Now as the last broad oak leaf falls, we beg: consider this -- there's some who have no coin to save for turkey, wine or gifts. No children's laughter round the fire, no family left to know. So lend a warm and a helping hand, say Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow. As holly pricks and ivy clings, your fate is none too clear.
Jethro Tull's 'Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow'
G'Evening! Give a few moments to mark my place in Jethro Tull -- A History of the Band, 1968-2001 as I'm writing an annotated Tull bibliography for Bulletin De Hérisson De Sommeil. Scott Allen Nollen's most excellent biography of that great band should be read by every Tull fan as it's every bit as interesting a read as Brian Hinton & Geoff Wall's Ashley Hutchings -- The Guv'nor & the Rise of Folk Rock and far, far better than Patrick Humphries' Richard Thompson -- The Biography. Now 'tis a pity no one's written a look at Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention that matches these fine works!
We've but two things for you this edition as we're preparing for one of our cold weather parties, which takes a fair bit of work from all of us 'ere. So we just have Iain Nicholas Mackenzie's reaction to 'Noel des Enfants Qui N'ont Plus De Maisons (Christmas Carol for Homeless Children)', and lots of CD reviews as we prepared this edition some weeks ago in order to catch up on those reviews. That's it. Now let's head off to the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room as Mackenzie, our Librarian, is doing a reading starting at midnight -- Jennifer Stevenson's 'Solstice'.
(Oh, I should mention that you can hear Stevenson reading her tale 'ere as we recorded her performance last year in the Pub. It's a rather good performance! If you prefer reading it for yourself, the entire tale's 'ere for your reading pleasure.)
A note before we start off this edition -- Do join us next edition (30th of December) for an in-depth look at master storyteller Catherynne M. Valente and all of her marvelous writings. In addition, we've has done a long and loving interview her as well, a reading by her, a poem she's written that is exclusive to Green Man, a look-see at her amazing website, and we even look at several recordings based on the Orphan's Tales novels.
Oh, do check out the Angry Black Woman interview with Catherynne Valente about the way her readers perceive race in her fiction.
Now let's hear from Mackenzie...
Indeed Claude Debussy is one of my favorite composers, but I hadn't heard 'Noel des Enfants Qui N'ont Plus De Maisons (Christmas Carol for Homeless Children)' until recently. It's on soprano Carmen Balthrop's lovely CD The Art of Christmas, Vol. 1' Strange, disturbing (and possibly disturbed) thing - Debussy wrote it in 1915 during World War I as a plea for vengeance, a prayer from the French children that the Germans should have no Christmas.
Some of the lyrics: 'We have no more house, nor home! Enemies took all we had, all gone, all gone, even our own little bed! The school they burned, they burnt our teacher, too.. .Surely Daddy to fight has gone, poor Mommy is in heaven---died and did not see all this. O! What shall we do now? Jesu! Infant Jesu! Do not go to them, don't go to them ever, punish them all! Avenge the children of France!....Noel! Noel! We want no toys, but may we please get back again our daily bread....Jesu! Listen to us, our wooden shoes we have no more, so please give victory to the children of France!'
This war carol -- which is an oxymoron if there ever was one - is the least joyful Christmas song I know, a hymn of gloom and doom that makes 'Mary and Joseph' sound positively giddy. It sounds better in French, of course, especially if you don't know what the words mean.
Madame Balthrop's lovely voice gives it an impersonal tone; in childrens' voices, though, it's devastating. It's not long – but it packs quite an emotional wallop in just two and a half minutes, with an insistent, haunting melodic frame around an almost staccato vocal line. 'Noel Des Enfants Qui N'ont Plus de Maisons' is too well crafted to be mere propaganda. It's a wrathful indictment.
Camille Alexa says, 'Unfortunately, trying to suit all musical tastes in one collection means a portion of the offerings risk failing to appeal to any one individual listener.' She was that individual listener when it came to Fiona Mackenzie's Duan Nollaig: A Gaelic Christmas. Read her review here to find out what she didn't like about it.
Donna Bird reviews two CDs, from two Latvian groups, Ilgi and Laimas Muzykanti. One of them left her wanting more and searching the Internet (successfully) for a source; the other reminded her of 'seventies metal bands, the kind that make your ears hurt.' Read her review here to find which was which.
Donna also took a journey in the musical time machine with three CDs by an intertwined group of Swedish musicians, and from the sounds of it she had a splendid time! You'll have to read her review of Bordunmusik fran Dalsland, In medias res and Figs, fiddles and fine play for the whole fascinating tale.
Denise Dutton reviews two CDs of Christmas music, Music In The Glen's Fuar and Pam Tillis' Just In Time For Christmas. She says 'Both of these CDs passed the all-important Background Party Music Challenge when I had some family and friends over recently.' Will they pass your own test? Read her review here to find out more.
Scott Gianelli reviews Morning Star, the new CD from Swedish folk band Ranarim. 'Ranarim sounds like a band having a lot of fun making music together right now, and the pleasure rubs off on the listener all the way through Morning Star,' Scott says. Let him tell you more about it here.
