December 6, 2011

Get a glow on with Making Spirits Bright

I'm loving the new Mark Steyn & Jessica Martin Christmas CD, Making Spirits Bright. But before we get into my favorite tracks, let's go behind the music and take a peek at how Mark gets it done:

Actually, it doesn’t take me that long, because I reach a kind of level of mediocrity. The first take, the high notes aren’t quite high enough, and the low notes aren’t quite low enough. And the second take, I’m kind of basically in the ballpark. And the third take, I’m there. And the fourth take, it’s really not going to, we can stay there all night, but it’s really not going to improve much after that. So what you hear is pretty much close to the way, to what it would be if I came round and stood in your living room and bellowed it down your throat to you.
Don't believe it. There's no bellowing to be heard in the jazzy "Snowbound" or in the swinging "Jingle Bells," nor in two other favorites of mine, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (yeah, outta sight) and Mark's daring, and beautifully executed, solo ballad, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

But the song I'm totally hooked on this time around is the exhilarating "Christmas Glow Worm." Seriously. The singers' energy (Jessica sets the bar high), the inventive lyrics and irresistible melody, and the vivacious arrangement by Kevin Amos make this peculiar song about a bioluminescent larva a Christmas keeper. (Would you call it a novelty song? I'm not sure.) Some background from SteynOnline:
Mark wrote about the convoluted history of "The Glow Worm" during the Johnny Mercer centenary celebrations of 2009. It began life as the Glühwürmchen-Idyll, an intermezzo from a burlesque of Aristophanes' Lysistrata that was the boffo German theatre smash of 1902. Half-a-century later, Johnny Mercer put a new set of words to it, and gave the Mills Brothers one of their biggest hits. But did you know he also attempted a Christmas version for The Bing Crosby Show in 1962? In this lively reconstruction of the various lyrical lines, Mark and Jessica tell the tale of "The Christmas Glow Worm" as he guides them through the wintry snow and safe back home to the Yuletide mistletoe.
YouTube has a few versions, including the Bing Crosby duet mentioned above and a Mel Torme recording, here. The lyrics vary quite a bit, but Mark and Jessica's "lively reconstructions" hold the most charm for me. (Can you guess what rhymes with "full worth"?)
 Photo from the National Christmas Center
To get your Christmas glow on, download the single track here or order the whole CD (12 tracks) here. (Also available on iTunes, Amazon, etc.) Enjoy!


Bonus: Don't miss Mark's audio tribute to "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" composer Hugh Martin.


Update 12/8/11

When I was writing the above I looked long and hard (at least five minutes) for Mark's Song of the Week piece on "The Glow Worm" in order to link it here. Happily for all, it's up on SteynOnline today. Click over there and you'll also learn that I'm not alone in my little addiction to "The Christmas Glow Worm," which is a comfort. If, come March, we're all still listening to it obsessively and trying to work "when you've gotta glow, you've gotta glow" into everyday conversations, we might think about starting a support group.

One more thing: I heard the worst Christmas song ever recorded yesterday while shopping and would like to thank Mark from the bottom of my heart for not recording it. Ever.

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