woensdag 23 december 2020

Overview of 2020 Christmas 7" singles, part 4 - the usual suspects

Apart from the Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club, there are four more labels that every year release at least one Christmas 7" single. This post gives an overview of the 2020 releases of those labels: Nordpolen Musikklubb from Norway, Jump Up! Records from Chicago, IL, Kingfisher Bluez Records from Vancouver, BC, Canada and Gotta Groove Records from Cleveland, OH.

Loudon Wainwright III: Christmas Morning
(Nordpolen Musikklubb, Julepakke06, Norway, 2020, green vinyl, 33 rpm, small hole, 300 copies)

For the 7th year in a row, Norwegian label Nordpolen Musikklubb releases a Christmas 7”, and this time it’s a 7” with three songs, all by American folk singer and actor Loudon Wainwright III, whose debut album was released exactly 50 years ago. The songs all appeared on previous albums by Wainwright. The title song is taken from 1999’s ‘Social Studies’, an album of songsoriginally written for the National Public Radio, as comments on current topics. ‘Christmas Morning’ starts as an ordinary Christmas song, describing the scene on Christmas morning, with schools and offices closed, presents under the tree, Christmas dinner and skaters in the winter light, but then it tooks a more grim turn, with the homeless nobody wants to see, people dying of Aids and people gathering not far from Bethlehem in a warlike way, before closing the song hopefully: the fight against stupidity will continue in the new year, a new year that might bring cures, solutions and comprises. ‘And if we are careful, we might survive’. The song is 21 years old, but this last sentence could have been written today.
‘I’ll Be Killing You This Christmas’ is from 2014’s ‘Haven’t Got The Blues (Yet)’ and is a biting commentary on US gun laws, disguised as a relaxed folk song, using the melody of ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’. ‘This Year’, on the B-side of the single, is the oldest song, taken from 1989’s ‘Therapy’. How well the song resonates with 2020: ‘Last year was a fiasco / A real disaster / So full of sorrow”. Also this song is optimistic, and looks forward to a better new year: ‘This year will be a great year / I just can't wait, dear / Until tomorrow’. But let’s not be too negative about 2020 – like every year, it also brought good things, like this single! It is limited to 300 copies and comes, as usual, in a picture sleeve with beautiful seasonal artwork, on green vinyl.

Buy: here

Listen to
'Christmas Morning':

'I'll Be Killing You This Christmas':

'This Year':

Roger Rivas & The Brothers Of Reggae: Christmas Time Is Here b/w Linus & Lucy
(Jump Up Records / Rivas, JUMP7XMAS10, RIV-009, US, 2020, green or red vinyl, 45 rpm, big hole)
Jump Up! Records released their first Christmas 7” in 2010, by the Spanish girl group inspired The Pepperpots, and since 2014, have been annually releasing Christmas 7”’s of ska and reggae bands. Roger Rivas already did two Christmas 7”’s for the label, 2015’s ‘Deck The Halls’ b/w ‘Jingle Bells’, and 2018’s ‘Joy To The World’ b/w ‘Winter Wonderland’. Just like that 7”, this 7” is a coproduction with Rivas own label and was recorded with The Brothers Of Reggae. Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack for the Charlie Brown Christmas special has become one of the most loved Christmas albums, and Rivas pays tribute to the album by covering the two best known songs: ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ and ‘Linus And Lucy’. Rivas does it in his wellknown laidback rocksteady style, and it works. In ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ a midtempo rocksteady beat lays the foundation while Rivas’ organ plays the melody of the song and, lets the jazz cat in himself lose for some short improvisations in the middle and towards the end of the song. On the B-side, ‘Linus & Lucy’ is faster paced, and again Rivas’ organ takes center stage. Another fine addition to the Roger Rivas Christmas song collection. The single comes on green or red vinyl.

