Top Ten Christmas Songs from Freegal

by Conor MacHale

Normally this time of year as the festive season approaches we would be wheeling out the trolley packed with all the Christmas music for our patrons to borrow. However, as the library remains closed for the time being there is an alternative to accessing a great variety of Christmas music by streaming and downloading all the festive hits on the Freegal app. You can also create playlists in the My Music section so you can stream your favourite Christmas tunes and shuffle them in any random order. Here are a few to get the party started:

Dean Martin: Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!
Written by Sammy Cahn who wrote it in California during a heat wave, naturally, this is a festive favourite covered by many singers from Frank Sinatra to Michael Buble. Dean Martin’s sublime laid back vocals make this version stand out.

Bing Crosby: White Christmas
This has been recorded by artists as disparate as Perry Como and Iggy Pop. One of the most popular and well known renderings is by Bing Crosby whose version is one of the highest selling singles of all time. It remains one of the most recognisable of all Christmas songs

Miley Cyrus & Mark Ronson feat Sean Ono Lennon: Happy Xmas ( War is Over)
2020 marks 40 years since the death of John Lennon so it is fitting his son Sean features on this version of his Christmas single.

London Fox Children’s Choir: Walking in the Air
A well known Christmas song from The Snowman, this is given a choral treatment by the London Fox Children’s Choir who also perform arrangements of many well known Christmas carols such as Deck the Halls and Away in a Manger .

Christmas Carols: O Holy Night
Plenty of carols can be streamed and downloaded. Written in 1847, this remains today one of the most popular of all carols.

Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song
Of the many yuletide songs recorded by Nat King Cole, this is a stand out song written by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells. Although there are many versions by Perry Como and Frank Sinatra, Cole’s rendition remains a most popular favourite.

Wham: Last Christmas
Beaten to the No. 1 spot in 1984 by Do They know it’s Christmas by Band Aid, this nevertheless remains a pop Christmas favourite. It’s available on multiple compilation albums as well as the recent Last Christmas film soundtrack. The music video can also be downloaded on Freegal.

The Ronettes: Sleigh Ride
Produced by Phil Spector at the heights of his “Wall of Sound” period in the mid 1960s. Check out the Now That’s What I Call Christmas completion for this and many other favourites.

Ella Fitzgerald: Winter Wonderland
A perfect jazz number for the Christmas, this version recorded by Ella Fitzgerald is the most known and a rightful addition to any Christmas song list.

Elvis Presley: Blue Christmas
This was recorded in 1957 at the height of Elvis’s Rock n’ Roll fame. He also recorded a version with the country singer Martina McBride for his ’68 comeback special.

A lot of these songs appear on various compilations thus leading you onto many other Christmas favourites. Note, whole albums can be saved onto your Christmas playlist instead of just picking random songs.

Listen to Playlist: https://corkcitylibraries.freegalmusic.com/browse/playlists/library-playlists/241795

The Bad Penny Review | Harry Styles’ Fine Line

When Fine Line released in December 2019 it burst onto the scene and became the third-highest debut for an album that year, and with good reason. The album is a rousing and stylish pop record that wears all of its retro-rock inspirations on its sleeve. Rock royalty Stevie Nicks revealed the album has been what she has been primarily listening to throughout the lockdown, proclaiming “Way to go H. It is your Rumours”.

Fine Line Cover Art

So given that, how does the album hold up to the Fleetwood Mac classic? While it doesn’t maintain the same level of consistent quality in all of its 12 tracks, the vast majority offer a delightful and infectious romp through the sounds of rock and pop, both old and new. You can feel the constant drive to create great moments in every track; with catchy hooks, dynamic song structures and superb production. The album is brimming with confidence and draws you in from the beginning through to the end.

The opening track ‘Golden’ launches straight in with a storming progressive indie-pop song that lays bare his 70s and aforementioned Fleetwood Mac influences but unlike his first solo album it clearly frames Styles as the main attraction. ‘Canyon Moon’ also highlights his folk-pop inspirations with its sunny disposition pitching a tent and setting up a campfire by the time it gets to the first chorus.

Other tracks like the standout ‘Sunflower Vol. 6’ sparkle and shimmer with wavy layers of electronic buzz and jangling guitars. Great vocal moments such as exaggerated breaths before verses, layered harmonies and the joyous and silly outro give the song plenty of memorable moments. This track shows Style’s at his most stylish and confident as he commands the dazzling array of sounds and layers with ease.

‘Lights Up’ blends pop rock with the glimmering shades of indie and balances them out with a bombastic chorus. Ticking the box for a big summer banger is ‘Watermelon Sugar’ with its simple guitar based underbelly exploding after the first verse into a raucous big band anthem that practically demands sunny skies.