Tim Hoke says Robin Williamson & his Merry Band's American Stonehenge is 'an old treasure that's thankfully been re-released on CD.' Just what kind of old treasure? Well, it includes an 11-minute recitation of poem 'Song of Mabon,' resurrected from a flexidisk in an old poetry magazine. I'll let Tim tell fill you in here.
Michael Hunter takes a comprehensive look at A Box of Pegg's, the sprawling Matty Grooves/Free Reed box set that showcases the long and productive career of folk-rocker Dave Pegg. One of Michael's conclusions is that, 'although his contribution to folk rock is obviously highly important, his experience is not just limited to that genre, with traditional acoustic folk and straight ahead rock playing equally central roles in his musical life.' Read all about how he reached that conclusion here.
David Kidney reviews a reissue of a Rodney Crowell side project called The Cicadas, originally released in 1997. '...it's not rocket science,' David says, but it is a good listen. See what else he has to say about it here.
David also has for us a Christmas music omni, in which he reviews two 'various artists' compilations: A Skaggs Family Christmas and to: KATE (a benefit for Kate's sake). 'Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder, his wife Sharon White, their daughter Molly, Sharon's family (The Whites) all sing together in this bluegrass celebration,' David says of the first; and of the second, a benefit for a little girl with a rare disease, he liked pretty much everything except ... well, read about it here to see what sent him running from the room with hands over ears.
David was much happier with Kevin Max's gospel album, The Blood. 'This is an important album for gospel music, but even more, it's important for the links to rock 'n' roll, blues and jazz which were all influenced by that music.' Get the details in his review here.
Peter Massey reviews a CD from Donal Clancy, son of Liam Clancy of The Clancy Brothers. 'I sometimes think it must be hard for a famous folk family sibling, having a harder hill to climb, in that they are expected to perform up to the family standard,' Peter says of Donal's Close to Home. 'But, make no mistake about it, -- the talent exhibited on this recording shows that Donal deserves to be considered on his own merit.' Read all about it here.
Peter also lends his ear to a couple of American folk CDs, an album of 'real' traditional American folk songs' and one of an Irish-American background: Jean Ritchie and Paul Clayton, The Traditional Years -- American Folk Tales and Songs originally released in 1956; and Frank Emerson's There's a Story Told.
Robert M. Tilendis this time starts his reviews with one of Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings and other orchestral and chamber works. Robert says this recording from Sony BMG features 'Thomas Schippers leading the New York Philharmonic in what may be the best performance I've heard of t his piece for a full orchestra.' Read about that and more here.
Robert can't come up with enough superlatives for Sony BMG's latest reissue of Glenn Gould's legendary 1955 recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations. 'Let it suffice to say that, after being greeted by reactions from wild enthusiasm to dumbstruck wonder (figuratively speaking), it has never been out of print in the fifty years since its release,' Robert says. Find out why here.
Finally, Robert clues us in to a whole passel of CDs that feature songs. Not just any old 'Home on the Range' songs, mind you. These collections include songs from Medieval Iceland, Elizabethan England, 17th Century Scotland, and modern songs from an opera-ballet based on Shakespeare's The Tempest What common thread holds them all together? Read Robert's review here to find out.
Gary Whitehouse had a mostly positive reaction to a reissue of the collaboration between Bobby Bare and Shel Silverstein, called Lullabys, Legends and Lies. In spite of some dated material, he says, 'Silverstein was such a sharp and witty writer that the material mostly overcomes the performances. And Bare has such a warm baritone and winning attitude that it's easy to see why the two worked so well together.' Read more about it here.
Next, Gary looks at another set of reissues in an omnibus review of The Essential Chet Atkins and Chester & Lester, a collaboration between Atkins and Les Paul. 'Both of these albums are pretty much essentials to any serious guitar fan,' Gary says. He explains more here.
Another of Gary's musical heroes is Buck Owens, and he reviews a tribute to Buck from The Derailers, Under the Influence of Buck. 'All in all, The Derailers have nicely adhered to the spirit of the originals while making the songs their own, something of today, not yesterday,' he says. Before it's cryin' time again, read his review here.
'This is one of the saddest albums I've heard in a long time,' Gary says of Nothing is OK by The Everybodyfields. 'The music is folk, and country, and rock, and some blend of all three. What it is, is modern music played in a modern form that is based on traditional music of various kinds,' Gary concludes. Read more about this CD here.
Finally, Gary reviews Muleskinner Jones' CD Alcohol, Tobacco, Raygun?, which he says has some imperfections... 'but this guy's heart's in the right place, and his music, at its best, is powerful as a punch to the guts -- from a crying clown who's playing a mandolin and singing through a vocoder.' To find out what that's all about, read the full reviewhere.
A note before we go...
To warm those long winter nights, just consider Jennifer Stevenson 's next release which is a trilogy of 'hilarious, hot-blooded romantic fantasies' in May, June, and July of 2008 -- The Brass Bed, The Velvet Chair, and The Bearskin Rug. The quotes along will, errrr, warm, your, errr, inner goddess such as Kate Douglas on The Bearskin Rug -- 'More fun than pillow fighting naked!', and this choice quote from Vicki Lewis Thompson -- 'The sexy, supernatural adventures of a feisty heroine, her 200-year-old sex demon booty slave, and her ex-con-artist sidekick.'