Buy: here

Watch the video for ‘Christmas Time Is Here’:

Listen to ‘Linus & Lucy’:

Lollypop Lorry: Magic Moments b/w Skankin’ Around The Christmas Tree
(Jump Up! Records, JUMP7XMAS9, US, 2020, red or green vinyl, 45 rpm, big hole)

The second Christmas 7" released by Jump Up! Records this year is by Lollypop Lorry. Lorrypop Lorry is a ska/reggae band from Yekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia, located on the Iset River in Western Siberia. Reggae from Siberia, it only shows how truly international the language of music is! Lollypop Lorry started in 2008, self releasing their first few records on burned Cdr’s in a true DIY-style and slowly building a fanbase, not only in their hometown, but all over the world. In 2018 the band made their proper album debut on Russian label Magnetic Loft Records with ‘Ural Station’, refering to the area the band is from. After a live album in 2019 and a dub album in 2020, it was about time for the first 7” release of the band. ‘Magic Moments’, the A-side, is a song that was written by the famous songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David in 1957, as one of the first songs they wrote toghether. Perry Como recorded the original version of the song in December that year, as B-side to his single ‘Catch A Falling Star’. Although only intended as a B-side, the song was so popular that it hit number 4 in the US, and even went to number 1 in the UK when released as a single early 1958. The song was later recorded by, among others, Ronnie Hilton, Connie Francis, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Erasure, The Vindictives and Snuff.
Como’s version had a subtile back beat (and catchy whistling), so it was not such a weird choice of Lollypop Lorry to turn it into a ska song. ‘Magic Moments’ is not really a Christmas song, but it’s a song about lovers remembering all the fun things they have done together in the past – like ‘The way that we hugged to try to keep warm / While takin' a sleigh ride’. It was probably this line that made Lollypop Lorry decide to turn it into a Christmas song, by filming a very festive looking video to accompany the digital release of the song last year. And now Jump Up jumped in to release the song as a Christmas single. The flipside of the record, ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ is as Christmas as Christmas songs come. As could be expected, it is a skafied version of Brenda Lee’s classic ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’, and has, staying true to the original, female vocals. The single comes on red on green vinyl (200 copies each), and includes a photo of the band taking at the set of the ‘Magic Moments’ video.

Buy: here

Video of Magic Moments:

Listen to ‘Skankin’ Round The Christmas Tree’:

Haley Blais / Fawns Of Love / Bookclub / Kylie V: Kingfisher Bluez Christmas Single 2020
(Kingfisher Bluez, Canada, 2020, EP, small hole)

Kingfisher Bluez Records is always one of the last to arrive at the Christmas scene with their annual Christmas 7” release – their ninth year in a row, so next year is a reason for celebration! But it is always well worth the wait. This year, Kingfisher Bluez even offers up four songs by four different artists, three from Vancouver, where the label is also based, and one from the USA. Kingfisher Bluez is a indie label, but they cover all parts of the indie sound. On this EP, folk, dreampop and synthpop are the main ingedrients. It opens with singer/songwriter Haley Blais who does a fragile sounding version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, accompanied by piano and subtile synths and guitar. The song is the longest of the four (just over 3 minutes), and also is accompanied by a very funny video. All other songs are about two minutes long. Fawns Of Love, the husband and wife duo of Jenny and Joseph Andreotti from Bakerfield, California, are the only non-Vancouver based act of the 7”. They have released a 7” on Kingfisher Bluez earlier this year, which I liked a lot, that featured the Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) version of their 2018 song ‘Someday’. Fawns Of Love do a dream/synthpop version of ‘Sally’s Song’ from The Nightbefore For Christmas, a highly original choice for a Christmas cover song.
The only original song on the single is by the Vancouver indie group Bookclub, who sing about ‘A Bookclub Christmas’, in a style that is not so different from the Fawns Of Love track, a combination of dreampop and synthpop, while the lyrics seem to touch a common theme at Christmas, missing someone you lost. The EP closes with the contribution by the youngest act on the compilation, Kylie V (self-described as nice soft nonbinary indie rock), who debuted in 2018 as a 14-year old. Last year, Kylie released a digital Christmas EP, ‘Baby’s First Christmas’, with four Christmas classics (but not the Connie Francis song the EP was named after), and here Kylie does the most classic of the Christmas classics, ‘Silent Night’. It’s just Kylie's voice and an acoustic guitar, and that is enough, as it is a beautiful and fresh sounding rendention of a song that already has been recorded thousands and thousand times. As always, the record is a benefit for 1-800-SUICIDE and Crisis Centre BC.

