I’m looking forward to Christmas. Well, everybody says that don’t they? I’m looking forward to eating without feeling guilty. I’m looking forward to having a few beers. I’m looking forward to giving a few presents, to having a family Zoom, a London Walkers Zoom, a couple of dog walks with people I’ve not seen for a month or two, to binge watching “This Is Us”, phoning John, opening the presents that I’ve bought myself, playing Christmas songs and watching Brighton smash six past West Ham on Boxing Day.
People that know me will be expecting a “but” or a “however”. Sorry to disappoint you. I hope that everyone’s Christmas lives up to expectations and nobody suffers as a result of the virus.
The second song on this album is called “Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year”. The opening lines make it clear that Christmas is Rosie Thomas’ favourite time of year. We are to raise our hand if we wished it was Christmas time all year. That’s a good question. Do I wish that everyone wished peace and goodwill to all humankind every day of the year? Yes. Do I wish I could eat a huge roast meal, mince pies, pudding and chocolate every day of the year? Well, yes, but only if I didn’t put on weight (in the same way that Bill Murray never put on wight in “Groundhog Day”). Do I wish there was no live sport and fewer than eight hours of daylight every day of the year? No. After I’ve spent half an hour consuming a whole pot of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and there’s nothing left, I sometimes wish I could get that feeling of a sugar rush on a permanent basis. That’s not terribly realistic and I have to break the bad news to myself that it’s not possible to consume sugar 24 hours a day. I have been known to have the same attitude towards beer. There has to be a point when I have to stop. In the same way, we can’t have Christmas Day every day. This is why people make such a fuss about Christmas. It’s a special day. Things happen on Christmas Day that don’t happen on other days. For a lot of people this involves spending time with family. This may or may not be what everyone would choose. If it’s so special to spend time with family, why don’t we do it more often? On the other hand, if people’s expectations are to meet up with family members, the sense of occasion itself will bring happiness, regardless of the quality of conversation or the pleasure of playing games together or out-drinking each other or whatever routines are set. It’s easy for me to get snooty, aloof or judgemental about other people’s Christmas but I don’t have children and I spoil myself with my over indulgent, spoilt lifestyle where I pretty much do what I want every day anyway. That is, apart from the restrictions of the pandemic.
A good soundtrack is always important to a big occasion and Christmas is no exception. The fourth, third and second best Christmas albums are, respectively, by The Beach Boys, Phil Spector and Rosie Thomas. “A Very Rosie Christmas” is perfect in many ways. Five originals, five classic covers and three more unusual covers.
“River” by Joni Mitchell is a beautiful song but it isn’t really specific to Christmas. It was originally written about the demise of her relationship with Graham Nash and describes how she wants to free of her emotional ties to him. The first line is “It’s coming on Christmas and we’re cutting down trees” but the song is more about loneliness than Christmas cheer. “River” is the second most covered Joni Mitchell song (after “Both Sides Now”) and the original version can’t really be surpassed. However, I also love this version.
“Winter Wonderland”, “Silent Night” and “O Come Emmanuel” form the central core to this album. All three songs are taken at a languid pace, beautifully arranged and featuring Rosie Thomas’ lovely voice.
I first came across Rosie Thomas when she sang on the song “Parking Lot” from Damien Jurado’s “Ghost Of David”. She sung a magical song called “Farewell” on her first album, “When We Were Small” which was played at the end of Series Five of “Bosch” when Bosch scattered the ashes of his wife over the edge of a mountain top whilst his daughter weeped. She has a parallel career as a comedienne which she put to good use in 2006 when she jokingly put out a press release to say that she was having a baby with Sufjan Stevens. She later toured with him and did a stand up set as his opening act.
There’s a terrible song by The Chipmunks called “Christmas Don’t Be Late”. It’s terrible because it’s consists of those ridiculous speeded up vocals. Rosie Thomas has taken the song, slowed it down (thankfully) and transformed it into a slow, seven minute, work of beauty.
My favourite song on the album is “Let It Snow”. It first became a hit in 1946 for Vaughn Monroe and was written by Sammy Cohn and Jule Styne in the middle of a heatwave. The concept of the song has nothing to do with Christmas but is only concerned with wishing for a time when it was cold enough to snow. This version is as delightful as the log fire that she is singing about.
There are two duds to finish the album. An eight minute spoken story and a schmaltzy thank you from Rosie Thomas with a cheesy “Silent Night” playing in the background. It’s so sugary sweet that is sounds a little insincere but when she says “My greatest wish for you this Christmas is that you are surrounded by love”, I can only concur. Luckily it ends with a drunken choir singing out of tune. That’ll be me on Christmas Day.
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