Tag Archives: John Fahey

A smaller Christmas, Day 11

Last night was the winter choir concert at Green Bay East High School. Our son Evan, a senior, sings bass in the concert and chamber choirs.

Each year, the concert closes with “Carol of the Bells.”

It’s a tradition at East for the choir alumni to join the combined choirs on stage for the final number, so you’re seeing them along with the Red Devil Chorale, Belles Voix, Concert Choir and Chamber Singers.

“Carol of the Bells” is a work built around “Shchedryk,” a traditional Ukrainian folk chant. Music was added more than 100 years ago, and lyrics added in the 1930s. Though often sung during the Christmas season, it’s actually a New Year’s carol. A variation dating to the late ’40s is known as “Ring, Christmas Bells.”

Here’s a folk guitar version that matches the elegance of the East singers’ performance.

johnfaheyxmasvolIIlp

“Carol of the Bells,” John Fahey with Richard Ruskin, from “Christmas With John Fahey, Vol. II,” 1975. It’s out of print as such. However, all but one cut from that LP is available on the CD version of “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album,” his great 1968 Christmas album. Also available digitally.


John Fahey’s music has been a part of our Christmases seemingly forever. I believe I bought “A New Possibility” in the early ’80s, most likely on a tip from Mike, the laid-back gent who ran — and still runs — Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau, Wisconsin. I don’t know how I otherwise would have found out about an obscure Christmas record from 1968.

Or one from 1975, the year I was a senior in high school.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 8

Current conditions at AM, Then FM world headquarters in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on this Saturday night in December:

It is 27 degrees, with north winds at 29 mph gusting to 40 mph. We hear the wind outside. We’re under a blizzard warning for the next 19 hours. We’ve had more than 3 inches of snow in the last 5 hours. We’re expected to wind up with 8 to 12 inches of snow by morning, followed by much blowing and drifting of that snow all day long.

Oh, yeah, and I have to go to work in the morning. Charming.

Confined to quarters, we’re making the house ready for Christmas. We brought the tree inside. It’ll go up tomorrow. The wrapping paper is out of storage, poised for use over the next week or so.

So on this quiet evening at home, a quiet favorite.

John Fahey, “The New Possibility,” 1968.

Commonly known as “The New Possibility,” its full title — as you can see — is “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album.”

We’ve had this gentle, laid-back record since the late ’70 or early ’80s. It’s perhaps the most accessible of the eccentric folk guitarist’s albums. This fine web site on Fahey describes his style as “American primitive guitar,” and that’s fairly accurate. His sound on the steel-stringed acoustic guitar is spare yet elegant.

Here’s what Fahey had to say about “The New Possibility” in 1979:

“Well, the arrangements are pretty good, but on the other hand there are more mistakes on this album than on any of the other 17 albums I’ve recorded. And yet, here’s the paradox … this album has not only sold more than any of my others, I meet people all the time who are crazy about it. I mean really love it. What can I say. I’m confused.”

We have three other Christmas albums by Fahey — “Christmas With John Fahey, Vol. II” from 1975, “Christmas Guitar, Volume 1” from 1982 and “The John Fahey Christmas Album” from 1991. We rarely listen to them. The first one is the best.

Here’s why:

“Joy to the World”

“Medley (Hark, the Herald Angels Sing; O Come, All Ye Faithful)”

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Fantasy”

“The First Noel”

“Go I Will Send Thee” (One of the few traditional African-American Christmas songs, done by Fahey in a Delta blues style.)

“Silent Night, Holy Night” (Done in an interesting slide blues style.)

All by John Fahey, from “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album,” 1968. (The link is to the 2000 CD re-release, which adds six cuts from the out-of-print “Christmas With John Fahey, Vol. II.”)

In addition to the records mentioned, Fahey also recorded “Popular Songs of Christmas and New Year’s,” an album of duets with guitarist Terry Robb, in 1982.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

Three under the tree, Vol. 37

Having been reunited via Facebook, an old friend and I were discussing Christmas music the other day. He mentioned some ’60s Christmas LPs he liked. I said I had a couple of them. Then he confessed that he still had them, too. Good for you, man.