Buy: Bandcamp

Watch the video of Haley Blias’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’:

Listen to the complete EP:

Couples Skate Only / Pile Of Eggs / Fyodor Novotny: Happy Holidays From Gotta Groove Records
(Gotta Groove Records, 20-0964, US, 2020, randomly coloured vinyl, 45 rpm, small hole)

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Gotta Groove annual Christmas single, a Christmas present for the pressing plant’s customers, done by bands that feature members that work at Gotta Groove, so time for a celebration. And it is celebrated with a strong edition, with three completely different songs. We see the return of two acts that have been featured before on those compilations, and one act that debutes, although the band itself is the oldest featured on this year’s complilation. Couples Skate Only, the family band of the Thorntons, first appeared in 2013 with ‘First Christmas’, then returned for 2017’s wonderful ‘Absentees & Invites (The Solstice Show)’ and now opens the single with ‘'I Spent All My Money On Your Presents This Year', an 1980s inspired synthpop/new wave song (Devo comes to mind) that has vocals by the complete family (mom, pop and the daughters), and is all about buying Christmas presents. Despite all the different presents mentions in the Couples Skate Only song, Pile Of Eggs knows what we really want for Christmas: records! The noisecore band, already around in the early 1990s, have reformed to tell us what kind of records they want for Christmas: pop, jazz, blues, thrash metal, dubstep, but they don’t seem to be interested in Christmas records, as they don’t mention those. As for the music, a good candidate to break up a Christmas party that has been going on for too long. Fyodor Novotny closes the compilation, and they were featured on last years edition with ‘Dear Santa’, and now do another instrumental song that sounds like coming from the soundtrack of a Christmas-themed thriller, ‘Holidays’. There are two editions of the record: a regular edition on randomly coloured vinyl (550 made), and a test pressing on black vinyl, that is more limited (only 15 made) and more expensive.

Buy: Bandcamp


vrijdag 11 december 2020

Overview of 2020 Christmas 7" singles, part 3

This third overview of 2020 Christmas singles brings four new 2020 singles (by Harrie Jekkers, ABBA, Lionheart and Michael Holland) and two 2019 singles that arrived late (Piebald, that actually came out in January of 2020, and El Gato Roboto).

Harrie Jekkers: De Kerstezel
(De Drentse Platenkast, DPV014, The Netherlands, 2020, black vinyl, big hole, 45 rpm)
Harrie Jekkers is best known as the singer of 1980s Dutch pop group Klein Orkest, and as a stand-up comedian. Klein Orkest had their biggest hit in 1984, with a song inspired by the divided Berlin, ‘Over De Muur’ (‘Over The Wall’), that had as main message that on both sides had their strong points and had their weak points. In 1990, Jekkers wrote the song ‘De Kerstezel’ (‘The Christmas Donkey’) for Kinderen Voor Kinderen, an annual project in which children record an album with the profits going to charity, initially organized by the social-democratic broadcast station VARA. ‘De Kerstezel’ tells the story of a boy who is chosen to be the backside of the Christmas donkey in the school Christmas play, while the girl of his dreams, Marjolein, is chosen to be Maria. The other children bully him about it being the donkey’s bottom. But when the boy who is supposed to be the frontside of the donkey doesn’t turn up, Marjolein offers to be the frontside of the donkey, so all ends well. Jekkers himself sang the song two years after Kinderen Voor Kinderen recorded it as part of his show ‘Het Gelijk van de Koffietent’ (‘The Righ Of The Coffee Shop’), using the backing tape of Kinderen Voor Kinderen, and this version ended up on the soundtrack album of the show. Dutch label De Drenste Platenkast, that focus itself on Dutch folksongs/schlagers, now released that recording on a 7”, backed by a live solo version of ‘Over De Muur’. The version of Kinderen Voor Kinderen was also released on a promotional 7” for the album it appeared (Kinderen Voor Kinderen 11), a 7” that has become quite collectable. This single is limited to 300 copies.

