a collection of 18 Christmas songs
performed by THE MERMEN
(click cover for more art)
CD - $20.00
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MONDAY, DEC 31st
Jim Thomas (Guitar) •
Allen Whitman (Bass) •
Martyn Jones (Drums)
executive producer: Jack Sayler // produced by Jim Thomas // recorded by Demitrius Tsiostios // mixed by Damien Rasmussen & Demetrius Tsiostios // mastered by Michael Romanowski, San Francisco, CA // recorded & mixed at Pleasure Point Recording, Santa Cruz, CA
Jim Thomas, commenting on the production, creation, and inspiration for the new MERMEN Christmas album "DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR".
"For years I've thought about making a MERMEN Christmas album. In 1995 THE MERMEN recorded the Christmas songs: "Carol Of The Bells" and "Happy Christmas War Is Over." We performed them at the end of a recording session as a casual afterthought. This was during the recording session for our album "SONGS OF THE COWS." I always thought THE MERMEN performed those songs rather soulfully, and always felt it would be interesting to do a MERMEN Christmas album, never giving any serious thought for over ten years - until now. It seemed like a monumental project to do a Christmas album because, to me, to fulfill the meaning in the songs seemed an impossible task.
"In September of 2012 I came across a version of the Christmas song: "DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR" and I heard a more-than-interesting lyric. The words went:
"Do you hear what I hear
"I had a startled reaction to these words and thought: "Now that is something, those lyrics are something." This something is as MERMEN as MERMEN can be. It closed the deal on my decision to make a Christmas record. I toyed with "DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?" and made a demo. During the demo I did a guitar intro and solo in the bridge that came out sounding very ethereal, reminding me a lot of what I like most about Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. My playing on the demo had the spacey Garcia atmospherics that he poured into the song "The Wheel" on his first solo album. Jerry has always been one of my favorite guitarists: Neil Young, Jerry Garcia, Django Rheinhardt, Wes Montgomery, and Clarence White...not in that order. I’ve always thought (in a sideways way) that Jerry Garcia heard in an "otherworldly" way. To me the best music is music released from the restraint of meter, as if the music defies gravity. Jerry's musical signature is like that, stunningly beautiful at times, with very bell-like, liquid tones.
"There is a peculiar theme to this record. It's about hearing, sound, and THE MERMEN's (the band) unique history with making ocean (surf) related music. The words mermen and the word merry are rooted in the same word origins coming from "mer" meaning the "sea" (from the French: "mer "). Listen to the song "DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?" on the album. The song is strung together with "ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH" and "HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING." I ran with this theme on this Christmas album in part because of the many dreams I've had about unconventional musical instruments and pure musical sounds. I have lots of dreams where I hear really pure pristine resonating tones I've never heard in waking life. I have dreams of choirs singing in churches in perfect, slow motion harmonies that are in smooth, sine wave-like, deep, rich tones. I have dreams of crazy stringed instruments: guitars with thirty strings making all kind of foreign, pure music. It's all stuff that I never see or hear in real life. The poetic image that is "DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?" rang a big bell for me.
"Another element that made me pursue this Christmas music is an experience I had in kindergarten when I was five years old. At Christmas time that year all the boys and girls were assembled for a class picture. They gave all of us musical instruments. The instrument I ended up with for the photograph was the smallest of all the instruments. They were Christmas hand bells. I had been given the smallest of the all the instruments and I was not happy about it. Looking back it's ironic considering how loud I sometimes play.
"I was very pleased with the demo of "DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?" and it fired me up to do a Christmas album. I listened to many Christmas songs before committing to the songs on this record. I discussed this Jerry "DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?" Garcia thing with MERMEN bass player Allen Whitman and he said: "Oh - if you do this Christmas album it should be called: "DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?" At that point I thought we had something so I started looking into Christmas songs of all kinds, and Christmas stories. The monumental Charles Dickens story "A Christmas Carol" put it all together for me. It sums up the universal meaning about the spirit of Christmas. It's all about spirit. There is a unique and amazing spirit in Christmas music.
"I started to realize that Christmas songs and music was of its own kind, of its own ilk, very unique and in its own class. Nowhere in any other kind of music is there the strange poetic spirit heard in Christmas songs, with its peculiarly happy musical resonances and words infused with hope, generosity, community and pure joy. That Christmas happens during the darkest, longest nights near the Winter Solstice makes it even more meaningful. It transcends Christianity. John Lennon expresses what it's all about in his song: "Happy Christmas War is Over." I love that song so much. Sing along with our record! Merry Christmas to All!" - Jim T. 11/16/2012
"The Spirit bade Scrooge hold his robe, and passing on above the moor, sped whither? Not to sea? To sea. To Scrooge's horror, looking back, he saw the last of the land, a frightful range of rocks, behind them; and his ears were deafened by the thundering of water, as it rolled, and roared, and raged among the dreadful caverns it had worn, and fiercely tried to undermine the earth. Built upon a dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league or so from shore, on which the waters chafed and dashed the wild year through, there stood a solitary lighthouse. Great heaps of sea-weed clung to its base, and storm-birds -- born of the wind one might suppose, as sea-weed of the water -- rose and fell about it, like the waves they skimmed. But even here, two men who watched the light had made a fire, that through the loophole in the thick stone wall shed out a ray of brightness on the awful sea. Joining their horny hands over the rough table at which they sat, they wished each other Merry Christmas in their can of grog; and one of them: the elder, too, with his face all damaged and scarred with hard weather, as the figure-head of an old ship might be: struck up a sturdy song that was like a Gale in itself. Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea -- on, on -- until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him." - Charles Dickens: "A Christmas Carol" (stave three, the second of the three spirits)
Julie Newdoll , artist and composer, on her painting "Cochlea Surrounded by Waves" - " I love the ocean. I grew up across the hill from Half Moon Bay, have lived in Santa Barbara and San Francisco, and spent much time at the beaches soaking in the beauty. I have always loved music, as well. I often listen to the same song or album repeatedly when painting a particular piece, and the songs I hear in my head sometimes escape as compositions or improvisations. When I found out that sound turns into an actual wave through the fluid in your ear, I was astounded, and so rushed to the beach with my camera to get some reference photos for 'Cochlea Surrounded by Waves'".