Some say Christmas doesn’t really kick off until the first hearing of Noddy Holder’s still-searing Black Country howl, and let’s face it, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without those classic hits. From Bing Crosby to Band Aid; Jona Lewie to James Brown; The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. A warm glow and a chance for a sing-a-long is guaranteed.
But there’s so much more great Christmas music, some of which gets a little less airplay. Kevin Jones from Eel Pie Records takes us through a few personal favourites…
Nick Lowe – Quality Street
Possibly not the first artist you’d expect to produce a Christmas album. Nick’s initial reaction to it being suggested was most unseasonal by all accounts! But pretty much everything Lowe touches turns to musical gold and this is no exception.
Nick penned two new songs for the project, there is a co-write with Ry Cooder, a song by Ron Sexsmith and a fabulous take on the Wizzard 70s classic I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day plus several other covers.
Favourite Song: Children Go Where I send Thee
Tracey Thorn – Tinsel And Lights
The only ‘trad’ Christmas song here is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. A song so ubiquitous and trite (imho), it’s near impossible to bequeath it any allure.
But elsewhere, Thorn’s impeccable taste delivers a covers album of heartrending beauty. As you’d expect of the Everything But The Girl vocalist, the songs are decorated with dolorous charm and genuine depth, serving as a cleansing detox from the sugary confection of most Christmas music.
Favourite Song: Taking Down The Tree
Low – Christmas
Talking of indie rock band Low (Taking Down The Tree is a Low song) here’s an album that’ll bring the frosty ambience of an 18th-century Christmas to your cosy yuletide living room. Laced with dirgy drones and hushed vocals, this isn’t one to get the party started.
But for a meditative and reflective soundtrack to your post-indulgence come down, this could be the one.
Favourite Song: Just Like Christmas
Various – A John Waters Christmas
As if Christmas wasn’t kitschy enough already, here’s an album that turns the tacky all the way up to 11. Tiny Tim singing Rudolf The Red Nose Reindeer anyone? Its preposterousness tips over into some weird profundity (subject to the consumption of a few eggnogs).
And as for Here Comes Fatty Claus, well… maybe not one to be played in front of Grandma unless she’d appreciate the blunt and salty language of Santa’s exhausted and disgruntled employees.
Favourite Song: Santa Claus Is A Black Man (Teddy Vann)
Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector
Recorded in 1963 but still the best Christmas album ever? OK, so maybe this one does get its fair share of airplay. In fact, the songs have soundtracked every Christmas for nearly 60 years now and will probably do so once again this Yuletide.
Like a 25lb turkey full of the tastiest chestnut treats, A Christmas Gift For You is brimful to overflowing with hits. There’s more sleigh bells on here than you can shake a cracker at and tunes that feel as elemental to Christmas as seeing Chris Rea stuck in traffic on the M1.
Favourite Song: Here Comes Santa Claus (Bob B Sox & The Blue Jeans)
Kate and Anna McGarrigle – The McGarrigle Christmas Hour
Featuring the incredible McGarrigle sisters plus an assortment of mega-talented family members and friends – Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, Emmylou Harris, et al – this is a supremely well curated collection of spiritual and secular songs that capture the broad array of Christmas emotions. From anticipation to absence; consumption to rebellion; joy to the jaded reality; it’s all here.
Favourite Song: Counting Stars (Ian Vincenzo Dow/Anna McGarrigle/Kate McGarrigle)
Sadly, you won’t be able to find many of these in stock at Eel Pie Records. Some have never actually been released on vinyl and others are not available right now.
What you will find at Eel Pie Records is thousands of other records. Perfect gifts to bring joy to friends and relations all year round.
Stop by for some mulled wine, mince pies and Phil’s legendary Christmas cheer!