Meanwhile, funky pop grooves and piercing guitar solos are aplenty on the single ‘Adore You’, paired with themes of unwavering devotion that invoke memories of early Bruno Mars mega-hits, while the last of the singles to appear on the record, ‘Falling’, features a stripped back instrumental for its reflective subject matter and tries to offers a change of pace. However, the song is a more forgettable pop ballad, lacking the defined sense of character on most of the other tracks.

Lyrically the album often follows an honest and open approach, ‘Cherry’ is a bouncy slice of indie folk that laments an obviously personal break-up, ‘To Be So Lonely’ demonstrates that commitment to looking inward over a sparse and fun instrumental while Styles documents his relationship failings.

The guitar heavy ‘She’ is an atmospheric and airy track that proves infectious, despite it lacking the lyrical quality to offer insight into the concept on display, with its soaring guitars and great vocals.

The thematically self-explanatory, ‘Treat People With Kindness’, sees Styles at his most Magical Mystery Tour. Sporting a powerful vocal performance that holds the larger than life instrumental and backing vocals together the song soars and aims to take all bystanders along with it, even if it does often veer into clichéd territory.

The title track ‘Fine Line’ closes the album with a spacious, melancholy ballad that builds steadily with expanding instrumentation and vocal melodies, until the spectacular introduction of a stellar brass section gives both the song and album a great sense of release.

Overall, Fine Line is a very solid second offering from an artist carving their sound out of 60s and 70s influences and using them to create fun, energetic and honest music for a whole new generation.

 

Now available with your library membership to stream and download on Freegal: https://corkcitylibraries.freegalmusic.com/

 

By John Hayes

 

Music To Enjoy At Home

Although concert venues, theatres and general performance spaces remain closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, you can still  access many forms of music online and enjoy them in the comfort of your own home. Here are a few suggestions from Senior Library Assistant, Conor McHale.

Live Stream Concerts
Billboard’s website offers a range of links to live stream concerts from artists such as Metallica to Miley Cyrus with the Philadelphia Orchestra in between.  These are available on the bigger platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.  Billboard regularly updates this list of online concerts.  Visit www.billboard.com

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Jazz and Rock
npr.org is an easy to use website, also regularly updated and is divided into genre such and Jazz, Rock and so on. Visit www.npr.org

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Irish Traditional Music
For Irish and Trad enthusiasts there is a collection of YouTube videos from artists like Sharon Shannon, Rhiannon Giddens, Ye Vagabonds and The Black Family.  Visit www.celtic-colours.com

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Classical Music
For Classical lovers check out an old reliable, Classic FM. Visit www.classicfm.com

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Recorded Concerts
For those who enjoy watching classic music concerts from their favourite artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Queen and many, many more, visit www.quello.com

 

by Conor McHale

 

Neil Young in the Ditch

Neil_Young_2012

Neil Young is arguably the most prolific, as well as the longest-lasting, and hardest-working musician in popular music.  His output is so varied that it is difficult to know where to begin to come to terms with his music.  He moved from his native Canada to the USA in the mid-1960s and it feels like he has hardly let his guitar down since.  In this present century alone he has released 17 albums of new music, along with a series of archival recordings, mostly live, curated by Young himself.

Looking back over four decades to focus on one short period in his career might seem a little odd, in that context.  Yet in the opinion of this writer, the three albums he recorded in 1973 and 1974, taken together, amount to his finest work.  He himself coined the name by which this period and its music – ‘The Ditch’ – are known:

Heart of Gold put me in the middle of the road.  Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch”.

The music made by Young during that time was brought to mind by the release in early summer 2018 of Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live.  This album was recorded straight after he and his band had finished recording the Tonight’s the Night studio album.  They went to the newly opened Roxy Club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in late September 1973, and played most of the songs they had just recorded.

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Tonight’s the Night – released in June 1975, although recorded in August 1973 – is so good I wondered what the live set would have to offer, but it is a revelation.  Tonight’s the Night captures Young coming to terms with “losing friends, band members and crew members to heroin” according to music journo Jon Dale, who described the recording process as “a dark occluded affair”.

Many of the versions are even better live than in the studio.  Young’s singing, and his and the band’s playing, are much more engaging; witness for example the soulful guitar-playing on ‘Speaking out’ (Nils Lofgren), a beautiful – though haunting – ‘Tired Eyes’ and scorching versions of ‘Roll another number (for the road)’ and ‘Tonight’s the night (Reprise)’.

The first of ‘The Ditch’ records was Time fades away, a collection of eight songs recorded live during a tour of 65 large venues over 90 days, beginning in early January 1973.  Young took against this record soon after its release and has refused for years to have it released on CD; “it’s the worst record I ever made” he says.  Not so, in fact its honesty and sometimes ramshackle playing offers a way into Young’s deepest feelings.  The rawness only adds to what the listener gets out of it.

