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Free Album: Holiday Hits 2008

I've seen quite a few blog posts about this already today (with even more coming in as I write this), so it's quite possible that you may already have heard about this.  If not, I guess one more post about it can't hurt!  For "the next 48 hours", Oprah Winfrey is giving away a free compilation called Holiday Hits 2008.  Here is the track listing:

Faith Hill - "Joy to the World"
Tony Bennett - "I'll be Home for Christmas"
Il Divo - "O Holy Night"
Josh Groban - "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"
Brian McKnight - "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"
Amy Grant - "O Come All Ye Faithful"
Harry Connick Jr. - "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"
Aretha Franklin - "Silent Night"
There are some really big names on that list, and what looks like a great mix of both traditional Christmas carols and more modern standards.  Normally I like to write at least a brief review of the material I post about, but because of the time-limited nature of this offer, I think you'll excuse me for just wanting to post about it as soon as possible.

I can't find any mention of when this offer was actually posted, so if you are at all interested in it, I would suggest heading right over to Oprah's site and downloading the songs; they will likely be gone sometime on Friday.  The site also features printable cover art, instructions for burning the songs to a CD, and more information about each song and artist.  Enjoy, and Happy Listening!



Album Spotlight: Jennifer Avalon - Sounds of Bethlehem

Today I would like to feature some Christmas music that is more traditional than what I've featured so far this year.  Jennifer Avalon's Sounds of Bethlehem is a beautiful collection of mostly traditional Christmas carols.  Consisting of nothing but vocals, acoustic guitars, and percussion (and sometimes only one or two of those elements), the songs are presented in a very pure form that I have found irresistible lately.

The album opens with "Angels We Have Heard On High", which features some gorgeous layered vocals, all courtesy of Ms. Avalon.  Two other songs on the album, "Away in a Manger" and "O Come O Come Immanuel" are also performed a capella.  There are two original songs, "Snows of December" and "A Christmas Rose", which are both performed on acoustic guitar and have a very beautiful, relaxing feel to them; they are definitely among the album's highlights.  The other half of the album's songs feature both vocals and acoustic guitars, with an excellent rendition of "Good King Wenceslas" being another highlight.  The entire album flows beautifully from one song to the next, with the a capella and instrumental songs mixed nicely in amongst the rest.

If you're looking for some good traditional Christmas carols, Sounds of Bethlehem would make a worthy addition to your collection.  It can be downloaded directly from Jennifer Avalon's website, and also from Jamendo, a great site that has been featured a few times on my other blog.  Happy listening, and I'll be back soon with some more great Christmas music!


Song Spotlight: "Last Christmas"

[Update: as of October 2009, the Basswood Dollies and PLAS-TICK links no longer lead to free downloads.  However, these songs can still be downloaded as part of the Electric Fantastic Christmas compilations; they are on the 2006 and 2007 compilations, respectively.]

A song that I've been digging a lot lately is Wham!'s "Last Christmas"; judging by the statistics of the Free Christmas Music custom search engine, it seems that a lot of this site's readers enjoy it as well.  Though the song is not technically about Christmas, it has endured as one of the most popular songs at this time of year for nearly a quarter century and will likely continue to enchant listeners for many more years to come.  The Last Christmas website, which aims to compile all versions of the song, currently lists some 314 versions, with more being added all the time!

I am unable to offer Wham!'s original version for free, but I have found a few cool versions that I think most fans of the song should be able to appreciate.  First up is a version by The Fire Apes, which adds a great hard rock/power pop edge to the song.  From the Electric Fantastic Sound label comes a couple of slower, electronic versions: one from Sweden's Basswood Dollies, and a dreamy, female-fronted version from PLAS-TICK.  Finally, goto80 offers a "Hot Digi Remix" of the song, which is surprisingly accurate given that it was composed on a Commodore 64 computer (from The 8bitpeoples' The 8bits of Christmas, an album I featured on this blog last year).

Those are all the versions I have for now.  If anyone has any favourite versions that aren't listed here, please post a comment and let me know.  Although if you're a serious fan of this song and just can't get enough of it, the Last Christmas website is a must-visit site.  Happy listening!



Song Spotlight: The Snowballs - "Song About Christmas"

Hello there, and welcome back to the Free Christmas Music blog!  I hope that you've had a good year and that you are looking forward to Christmas.  I've been listening to at least a bit of Christmas music since just after Halloween, and the last few days I've been listening to little else.  I've been thinking about things that I can post about this year and I've already got a few ideas.  If anyone has any requests for things they'd like to see featured here, please leave a comment or send me an email and I'll see what I can do.

The first thing I'd like to post about is a little song that struck me as quite cool when I heard it a couple of days ago.  The song is called "Song About Christmas" by Oxfordshire, UK-based band The Snowballs.  As you may have guessed from the title, this is not exactly a traditional Christmas song; instead, it's an upbeat punk rock tune with tongue-in-cheek lyrics that capture the fun, offbeat side of Christmas time.  If you can imagine what it would sound like if The Clash had included a Christmas song on London Calling, you'll have a good idea of what this song sounds like.  Or, even better, go download the song and hear it for yourself (here's an alternate download location).

I hope you enjoy this little gem of a track.  Until next time, happy listening!