Martin Johns and his comps have covered quite a lot of musical ground to this point.
His themed comps include Christmas swing, rare Christmas vinyl, Christmas beach music, Hawaiian Christmas music, Christmas blues, Christmas bluegrass, and Christmas rock.
This comp is quite unique. Not only does it have the least amount of tracks of any of Martin's comps (a mere 17), but it focuses on the spiritual side of Christmas.
After all, whose birthday are we celebrating at Christmas?
It might be easy for some to put together a comp with a theme like this. Stock up on the contemporary Christian artists, pull some classic spirituals, and treat it very reverently.
However, with a diverse artist list of Cliff Richard, Grover Washington Jr., and Joan Osborne, something tells me different. Let's call in Martin and ask him for his special insight on this comp in a section reserved just for him called...
I've found that my "Traditional" mixes are infinitely better if I do them very close to Christmas. (My "Traditional" mixes are traditional in terms of theme, tempo, mood and sentiments - not necessarily in terms of the music.) So I've gotten into the habit of doing them after the year's mixes are distributed and then, if they work, I distribute them the following year.
In 2005, I felt that my mixes had been especially secular. I wanted to do something that had a greater emphasis on the religious or spiritual aspect of Christmas without getting preachy.
This comp is a great example of the "first 3 tracks, last 3 tracks" method. I love the ethereal opening (I used to do a lot more of that sort of thing) which I think enhances the great second track. And the closing 3 tie it all up nicely (in my opinion).
Those tracks strongly establish the comp's "credentials," if you will, allowing me to wander anywhere in the rest of the mix without losing the overall focus and feel. And, while I realize folks might not believe this (especially after we get to "Tikrit"), the mini anti-war set was pretty organic (as were most of the others... honestly).
When I make my comps, even listening to them several times, all seems well. But, inevitably, listening in retrospect, I can hear things that I'd like to change, places where the flow could be better, songs I'd replace or move. Not this one (not yet, anyway).
Not a single change was made from the original demo, I wouldn't change anything now, and, all in all, I'm very proud of this one. If I were to choose one comp that best represents me and my comping style, this would be the one.
1.) Kim Robertson provides the harp and haunting vocals while Peter Buffett (son of billionaire Warren!) plays keyboards in an exquisite medley. Find this from the 1996 "Star Of Wonder" Christmas CD.
2.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! Take the Byrds' classic song "Turn, Turn, Turn" and add "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"! WOW! Harry Gore did a great job! Head over to his MySpace site to hear this one!
3.) Interesting, introspective song that asks "What would I do if I was in Mary's shoes"? The Kings Highway released this on their "All Year Long" Christmas CD.
4.) At the height of his popularity as "the British Elvis", Cliff Richard converted to Christianity and has faithfully stuck to his beliefs. He's also shot for the famed UK Christmas number one spot for years - this was his 2003 single (peaked at #5) - paging Billy Mack!
5.) Great lyrics to this one! Bev Barnett & Greg Newlon's sound is fantastic - from their "Starry, Starry Night" CD.
6.) WOW! "No one's going home for Christmas, though everyone's tired of this war." Julie Sanderson's pure tale about the Civil War will forever ring true. Off the "Holiday Feast Creme De La Creme" comp.
7.) Grover Washington Jr. took the sax to new heights in his illustrious career. This is a marvellous version of "I Wonder As I Wander". He also fostered in a new generation of smooth jazz artists - including one Kenny G. Whyyyyyy!
8.) Spoken word pastiche about Kriss-Miss, told by Bobby Gaylor (actor / comedian / spoken word). His website doesn't work and I can't find where this came from.
9.) Lovely soul / smooth jazz version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Donna Harvey's got a voice on her! Wish I could find out more about her.
10.) Not sure about this one. Lots of synth, has a 80s feel... Are those kids singing or 3 Blind Mice? Hmm... Available on their "2 Cents An Acre" CD.
11.) WOW! Rough, gritty (but danceable) version! Joan Osborne recorded this for the 1997 comp "Home For The Holidays" then later released it on her Christmas album in 2005.
12.) Very nice song from Mercy Me. Easily found on their "Christmas Sessions" album.
13.) Poco? Really? Sounds like them... can't find where it came from... very nicely done!
14.) Jill Parr has a wonderful voice and it shows on this top notch rendition of "O Come All Ye Faithful". Off of her Christmas single of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (I think - I can't find it).
15.) Another introspective song about the power of prayer at Christmas (see #3 above).
16.) You gotta love a group that has their Christmas CDs on the FRONT page of their website! Very nice song off Volume II!
17.) Very nice song from Misty River! This excellent song can be found on their "Midwinter - Songs Of Christmas" CD and end the comp just right.
A definite change of pace and not a bad listen either. Very consistent throughout the whole comp balancing the light and the serious, the important messages with some whimsy.
It's always nice to reflect at Christmas and this comp will put you in the mood to do that. It also proves that the message won't get lost either in the hands of the right messenger.
Martin, another good job. This is the comp I'll play after the kids are in bed, the wife is doing sudoku, and I can stare at the Christmas tree in the dark and chill.
UP NEXT: JohnsCDs 2006-0162-015 - Santa's On The Download (2-CD)