I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I find most Christmas songs unbearably bad. The only type of Christmas songs I love are the old Pagan ones that have had a thin layer of Christianity papered on top (much like Christmas itself) and one of the best, Down in Yon Forest, crops up on the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s new Christmas album. A quick lyric sample: “In the bed there lays a knight / Whose wounds do bleed by day and night / Under that bed there runs a flood / The one half runs water the other runs blood.” … and a Happy New Year.
But there’s plenty of jollity on the album as well along with a bunch of lyric changing that I’m dying to quote here and entirely ruin for you. These humorous, singalongs are enhanced by being recorded live while the more intricate songs are recorded in the studio.
But the highlight of the album for me is – as you might expect – the top notch uke playing. Their instrumental version of Wassail is a masterclass in arranging for a ukulele group – everywhere you look there’s something interesting going on and it still works as a whole – and Christmas Rose is a beautifully played waltz. They use the uke in some interesting ways; the album opens with sleigh bells imitated by playing the strings behind the nut. The uke playing highlight of the album is the album closer: a funky-ass version of Good King Wenceslas. The intro is incredible. I don’t know how they manage to build those up.
You can buy Christmas with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and listen to extracts here.
And The Ukes will be turning up on Colin Murray‘s Christmas Show on Radio 1 on the 22nd December (who has some mad ukulele skillz himself).