Top Hitz


ABBA: Happy New Year
(Polar, 602435239811, Europe, 2020, blue vinyl, 45 rpm, small hole)
For the third year in a row, ABBA’s label Polar re-releases ‘Happy New Year’, with ‘Felicidad’ on the B-side, this time on blue vinyl, packed in a sleeve with 2021 written all over it. This time it is an edition of 6000 records, 2000 more than in 2019, so the record should be a little bit longer available for not too extreme prices, although it is already sold out on the official ABBA’s website. I’m curious to see how long they will continue this tradition. There are still enough vinyl colours to choose from, so that shouldn’t be a problem. I also wonder if their fans will continue to buy the new edition every year. nyway, you can still get copies through Discogs:
Buy: Discogs


Piebald: Piebald Presents To You, A Musical Christmas Adventure
(Photo Finish Records, USA, 2020, silver or red vinyl, 33 rpm, small hole)
After not having recorded any new music for 12 years, Massachusetts' indie rock band Piebald returned to the front with a 3-song Christmas EP in 2019, with a delayed 7” version coming out early in January 2020. The band was planning to do a few shows over Christmas, and had the idea to learn some Christmas songs to play on those shows. But that idea went overboard and instead, they decided to write some Christmas originals. The four members took a weekend off in September to work on the project, to write and record the songs and come up with the artwork for the record. It resulted in two Christmas songs and a winter-themed song, and a funny sleeve, that showed the heads of the members of the band as hunting trophees above a chimney on the front, and revealed the making of the scene on the back.
The hit song of the record was, like it should, on the A-side. ‘(All I Want For Christmas Is To) Rage With My Friends’ starts out as a rock ballad, but explodes in the sing-along song it was intended to be. To-the-point-lyrics that to refer to some Christmas classics like ‘White Christmas’ and ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’, that you can sing while raging with your friends to the music. Santa makes a cameo, and, like the band writes in the sleeve notes: ‘if you can lock down Santa for a spot on your record, you’re doing something right’. Santa also turns up in ‘Do Good Stuff’, not so much as the merry-maker of the other side, but as the one who will judge you for what you’ve done. ‘Do Good Stuff. Get Good Stuff. Be A Good Soul. Or You Will Get Coal’. The angry sounding song has a mean sounding heavy riff, so the band haven’t totally forgotten their 1990s (post-)hardcore roots. The third song, ‘The Rebellion Of Winter’, is not really about Christmas or Santa, but about what helps guitarist/vocalist Aaron Stuart, who moved to New Jersey after having lived in Los Angeles for 17 years, getting through the New Jersey winters: “look winter in the eye, spit in it, get a big drill and go fishing rhough the ice!’. All songs come with lyrics and explanations, printed on the inner sleeve. The single was released on red (700 copies) and silver (300 copies) vinyl, and is, unfortunately, sold out.
Piebald started out as a hardcore punk band in Andover, Massachusetts in 1994 and developed a more technical posthardcore style in the following years, the band actively toured the underground hardcore punk scene in the second half of the 1990s. Later, Piebald moved to Somerville, a suburb of Boston, and started to incorporate piano, horns and vocal harmonies into their sound. The band released a total of six albums on Hydra Head, Big Wheel Recreation and Side One Dummy, before breaking up in 2008, did some reunion shows in 2010 and reformed in 2016.


El Gato Roboto: Merry, Merry Christmas
(Lamont Records, LAMONT-104, 2019, 45 rpm, big hole, black vinyl)
Chicago’s El Gato Roboto debuted early 2019 with their debut CD album ‘Heavy Petting’. The band describes itself as ‘garage rock, power pop, space rock from Chicago. Bowie meets Nico with songs about nostalgia, space and cats’. The band even went so far as to include hidden upper frequencies on the CD version of the album, ‘specially designed to get your cats movin’ and groovin’. So party music for pets is what El Gato Roboto is about! They followed up the album with the 7” ‘Soft Rock '71 (One Of The Ones)’ b/w ‘Attic Fire’, that came out in the Summer of 2019, and then closed the year in November with the Christmas 7” ‘Merry, Merry Christmas’ b/w ‘Let’s Make Up For Christmas’. The A-side, written by singer Jennifer Thornbury and guitarist/drummer/organist/percussionist Brian Demski – who, together with bassist Patrick Thornbury (The Wes Hollywood Show, Tenniscourts) are El Gato Roboto – , shows the garage rock / pop punk side of the band, a song about longing to see your lover coming home for Christmas. ‘Let’s Make Up For Christmas’ has more of a 1960s sound (the band themselves mention The Turtles as a reference), with loads of layered harmonies, handclaps and a mellotron. The song, a feelgood ‘hanging out with your lover at Christmas’-song, was written by Jennifer and John San Juan, who joined the band on guitars and mellotron on the recording. Drums on the song are played by Heath Chappell (drummer of Throw and Sons Of The Never Wrong). Although already released in 2019, the vinyl single is still available through the Bandcamp of the band. Worth checking out, one of my favorite Christmas singles of 2019!

