Blimey. 300 posts, eh? I’m frankly staggered that my attention span carried past half a dozen, and I remain grateful to those whose own reading habits continue to extend to this oddly-shaped cubbyhole of the internet. I’d been thinking a bit about what I could do to make this one a bit special, and somewhat fortuitously, this strange gem appeared.
Mark Lanegan has been bolstering his tour funding over the past 2 years with a number of CDs made available on the Merch Stands, a collection that commenced a while back with a recording of his acoustic show in Leeds (6dft posts on both the show and recording can be found thither and thusly), and by my slightly wonky reckoning this special release marks the 10th of these (and has already been superceded!). And as it’s getting on for that time of the year, Mark’s done something a bit different by following the lead of Josh T. Pearson from last year and has put out a short collection of Christmas favourites.
This being Mark Lanegan, it’s unlikely that any of these songs will be found gracing future advertising campaigns, but that’s why we enjoy him so. Down In Yon Forest comes across as slightly more aggressive yuletide fayre than you’d normally expect from the local parishioners, and the horror of the Coventry Carol is suitably translated in a voice-only, disquieting performance that puts me in mind of the traditional Ghost Stories that were my favourite part of a Christmas Eve.
He can play it straight though - O Holy Night is a calm, ghostly rendition (with some absolutely belting high notes) although the very nature of the song can’t help but raise a grin in 6dft towers at the thought of Alain Johannes standing behind him with a cattle prod going “those aren’t the words Mark” every now and then, but that’s the pervasive influence of popular culture for you. It also briefly invites comparison to JTP’s version of the same song, although as both singers approach the song from completely different places, any attempt to say “well one’s better than the other” is just silly. More childlike delights can be found in the bright guitar and sonorous vocal of We Three Kings, a song that I remember vividly from when I was but a mere puppy, and it’s almost a disappointment that he doesn’t go down the “…from Leicester Square” route.
Wrapping things up, it’s probably of little surprise that he goes a bit more contemporary (ie, from the last century) and pulls out a cracker in the form of Roky Erickson’s just-about seasonal Burn The Flames. It’s a fitting close to a heartfelt and affecting collection that will appeal to both those who embrace the whole sparkly Spirit of Christmas, and those who prefer to gaze upon the season with darker eyes. It’s also a brilliant addition to Mark Lanegan’s own impressive canon, and I have to say that it would be something of a shame if this CD became the sole preserve of those lucky enough to be able to purchase one on his current tour (which will be me next week!), others lucky enough to know someone who is going to one of these shows with a stack of disposable income (me again, as I’m listening to one of these gleaned from a friend – although I have to give it back soon), or those unfortunate enough to be forced to pay frankly offensive ebay prices. Hopefully everyone who wants this record will be able to get it and at a fair price, as it’s lifted the spirits of this miserable sod to the point where I’m actually looking forward to the festive season.