Sunday, December 10, 2017

O' Come O' Come Emmanuel - Enya

Enya's carols are gorgeous.

This haunting version of one of my favorite Christmas Carols is brilliant, as nearly perfect and reverently done as this song can be. The words are in Gaelic if I'm not mistaken, appropriate given the Brennan family are Irish. So without further eloquence on my part, here's Enya with O' Come O' Come Emmanuel.

An amazingly talented indie artist, Peter Hollens produces some incredible work based on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and his style lends itself brilliantly to older carols like O' Come O' Come. This entirely acapella version is breath-taking.

Finally, the Piano Guys do their magic with cello and piano:

This song soothes my soul. It's a wonderful song for caroling too and all three versions have earned a place on my Christmas Mp3 list.

Text © 2017 by Tom King  Music © by the original artists


Sunday, December 3, 2017

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Lyrics by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, vocals by John Gorka. You can't beat that combination. I've heard a lot of variations on this song, but my favorite is Gorka's. It's just a simple acoustic guitar and voice version - a little bit bluesy, but not overly so. It actually comes off as reverent and respectful. You really have to hear it. He captures Longfellow's poem perfectly.

© 2017 by Tom King

Friday, December 1, 2017

Carol of the Bells

This isn't my favorite version of "Carol of the Bells". I include it because I was named after the Orchestra leader, Wayne King - at least so my mother tells me. My first name belongs to my grandfather and my great grandfather and 29 other Thomases whom I've discovered hanging from the branches of my family tree.  We've all got individual middle names. There are only a few Thomas Juniors and one "the 3rd" that I have found so far, and a couple with "Thomas" as middle name. If I ever get any say so with my grandkids, I'm hoping to at least get one grandson with Thomas for a middle name.  Here's Wayne's big band rendition of Carol of the Bells:

Here's another version of this song I like even better, but I do like to listen to Wayne and his orchestra run a few big band versions of Christmas songs through the old record player. Here are the Piano Guys doing a medley based around Carol of the Bells (for 12 cellos).

Then there is this one which really does make me smile! Algonquin students do a flash mob version of Carol of the Bells with the help of Darth Vader and his electric guitar.

If you go to Youtube, there are dozens of versions of this song including some notable versions done as flashmobs.  There are versions with pianos, bells, voices as bells and even one version with kazoos.

One last version I'm adding to this is the incredible version done by Peter Hollens. This version uses 300 male voices including multiple versions of Peter himself. It's amazing.

Note that watching and subscribing to these indie artists on Youtube helps support them.

© 2017 by Tom King

PS:  One more. This one by Lindsey Stirling on violin combines dance and snow. This one surprised me. She gets focused on her fiddle as intensely as my friend Jaime Jorge. I need to find some carols of his if he's done any. I love musicians that get this deeply into the music.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Who Am I?

This song is one of those that makes me tear up when I sing it. It's one of those that was on Micah's playlist and we played it at his memorial services. The song is by one of Sheila's favorite groups - Casting Crowns.  The song made it's way into my songleader's songbook that is a collection of song-service music from camp and youth programs and stuff that I collected over the years. I eventually made a smaller print version that we printed up and bound with my old comb binder and made up our own songbooks for worship at the Tyler church.

Here's Casting Crowns' version of "Who Am I?"

It's an extraordinary song about God's extraordinary grace in doing what He did to save us.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Six of My Favorite Folkies

This morning we get a cornucopia of folk music goodness. This is a rare little medley/sing off by three folk powerhouses of the sixties. It starts out with the Peter, Paul & Mary, followed by the odd British minstrel, Donovan Leitch, capped by the inimitable Smothers Brothers. I stole songs from all these people when I did campfires at Lone Star Camp. I swiped some of these very songs, especially the Smothers Brothers blackouts.

So here for a quick blast from my hippie past are PP&M, Smothers Brothers and Donovan:

Well that was fun! Now I want to sit down and listen to my old folk music that I've collected over the years.

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Morning Has Broken

This beautiful old hymn was a hit back in the 70s for Cat Stevens. Cat later left the music business and joined Islam for a strange and troubling journey for those who enjoyed his music. It always seemed odd that the gentle singer we knew would embrace a religion not known for it's peaceful ways. Cat changed his name to Yusuf Islam. He was born Steven Demetre Georgiou. Now he goes by just plain Yusuf. Over the years reporters used to seek him out to comment on some new official Muslim outrage like the fatwah against author Salman Rushdie. He made some comments that got him in trouble over the years. Eventually he returned to the music business and made some new music and engaged in peace activism. He has been given several humanitarian awards over the years.

Given that as an outspoken Muslim pacifist, Yusuf is a fairly rare bird, it's little wonder he gets a lot of attention from progressives in the entertainment industry and the political sector. I don't care if the man is a Muslim. At least he's a peaceful man and that is most important. And his rendition of Morning Has Broken is one of my favorite versions of this song.  Enjoy:

This song went into my songleader's handbook years ago. Cat Stevens/Yusuf is the reason I found it. I am grateful.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Shanghai Breezes

This poignant song foreshadowed the end of John Denver's marriage. The song is one of his better songs lyrically and the tune supports the words perfectly. Denver's tragic death in a plane crash shocked his fans, but as any artist hopes to, John left behind a brilliant body of work.

This song is a nice one to put on your playlist on a cold winter evening. You can almost feel the warm Shanghai breezes wafting through your living room. 

Born Henry John Deutchendorf, John was the son of a U.S. Air Force officer. At age eleven, his grandmother gave him her guitar. He took guitar lessons and joined a boys’ choir. At age twenty he changed his name to John Denver and began to pursue a career in music. Peter, Paul & Mary picked up and made a hit with his song "Leaving on a Jet Plane". The success of that song led to John catching a spot in the Chad Mitchell Trio. When they disbanded Denver took off on his own and he managed to catch the social, charitable and environmental sentiments of the 70s and 80s.

 Here's a live version of Shanghai Breezes from John's later career: