Execution of request,WxHFdMc43a4,WLVZjdsU4lo,Mod9OsdTAus,0-_xrLqEaek,106beqd6EeE,Bzrkyy9h4x8,TpmiPbDkvBQ,_fTksWqwOiQ,Vdvj1-CMAo8,Bf2qhTEghd0,5OCdS5S20dg,s843Iqhprkw,wgA5epKal1w,P6KEh6CSDgA,Execution of request,pM02KLsH0CU,XiHxBupPwH8,3_y-3fsI9zE,sceLYdDZvlU,u07QzL0J0gk,3L7XcjR4JW4,Nh1h14KeHEA,ZF4inYBTpGI,R-liS9e2IY8,hfIZsENTmpI,OYQFeZFLyM4,m__H-qE97C8,IapTOdlOXNc,QhTCh7smrR4,k8PSf3JtK58,0LFe02mhmYg,nOPzBnT_I8g,YQ9lSTOoOjc,G47E6cbw7BQ,fwNKXeWX3kI,G47E6cbw7BQ,aShUFAG_WgM,aShUFAG_WgM,Xw6XithVxiQ,trR-imoMDRw,9g1NcJprC3I,XSYMHcFJ7fg,iWZmPJe8HWM,YrAte-39nLo,lsAY1iPv768,qTWaZC5fUn8,rbZSrRDCXqY,PyGmuxx4wSs,N_cPQn6vOdo,XlltjdtxyAA,hOot8OEI_ok,aShUFAG_WgM,oUwQP0-P0DI,PQ8mdstEVcM,GcL-Yw7O_0I,1EwHErxqGv0,h4kDTb3DKJI,aShUFAG_WgM,DmafTobRI7U,aShUFAG_WgM,EPGzsMKn_y4,Qy8LI3_26Co,KD5zzJUKIHc,lXr1SF0o60M,dNUbEDPWrvw,ORHq0UK8Gyo,dEoiM-ZQC2I,neC28UxqGks,lsoj8NGymiY,GlNw9V22z8A,EgHWhiQeejM,aShUFAG_WgM,xytNZRqouKI,P6osPRsgXdw,ZlUjoaAapwI,w-lngxx8U7E,B1f7Gh4MZgo,cegoD2T-n44,1SHMYx3Vyk8,Execution of request,qFToU9QhfDY,aShUFAG_WgM,SJUBinQ3Oto,mhS7ikttou8,aShUFAG_WgM,rN5XLoESvuc
Detroit singer Sufjan Stevens is an artist with grand ambitions. While his project to write an album for every one of the 50 States in America might never be attainable it says much about Steven’s prolific nature that he would even consider it. As well as the myriad of releases that he puts out during the year Stevens is also a fervent admirer of the Christmas season and has a giant catalogue of seasonal numbers to his name that appears to grow each year. Many of the tunes are religious in tone whether they be elaborate reworking’s of old carols or brand new originals that he has written himself.
The bulk of Stevens Christmas songs have been compiled in a pair of boxsets, ‘Songs for Christmas’ and ‘Silver and Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10’ that were released in 2006 and 2012. The original ‘Songs For Christmas’ came out in 2006 and compiled 5 EP’s Stevens had released over the previous 5 years. Over 42 tracks Stevens ran through a list of well-known Christmas standards (‘Little Drummer Boy’, ‘Away In A Manger’, ‘The First Noel’) offering a mostly restrained take on the songs that have become synonymous with the season. Each of the 5 volumes have much to recommend and Vol. 1 opens in wonderfully simple mode with an abridged version of ‘Silent Night’. Stevens doesn’t always rely on the work of others as ‘Song of Christmas’ is scattered with originals that easily hold their own amongst the classics. The first to appear is ‘We’re Goin’ To The Country!’ which is pieced together by Stevens frail vocals, a soft banjo and a dash of sleigh bells. Another original ‘It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Bad!’ (my, how he likes punctuation!) is a decidedly madcap adventure given the solemnity of the previous tracks and marks itself as a standout.
Though you might think it Stevens is not above inserting lots of humour into his compositions. ‘That Was The Worst Christmas Ever’ has become a live favourite and describes the believable events of a Christmas that does not go according to plan. On ‘Did I Make You Cry on Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!)’ Stevens drops the choirboy attitude for a minute with funny results. The crowning glory of the albums fun times come on the 70’s sounding ‘Get Behind Me, Santa!’ with the leash being well and truly cast off from a frothing Stevens.
While ‘Songs For Christmas’ has a generally quiet demeanour Stevens does occasionally let rip. ‘I Saw Three Ships’ might not have been the one you’d have expected this to happen on but his version is a light limbered joy full of jaunty percussion and foraging recorders. ‘Once In Royal David’s City’ could never have been described as an up-tempo number but in Stevens hands it is frequently suffused with energy. The albums centrepiece is undeniably the Stevens penned ‘Come On! Let’s Boogey To The Elf Dance!’ which is perhaps his greatest contribution to the canon of modern Christmas classics. It is a family treat that for once ditches the religious for the secular and Santa and his Elves take centre stage. The singalong chorus is something for big and small members of your family. Of the other originals on ‘Songs For Christmas’, ‘Put The Lights On The Tree’ offers a sprightly musical backdrop to the frequent angst involved in that annual ordeal. ‘Hey Guys! It's Christmas Time!’ is at the kernel of Sufjan’s love of the season and offers a rock n’ roll dimension to the album. ‘Christmas In July’ offers hope to those of us unable to contemplate the fact that Christmas is still half a year away.
Quite incredibly and in similar circumstances (the compilation was preceded by several years’ worth of festive EP’s) ‘Silver and Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10’ was released in December 2012. This time there were even more tracks (58 in all, that make up over 3 hours of music) and the whole thing was again kick-started by ‘Silent Night’ which had more legs this time and was delivered in a typically reverential style. Like its predecessor this compilation has plenty of highlights throughout each of the 5 volumes but there some genuine standouts. ‘Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past’ appears early and marks itself out as an original that could one day become a classic with its cast of dozens offering a renewed take on Santa’s famous calling card.
Almost half of the album is written or co-written (some with Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the National) by Stevens which indicates his fervour for December’s events don’t appear to be waning. And with such an exhaustive track listing isn’t it something that tracks at 7-minutes-plus like ‘Barcarola (You Must Be A Christmas Tree)’ still get a look in. The song proves that Sufjan can singlehandedly provide an alternative to the dozen or so songs that are played to death each year. A retreat of sorts, quiet and reflective like on ‘How Shall I Fitly Meet Thee?’ or his remarkable rendition of 'Angels We Have Heard On High'. At the other end of the spectrum is the radically danceable Dooresque sounding ‘Christmas Woman’. He again pushes the boat out with ‘Mr Frosty Man’ which sounds a bit like the Troggs ‘Wild Thing’. The song was promoted with an appropriately weird and wonderful clay motion video. Also in the mad as a box of frogs category is ‘I Am Santa’s Helper’ which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the original Star Trek’s Christmas Special (if something like that had ever happened).
With so many songs to choose from ‘Silver and Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10’ can be overwhelming at times but only if you fail to realise that you have a month out of each year to get through it all (that is unless Stevens releases another mega boxset in the meantime!). The compilation came complete with an 80 page booklet with essays from Stevens and others about all manner of Christmas subjects, not all of them complimentary of the season but certainly on-topic. With reading and listening in one package this second Christmas boxset from Sufjan Stevens is an indispensable companion for the season.
There is far greater joy...
in giving than receiving... the will of humankind... contains this boundless capacity for immeasurable generosity and love.