The third album of the trilogy is On the beach.  This received negative reviews on its release in July 1974, but is now recognized as one of Young’s greatest.  It is a sobering and sometimes savage pen-picture of America in the dying days of Nixon’s presidency, absorbing and reflecting the awful impact of the Vietnam War and the Manson ‘family’ on the youth of the USA.

But to get back to Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live, one of the striking things is that the sadness and anger of the lyrics are offset by Young’s sardonic and self-deprecating patter on stage.  Surprisingly, in an odd kind of way, this adds depth and humanity to the songs.

The order in which the band play the songs is different to the studio album, and this helps to give Roxy a different vibe:

Studio Album
1 Tonight’s the Night
2 Speaking’ Out
3 World on a String
4 Borrowed Tune
5 Come on baby (let’s go downtown)
6 Mellow my Mind
7 Roll another number (for the road)
8 Albuquerque
9 New Mama
10 Lookout Joe
11 Tired Eyes
12 Tonight’s the Night (Reprise)
Roxy
1 Tonight’s the Night
2 Mellow my Mind
3 World on a String
4 Speaking’ Out
5 Albuquerque
6 New Mama
7 Roll another number (for the road)
8 Tired Eyes
9 Tonight’s the Night
10 Walk On

 

Incidentally the encore, ‘Walk on’, appeared as the opening track of On the beach.

Liam Ronayne
Liam Ronayne          Cork City Librarian

 

 

 

 

Roaming in the Gloaming

The Gloaming and The Gloaming 2

The late George Martin was one time quoted as saying

“can you tell me what music is? It’s completely intangible. It grips you, gets into your soul”.

That quote came to mind when listening to Martin Hayes leading his Gloaming comrades out of their own composition ‘Fáinleog’ and into the first few bars of the traditional jig ‘The Holly Bush’. I wish I could describe the feelings that the transition and Hayes’s fiddle-playing create, but all I can say is, go listen to it.

The Gloaming first got together almost five years ago – a fantastic concert in Triskel Christchurch in December 2012 was one of their early gigs. Since then they have often been referred to in the media as a ‘trad supergroup’. Whatever about that there is no doubting their standing in the world of roots music – Iarla Ó Lionáird (voice and keys) is the leading exponent of the Muscraí singing tradition, and Martin Hayes is the king of east Clare fiddle-playing. Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh is a wonderful fiddler as well, playing the Hardanger d’amore, his own creation, Thomas Bartlett, from Connecticut is on piano (and organizer / producer in the studio), and Irish–American Denis Cahill, on guitar, is Hayes’s long-standing music partner.

The-Gloaming1_Cover
The Gloaming

That difficult second album! One of the hoariest old chestnuts in music. The Gloaming have got around it with their second, by creating a companion for their first. Not really a continuation, not the same as the first, but together they form a whole, greater than the sum of the parts. The feeling that the two CDs are a pair is reinforced by the visual presentation of the records by the Real World label — beautiful packaging it has to be said. Both have striking but elusive sepia images on the cover, photos by Robert and Shana ParkerHarrison. The back covers and the inside spreads are also very similar, encouraging us to see them as a pair.

Centrepiece of the first CD was ‘The Opening Set’, track 8 on the album! This is a 16-minute masterpiece in its own right, starting with a traditional song from the Muscraí tradition, and building, layer by layer, through six tunes and airs to a cathartic climax.

There is nothing resembling this on The Gloaming 2, and rightly so. It would have been impossible to equal it. But what we have on both are group compositions using Gaelic poetry, the earliest from the Fiannaíocht or Fenian Cycle, and a 16th-century poem, but most are recent — Sean Ó Ríordáin’s ‘Saoirse’, and Michael Hartnett’s ‘An Muince Dreoilíní’ on the first album; The Gloaming 2 begins with two poems from Ó Ríordáin’s Eireaball Spideoige.

the -gloaming2_Cover
The Gloaming 2

Their versions of ‘Samhraidh, Samhraidh’ (on the first album) and ‘Slán le Maighe (on Gloaming 2) are worth the price of entry alone. These take their place among the jigs, hornpipes, reels, hop jigs, and slides.

The music on The Gloaming 2 might not be created for dancing, but I would challenge anyone to stay sitting quietly when listening to tunes like ‘The Rolling Wave’, ‘Music in the Glen’ and ‘The Holy Bush’. Iarla sings the old lullaby ‘Cucanandy’ which he learnt from the singing of Bess Cronin from his home parish of Baile Bhúirne. The Gloaming’s version wanders off mid-way but returns to finish with a credo that would apply to any musician:

“Piper sell your pipes, buy your wife a gown

Piper sell your pipes, buy your wife a gown

Yerra I wouldn’t sell me pipes for all the wives in town”.

The Gloaming last played Cork at a sold-out show in the Opera House last year. The way they’re going they will fill the proposed Events Centre, and still leave disappointed fans outside.

Liam Ronayne
Liam Ronayne Cork City Librarian