19 December, 2010

Advent Calendar in Song: Roches We Three Kings

The Roches, a trio folk singing sisters, came to fame mostly through their stripped down three voice a capella arrangement of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. It was a party piece that drew people into listening to their albums with their more typical jokey folk songs with self-effacing lyrics, whether about relationships with married men, American naivete about the Troubles in Ireland, job dissatisfaction, layered with their quirky vocals and effervescent harmonies.

It was tempting to make this article a battle against the many other singer/songwriters who've plonked out Christmas albums, Shawn Colvin, Jewel, and James Taylor to name a few, at least those who've done a decent job of it. What puts this over the others is that it is strictly straight ahead, mostly traditional Carols, with a few popular seasonal standards thrown in. They do have their own brand of fun with many of the tracks and if the two original tracks they throw in (Christmas Passing Through and Star of Wonder) aren't particularly remarkable given their usual standard of songwriting, at least they don't drag the collection down.

Their take on the title song puts a mellow swing into We Three Kings.

The Roches - We Three Kings .mp3

Found at bee mp3 search engine

Track Listing
1 Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light
2 For Unto Us A Child Is Born
3 Angels We Have Heard On High
4 Deck The Halls
5 Christmas Passing Through
6 Sleigh Ride
7 Away In A Manger
8 Here We Come A Caroling
9 The Little Drummer Boy
10 The Holly and the Ivy
11 Frosty The Snowman
12 Do You Hear What I Hear?
13 We Three Kings
14 Star of Wonder
15 Winter Wonderland
16 Joy To The World
17 O Little Town of Bethlehem
18 Good King Wenceslas
19 Jingle Bells
20 The First Noel
21 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
22 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
23 O Come All Ye Faithful
24 Silver Bells

Here We Come A-Caroling, Star of Wonder, Jingle Bells, and the five in the medley video below, get a pure a capella reading. The rest get a good variety of arrangements over tasteful range of restrained synth keyboards, or guitar and piano.

Joy to the World / God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / First Nowell / Angels We Have Heard on High / Adeste Fideles

There's a bit of Brooklyn overlaid onto their Frosty the Snowman, and an intentional New Yoyk to Winter Wonderland. But the best in this vein is their take on Deck the Halls, is great fun, particularly the brashness they inject into the otherwise easily anodyne Fala Lalas.

This album works well both on its own or tossed into your massive Xmas shuffle. Their distinctive style makes a nice contrast against anything else you may throw at it. An essential holiday album, it's been brought back from out of print.

And to hear The Roches at their pared back best, from their second album:

The Hallelujah Chorus

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