Santa (Shaw) 5.03
03. Christmas Blues (Cahn/Holt)) 4.26
04. Yule That’s Cool (Allen) 3.55
05. Santa Baby (Javits/Springer/Springer) 4.46
06. What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin’) (Prima) 3.26
07. At The Christmas Ball (Longshaw) 4.39
08. Christmas Night In Harlem (Parish/Scott) 3.35
09. Merry Christmas Baby (Baxter/Moore) 5.07
10. Zat You Santa Claus (Fox) 3.40
11. Winter Wonderland (Bernard/Smith) 5.50
12. Gee Baby Ain’t I Good For You (Razaf/Redman) 5.47
13. Christmas At The Oasis (Nichtern) 3.46



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