Buy: Bandcamp


Lionheart: Mary Did You Know
(Metalville, MV0259-V, y, 2020, white vinyl, 45 rpm, small hole)
Charity single by the British rock group Lionheart with proceeds going to the Little Havens Hospice in Raleigh, Essex. Little Havens Hospice cares for children and young people up to the age of 19 from Essex and the London surrounding boroughs who have been diagnosed with a complex or incurable condition. The single has a special 2020 Christmas version of the song ‘Mary Did You Know’, initially released digitally in 2018, and a solstice mix of the title track of the band’s 2020 studio album ‘The Reality Of Miracles’.
‘Mary Did You Know’ was first recorded in 1991 by Christian recording artist Michael English for his debut album. The lyrics of the song were written by Mark Lowry, already in 1984, and the music was written by Buddy Greene. Lowry had written the lyrics when he was working on a Christmas program, ‘The Living Christmas Tree’, at the request of the pastor of his church. While working on a monologue that would go in between the songs he started wondering whether Mary realized what the child that she gave birth to and held in her arms, would go on to accomplish. From that idea, the lyrics of the song were born, lyrics that mentioned several of the wonders attributed to Jesus: ‘walk on water’, ‘give sight to a blind man’ and ‘calm the storm with his hands’. Lyrics that asked Mary if she realized that she kissed the face of God when she kissed her baby. It took Lowry years to find the right music. Several composer tried, but Lowry was never satisfied with the results. When the Gaither Vocal Band (that both Lowry and English were members of) was touring with Greene, Lowry gave him the lyrics and asked him if he could come up with music for the song. Greene gave it a try, and a few days later he sang the melody, that he has written it 20 minutes, to Lowry. Lowry realized he finally had found the music that was perfectly suited to the lyrics.
Through the years, the song became a modern Christmas classic, with several versions reaching the charts, most notably that by CeeLo Green (#9 in the R&B Songs chart in 2013), Penatronix (#26 in the Hot 100, and also charting in several other countries) and Jordan Smith (#24 on the Hot 100 in 2015). The version of Lionheart is the first time that the song appeared on a 7”. Lionheart is around longer than the song itself, as the first incarnation of the band came together in 1980, when former members of Tygers Of Pan Tang, Iron Maiden, Liar, The Next Band and Def Leppard formed a new hard rock band. When the group finally released their debut album in 1984, the sound of the band had shifted from hardrock to album orientated rock. Due to a lack of succes, the band quit in 1986, only to return 30 years later with original members guitarist Dennis Straton (Iron Maiden), guitarist/keyboard-player Steve Mann (Liar, MSG, Eloy) and bass player Rocky Newton (The Next Band, Wildfire), joined by lead vocalist Lee Small (Shy, Phenomena) and drummer Clive Edwards (UFO, Wild Horses). Lionheart’s version of ‘Mary Did You Know’ sounds as a rock ballad with vocals done by a blue eyed soul singer, going from a quiet start to a classic guitar rock finale. Also ‘The Reality Of Miracles’ has a sort of Christmas feeling, because of the sleigh bells that turn up in the song. A good record for a good cause, so worth your money.

Buy: Digital and physical

Video ‘Mary Did You Know (Christmas 2020 Version)’

Video ‘The Reality Of Miracles (Solstice Version)’

