I have always loved Christmas music. Back in 2006, when I was trying to make a living as a songwriter, and had just released a 4-song EP called "That Time of Year" with four original Christmas songs, I began what would become an almost annual tradition. I recorded one of my all-time favorite traditional Christmas carols, "Away in a Manger", with the idea of offering it as a downloadable Christmas gift to family, friends, and acquaintances.
That first recording was a simple piano/vocal rendition, but, in the years that followed, I often used my annual Christmas recording production process to experiment with new "musical toys", as well to experiment with various production styles.
Here we are in 2014, and I now have a collection of seven recordings from 2006 through 2012. I missed 2013 due to a hectic year on the personal front alongside my full-time day job, but I also had another recording of a song that is often performed in a Christmas music context that I revamped this year to fill in for the missing year, and I'm also adding a brand new recording this year, making for a total nine songs. To that I'll be adding a slightly augmented remix of that original 2006 recording that fits better alongside the more elaborate productions of later years, thus comprising this 10-song album.
Here are my notes on the year-by-year productions and "bonus tracks" included in this collection:
2006: "Away in a Manger" (James R. Murray) - One of my all-time favorite Christmas carols, and one that works nicely in a stripped down piano-vocal setting, I recorded the original version of this (included as a bonus track) before I had any intention of making Christmas carol recordings on a regular basis. Some technical issues with my main recording microphone at the time meant recording this with a handheld mic, and there are subtle traces of mic handling noise in the recording. I added strings a number of years later, but had not put that recording out there until now. The enhanced version is a 2014 remix.
2007: "O Holy Night" (John Sullivan Dwight, Adolphe Charles Adam) - My second Christmas carol recording was also fairly stripped down, adding a simple synth pad to the piano and voice.
2008: "O Little Town of Bethlehem" (Phillips Brooks, Lewis H. Redner) - This was my first attempt at getting adventurous in this Christmas carol series, going down a hip-hop-flavored route, inspired in part by some new musical toys. It is also my first attempt at rapping on a recording.
2009: "Silent Night" (Joseph Mohr, Franz Gruber) - This treatment was also inspired by musical toys, initially the desire to use a pedal steel sound in a non-country context, and thus the cello and arpeggiated synth.
2010: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Peace on Earth)" (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Baptiste Calkin, Rick Paul) - Beyond the funk-flavored pop arrangement, I also decided to write an entirely new segment of this song in an effort to make the arrangement more interesting despite maintaining all five verses from Longfellow's poem.
2011: "What Child is This" (William Chatterton Dix, Traditional) - This recording was delivered a few days late for Christmas. In fact, I spent most of Christmas Day working on the brass parts while learning to use my then-new MIDI wind controller.
2012: "The First Noel" (Traditional) - I'm a keyboard player, so I thought I'd try an overtly synth-oriented arrangement this time, but I also wanted to make it rock.
2014: "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (Traditional) - There was some question as to whether I'd be able to get this done in time for this album, starting work on it Thanksgiving weekend and hoping to get the album off for distribution early the following week. I didn't make it on the latter count, but I was already far enough along in the recording process that I wanted to include this track, even if it meant delaying the album. Besides my self-imposed (and season-imposed) deadline, this production was complicated by trying to figure out which verses to include from all the well-known variations while still making the lyrics and recording flow. I've gone with a somewhat unique mix, but hopefully it works.
Bonus track: "Ave Maria" (Franz Schubert) - This track wasn't originally intended as a Christmas recording, but rather was an experiment with several musical toys, including a since discontinued loop-based production program (whose looping capabilities were barely used here) and a software trumpet that didn't actually make it to this recording, though it was in a version I put out there in 2008. I wasn't fully satisfied with the trumpet version, though, so I decided to replace the trumpet with dualing lead guitars for this album.
I hope you will enjoy these recordings and that they may add a little something to your Christmas season.
released December 5, 2014
Performed, produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered by Rick Paul. Cover artwork and photography by Rick Paul.
Rick Paul's songs combine memorable pop/rock and country melodies with mature, often thought provoking, lyrics on life and
love. His singing has drawn comparisons to Dan Hill, Randy Newman, and Neil Young, while his piano playing is most frequently compared to Rick’s biggest musical influence, Elton John. Rick performs frequently in Orange County, California....more