Finding the ’60s Christmas record that’s most enjoyable cut after cut, start to finish, was easy. As with our favorite ’70s and ’80s Christmas records, it’s about the memories associated with it.

But in this case, it’s about the quality of the tunes, too.

Today’s record came out in 1968, but we haven’t had it that long. Still, it seems as if it’s been a part of our Christmases forever. I bought it in the early ’80s, most likely on the recommendation of Mike, the laid-back gent who ran — and still runs — Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau, Wisconsin. I don’t know how I would have otherwise found out about it.

Commonly known as “The New Possibility,” its full title is “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album.”

It’s perhaps the most accessible of the eccentric folk guitarist’s albums. This fine web site on Fahey describes his style as “American primitive guitar,” and that’s fairly accurate. His sound on the steel-stringed acoustic guitar is spare yet elegant.

I have three other Christmas albums by Fahey — “Christmas With John Fahey, Vol. II” from 1975, “Christmas Guitar” from 1982 and “The John Fahey Christmas Album” from 1991 — and he recorded at least one more. Each has its moments, but the first is still the best.

Listen for yourself:

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Fantasy”

“Silent Night, Holy Night” (I’ve shared this one before, but you rarely hear this song done in a slide blues guitar style.)

All by John Fahey, from “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album,” 1968. (The link is to the 1993 CD re-release, which adds five cuts from the out-of-print “Christmas With John Fahey, Vol. II.”)

If my old friend was reluctant to admit his guilty pleasures in ’60s Christmas music, he shouldn’t have been. We were kids then, a time when the most innocent (and perhaps most vivid) Christmas memories are forged.

There are lots of good Christmas LPs from the ’60s, records to be enjoyed from start to finish. Among them: “Sound of Christmas” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio from 1961, “The 25th Day of December” by the Staple Singers from 1962, “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector” from 1963 and “Christmas with the Miracles” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles from 1963.

Then there’s Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Mitch Miller and the Gang, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, James Brown and Jimmy Smith. All kinds of good Christmas memories — even if not for all tastes — from the ’60s.

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Filed under December 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 5

From time to time over the next month or so, we’ll take our three Christmas tunes from the same album, giving you a little taste of something you really should go out and get the rest of.

Tonight’s selections come from an album I seemingly have had forever. If memory serves, I bought it in 1980 or 1981 on the recommendation of Mike, the laid-back gent who ran — and still runs — Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau, Wisconsin. I don’t know how I would have otherwise found out about it. Folk guitarists weren’t played on the radio I listened to at the time.

Commonly known as “The New Possibility,” its full title is “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album.”

Released in 1968, it is perhaps the most accessible of the eccentric folk guitarist’s albums. An excellent web site on Fahey describes his style as “American primitive guitar,” and that’s fairly accurate. His sound on the steel-stringed acoustic guitar is spare yet elegant.

Here is what Fahey had to say about “The New Possibility” in 1979:

“Well, the arrangements are pretty good, but on the other hand there are more mistakes on this album than on any of the other 17 albums I’ve recorded. And yet, here’s the paradox … this album has not only sold more than any of my others, I meet people all the time who are crazy about it. I mean really love it. What can I say. I’m confused.”

I have two other Christmas albums by Fahey — “Christmas Guitar” from 1982 and “The John Fahey Christmas Album” from 1991 — and he recorded two more. Each has its moments, but the first is still the best.

Fahey is no longer with us, having died in 2001, but he’s left us this wonderful gift. It isn’t Christmas at our house without this one, either.

faheynewposslp.jpg

“Joy to the World”

“Medley: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing; O Come, All Ye Faithful”

“Silent Night, Holy Night”

All by John Fahey, from “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album,” 1968.

Enjoy. Hope you’re getting a nice little Christmas mix out of what you’re finding here. More to come.

If you have a request, drop me a note. I’ll see what I can do.

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Filed under Christmas music, November 2007, Sounds