Michael Holland: Those Christmas Lights / The Fatman Rocks
(Michael Holland self-released, USA, 2020, black vinyl, 33 rpm, small hole)
Michael Holland was a founding member of Chapel Hill, North Carolina indie rock group Jennyanykind in 1991. Jennyanykind released seven album in the years 1994-2003 on labels like Elektra, Yep Roc Records, MoRisen and No. 6 Records. The band also featured Michael Holland's brother Mark. The two brothers went solo when Jennyanykind broke up in the early 2000s and also recorded together as The Holland Brothers. This Christmas single is the first vinyl solo release of Michael Holland and it has two Holland originals. 'Those Christmas Lights' is a thriving keyboard-driven indie rock song about the Christmas lights being around you everywhere, when your outside in the city, when you arrive home, and when you're inside your home. They bringing back memories of Christmases past and add to feeling safe and warm in the company of the one you love. 'The Fatman Rocks' is musically completely different: it is a old fashioned reggae/ska song, that made me think of the Special's 'A Message To Rudy', probably because of the pace and the keyboards, about the Fat Man who we all love, Santa. It goes on for more than five minutes, with Holland rhyming about everything the Fat Man is doing on Christmas Eve. The record comes packed in a sleeve with a wintery scenery (with Holland and his wife pictured on the back). All proceeds are donated to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Holland hopes to raise 1000 dollar by selling the 100 copies pressed of this 7". Great cause and great record, so a good way to spend your Christmas money!

Buy: Euramerican Soul


vrijdag 4 december 2020

Overview of 2020 Christmas 7" singles, part 2

Here is the second overview of 2020 7" singles (plus one early 2019 release that we hadn't spoken about earlier). It seems 2020 will be another year with quite some cool Christmas 7"'s!

Khruangbin: Christmas Time Is Here
(Night Time Stories / LateNightTales / Dead Oceans, ALN75001X / DOC184, US / UK & Europe, 2020, 45 rpm, translucent red vinyl, small hole)

Two years ago, Khruangbin’s version of the Vince Guaraldi classic ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ was the best sold Christmas 7” of the year, with no other 7” coming close. Since then, the Houston, Texas psychedelic rock trio has only become more popular. The single also met with good reviews. So only two years after the original release, the single is being re-released by the three labels involved, Night Time Stories, LateNightTales and Dead Oceans. Again, there will be a separate release for the North American market and for the European market, so I expect this single might again hit the number one spot of most popular Christmas 7” of the year. We will see if there are other new releases that might challenge this position. The two songs on the single are the same as two years ago, two versions of ‘Christmas Time Is Here’, the original and the ‘Version Mary’ on the B-side, but there are also some differences. Two years ago the single came on green vinyl, now it comes on red vinyl. And the sleeve artwork is adapted to 2020 – with the band members standing six feet apart and wearing mouthmasks! So probably the most 2020 Christmas 7” sleeve you will find this year.

Buy: Khruangbin Bandcamp

The original 2018 video (without mouthmasks):

The video for the slighty more psychedelic Version Mary:

Amy Winehouse: 12X7 including I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
(Island / Republic, 0727248 / 3503389, UK & Europe / USA, 2020, box set with 12 7” singles on black vinyl, including one one-sided single with an etched back, small hole)

On November 20, a box set was released with 12 singles of Amy Winehouse, many of those for the first time as a 7”. That was already something to get excited about – for the first time classics like ‘Stronger Than Me’ and ‘Rehab’ on a 7”! But learning that the box set also contained a Christmas single… that was definitely a reason to get excited! With the two albums Amy Winehouse released during her life, 2003’s ‘Frank’ and especially 2006’s ‘Back To Black’ she became a star, even more so when she supplied vocals to ‘Valerie’, a song on her producer Mark Ronson’s solo album. She was able to give her vocals the same emotional impact as only the biggest female singers of the 20th century had been able to do (Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin). Unfortunately, with stardom also came addiction, turbulent relationships and general turmoil, which ended abruptly when Amy Winehouse sadly joined the club of 27 in 2011. Her life has been documented a few years ago in the film ‘Amy’, and her music will make her live on in the hearts of many.
Amy never recorded a Christmas album, although I wouldn’t have been surprised that she would have done so eventually, had she made it through all the hardships and survived. Amy also never did a studio recording of a Christmas song, but did sing a Christmas song on a live show at least once. At the end of 2004, the BBC Radio 2 broadcasted a show that was recorded live at the Union Chappel, in Islington, London, ‘The Gospel According To Christmas’. This was a specially recorded Christmas Day concert hosted by Jamelia (a English singer, songwriter and television presenter who also had been part of Band Aid 20 that year), that featured the London Community Gospel Choir and special guest singing Christmas carols and festive favourites. And one of those special guests was Amy Winehouse. She did a very soulful version of ‘I Saw Mommy Santa Claus’. Amy probably also thought it quite funny that she was doing this song, basically a children’s song, as at the end of the song, she giggles. It’s this version that now has found a home on the 12th single in the box, a one-side single with snowflakes etched on the B-side. Really great to now be a able to hear this classic performance on vinyl. This box, including the single, would make a great Christmas present for everybody who loves music and 7”’s! It is available in both Europe (on Island) and the US (on Republic).

