"Tinsel And Lights"features covers of songs written by The White Stripes, Sufjan Stevens, Randy Newman, Stephin Merritt, Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell, Ron Sexsmith, and others. Technically, every song is not associated with Christmas in the strictest sense of the term. But Tracey decided that if winter, snow or even cold was mentioned in the song, that was good enough for her. She's blazing a trail through Christmas tradition!
Two songs on the album, "Joy" and the title track, are Thorn originals. She's even made room for "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". After all, there needs to be at least one chestnut at Christmas dinner!
Tracey dug deep for inspiration including a track written by Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields which was only ever recorded by twisted cabaret act Kiki & Herb. Also, "Snow", written by Randy Newman, makes an appearance. It was originally recorded by French chanteuse Claudine Longet in 1967, but has been interpreted by a long list of artists including Harpers Bizarre, Harry Nilsson and Saint Etienne.
Here's a little audio-visual montage of "Snow". First up is Harpers Bizarre from their 1967 elpee, "Anything Goes" followed by Claudine's gorgeous recording, Harry Nilsson's fragile rendition, and rounded out by personal faves Saint Etienne with their faithful take on the chilly choon.
Warning! A bit of discographical geekery ahead for those that need to know.
Claudine's version of "Snow" originally appeared as the b-side to her single, "I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You". Harry Nilsson recorded his take on it in 1969 for the album "Nilsson Sings Newman", but was left off when the longplayer was released in February 1970. The song made its first official appearance when the album was reissued on CD in 2000. Saint Etienne released their recording on "Xmas 2003", one of their many fan club CDs. It made its first commercial appearance on the St. Et Christmas album, "A Glimpse Of Stocking", in 2010. Got it? There will be a short quiz later on.
I'm pleased to see Green Gartside of Scritti Politti not once, but twice, on the album, in different capacities. Tracey covers "Snow In Sun", a lush and languid number that originally appeared on Scritti's last studio longplayer, "White Bread Black Beer". The second appearance by double G is of the vocal variety. He lends his dulcet tones to "Taking Down The Tree", a cover of a song originally recorded by Minnesota slowcore, navel gazers Low, who originally recorded the tune on their Christmas EP which was only released to fans in 1999. If you fancy a listen to their version, here it is.
I think you can definitely hear how Green's voice and harmony structure might sound on Tracey's version, especially toward the end of the song. It will be interesting to compare the two. And while we're at it, here's Scritti's original recording of "Snow In Sun".
The official tracklisting for "Tinsel And Lights" includes the following twelve tunes.
2. Hard Candy Christmas (originally recorded by Dolly Parton)
3. Like A Snowman (originally recorded by Kiki & Herb)
4. Maybe This Christmas (originally recorded by Ron Sexsmith)
5. In The Cold, Cold Night (originally recorded by The White Stripes)
6. Snow (originally recorded by Harpers Bizarre)
7. Snow In Sun (originally recorded by Scritti Politti)
8. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
9. Tinsel And Lights
10. River (originally recorded by Joni Mitchell)
11. Taking Down The Tree (originally recorded by Low)
12. Sister Winter (originally recorded by Sufjan Stevens)
The US configuration of the elpee will include "25th December" as a bonus track. It is Tracey's version of a song which was originally recorded by EBTG with Ben on vocal duties and appeared on their 1994 album, "Amplified Heart".
"Tinsel And Lights" will hit the "shops" on October 30.