Video including introduction by Jamelia (the single has only the song):

The Volcanics: Christmas Wassailing With The Volcanics
(Hi-Tide Recordings, HT-063, USA, 2020, 45 rpm, green vinyl)

The Volcanics are a surf band from San Gabriel Valley in South California, already around from 2001 on, who so far recorded for Double Crown and Hi-Tide, two labels specializing in surf music. On their 4-song EP ‘Christmas Wassailing With The Volcanics’, the trio take three Christmas traditionals and one a little bit more recent classic, drench the songs in reveber and rebuilt them into instrumental surf rock songs, much in the same way like The Ventures did 60 years before them, taking the freedom to put in small elements of other popular songs. Like in ‘Tidings Of Comfort And Joy’, an instrumental version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’. The last song is a surf version of ‘Walking Through The Air’, the famous theme song from the animated film ‘The Snowman’. The first 100 copies came with a Christmas card signed by the band and a sticker. 500 copies were made, and if you order the record, you can also add a 7” adapter. That seems to be a new trend, as this is already the second Christmas 45 that, optionally, comes with an 7” adapter.

Buy and listen on Bandcamp:

Vince Guaraldi Trio: Christmas Time Is Here
(Craft Recordings, CR01963, USA, 2020, 45 rpm, translucent green vinyl, small hole)

It seems that with every new Christmas, Vince Guaraldi’s ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ is getting more popular. Two years ago, we had Khruangbin and Lucius covering the song and putting it out on a 7” single, last year Owel did so, and released it on a very limited lathe 7”, while the original was being re-released on a 3” single and this year Khruangbin’s single gets a re-release and the original is finally released on a 7” single, as part of Record Day Black Friday. According to the hype sticker on the plastic sleeve, it’s the first time ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ is released on a 7”, but that is only partly true. The song was never commercially released as a single, but Fantasy did release a promotional 7” of the song in 1965, the year the album was also released. That one is hard to find, so this 7” is more than welcome. It comes in a very sweet looking picture sleeve, with the Peanuts singing in the snow before a Christmas tree, with stars shining down on them. The B-side has a alternative vocal take, that’s only one-and-a-half minute long. 2500 copies are pressed, so it won’t be hard to track down this 7” or let your favorite local record shop order it for you.

Listen on Youtube:

And here is also the B-side:

Elvis Presley: I’ll Be Home For Christmas
(Memphis Mansion, MMEP003-1120, Denmark, 2020, red vinyl, 45 rpm, small hole)

None are so faithful as fans of Elvis. Some of Elvis’ fans in Denmark even have their own Elvis Museum, Memphis Mansion, in a town called Randers. It looks like a large country house. It’s maybe not Graceland, but it’s a kind of house I can imagine Elvis could have lived in, had he been born in Denmark instead of the USA. Memphis Mansion also have their own label, and that label has released a 4-song EP for Christmas, with four of Elvis’ better known Christmas songs. Now have the songs of Elvis’ classic 1957 Christmas album already been repackaged many times, but what makes this EP interesting, is that most of the versions on this EP are alternative versions. ‘White Christmas’ and ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ have a more jazzy arrangements and sounds as if taken from a radio broadcast. Also included are ‘Santa Claus Is Back In Town’ and ‘Blue Christmas’. There is no information on the EP about when the songs have been recorded, unfortunately. The label packaged the red vinyl EP in a festive looking glossy gatefold sleeve. Included is an insert with ‘Christmas elves’ pictured (taken from Elvis’ second, 1971, Christmas album), that you can cut out, and decorate your Christmas tree with. My copy came with a A3 poster and a hand signed card. 300 copies are pressed, that are sold out from the Memphis Mansion webshop, but some other Elvis’ online shops may still have copies.

Suspense Heroes Syndicate / Skarface : Christmas Fight Diary
(Laketown Records / Sunny Bastards, LTR-017, 2020, Germany, snowy ice/babyblue, red and white/black vinyl, 33 prm, small hole)

A split EP featuring two bands who take equal inspiration from ska and punk/oi, the somewhat weird but very original named Suspense Heroes Syndicate from Slovenia and Skarface from Paris, France, who are already around for almost 30 years. Although both bands play the same style, one could say that SHS puts ska in their punk and Skarface puts punk in their ska. The EP comes packed in a sleeve with cartoon artwork, featuring two rough looking guys dressed in Santa suits in a boxing ring, with a charming lady, the referee, who is also dressed in a Santa suit, in between, and both guys, now looking less rough but also less in shape, on the back, with the lady again in between, who declares both as winners. Now, that’s the spirit of Christmas! Also no need for us to choose a winner, as both bands do a fine job in doing skapunk version of Christmas classics. SHS goes for English (with a funny accent), and do a medley of the Ramones’ ‘Merry Christmas, I Don’t Want To Fight’ and Jose Feliciano’s ‘Feliz Navidad’ (for sure, the first time that these two songs are mixed, but it works) and a cover of ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, while Skarface stay close to their roots with their versions of the two probably most popular French Christmas songs, ‘Petit Papa Noël’ and ‘La Fille De Père Noël’. 300 copies are pressed, 100 on black, 100 on ice/snow and 100 on babyblue/red/white vinyl.


Buy: Laketown Records

Cannibal Mosquitos: Merry Christmas
(Savage Cannibalism Records, SC03, France, 2019, black vinyl, 33 rpm, large hole)

This EP came already out early 2019, so in fact is alate arrival from Christmas 2018. Cannibal Mosquitos are a French trio, based in Romans Sur Isère, in the south east of France, whose slogan is ‘Let’s Surf! Let’s Twist!’. Indeed, the band take their inspiration from the early 1960s, when surf music and the twist were the big thing. Their sound is surf, but with a bit more rock & roll influences than many other surf bands, and yes, I think you can indeed dance the twist on the four songs on their Christmas EP. The song are, as usual with surf bands, instrumental, apart from some samples, that add to the Christmas atmosphere of the EP. Two originals (I think) on the A-side, and surf rock variations on ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ on the B-side, that add some additional music to those much covered songs. Despite the not so cheery cover art (a coffin with RIP Santa on it on the front and some quite weird photos on the back), the music itself is well suited for a Christmas party.

Buy: Bandcamp


Hudson Taylor: How I Know It’s Christmas
(Rubyworks, RWXEP386, Ireland, 2020, black vinyl, 45 rpm, small hole)

In 2019, the most popular new Christmas song in Ireland was ‘How I Know It’s Christmas’, by the brothers Alfie and Harry Hudson-Taylor, better known as Hudson Taylor. It was only beaten by five well-known Christmas classics as far as radio plays went, and it was the most-Shazamed song in Ireland on Christmas Day. So label Rubyworks decided to re-release the single at the end of the year that proved the most succesful year for the two brothers so far, with their second full length album, ‘Loving Everywhere I Go’, hitting the number one spot in the Irish album charts. To the digital release, two new versions were added, a RTE Concert Orchestra version and a acoustic piano version, and the song was released on a 7". ‘How I Know It’s Christmas’ , written by Alfie Hudson-Taylor, starts out as a quiet piano ballad (bringing Coldplay to mind), but gets more and more festive, when more instruments and voices join in, and Alfie’s vocals sound more excited, as he sums up what makes it Christmas for him – basically, being with all his friends and family. This sounds like a song that will stay on the Irish Christmas radio playlists for a long time, and might crossover to other countries too. The 7”, that came with a Christmas card, signed by Alfie and Harry, is already sold out, so it seems, as it isn’t listed on the official webshop of the band anymore.


The close this overview - the three 2020 Snowflakes Christmas Singles (by Jetstream Pony, Silent Winter and The Detox Twins) are still available on the Snowflakes Big Cartel site here. Both Jetstream Pony and The Detox Twins are close to being sold out, so if you want to get a complete set, this is the moment to do so! And pick up some older releases, if you don't have those yet!