Winter Playlist


Each year, around this time, I find myself putting  together a playlist for the winter season which I then broadcast on my weekly radio show on BBC Kent, and this year I was asked to contribute an article on the subject of the winter song to a lovely publication called The Barefoot Diaries.   I’m a big fan of the seasonal song, they really take on a magical quality when listened to in the right context. The Summer song is very popular & always gets mass airplay on radio stations as soon as the first signs of sun come bursting through in May, but the Winter song gets a bit of a rough ride. Remember I’m not talking Christmas jollies here. The difference between summer songs & winter songs is  (without stating the bleeding obvious) like the difference between winter & summer itself. The summer song is easy to nail – beach boys layered harmonies, a lyric celebrating love in it’s many forms, softly strummed acoustic guitar, light bossa nova rhythm, intro incorporates the sound of the ocean lapping on the shore &  the mood is joyful & carefree. now let’s examine the winter song – a lone voice sings sings of love lost & cold lonely nights, the instrumentation is sparse & the rhythm  slow to non existent, there are no sound effects to draw on to evoke the mood – the sound of snow falling anyone? melancholy & solitude rules the track. Not quite the mood most radio shows strive to create, but I’m a bit of a sucker for these tunes.

I’ve put together a playlist of thirty of my favorite winter tunes which travels from folk, soul, indie, electronic, disco & all points in between. Download here.  Below are 5 of my particular favorites.

Winter Melody – Donna Summer
Summer (sic) was the queen of soft core disco, though this song is strictly speaking a soul ballad. The song represented the “winter” phase of her 1978 concept album, Four Seasons Of Love and speaks of a woman struggling to come to terms with the fact that her relationship has ended. It sort of rips my heart out every time i hear it, I don’t know of another tune steeped in so much melancholy.
2-21 Winter Melody

Winter Home Disco (Hot Chip Remix) – The Pictish Trail
Johnny Lynch is a Scottish musician who performs under the pseudonym The Pictish Trail. This is a song whose message is quite clear – it’s too cold to go out, so make your own disco at home!! originally released on  icy – clear vinyl, the remix by Hot Chip plays with cliche of the winter song & adds sunshine drenched steel drums into the equation, giving you the feeling of euphoric warmth whilst dancing at your very own home disco.

2-01 Winter Home Disco (Hot Chip Remix) 1

While The Cold Winter Waiting – Trentemøller
Anders Trentemøller is a Danish electronic producer, dj and multi-instrumentalist  who draws from sources such as techno, kraut-rock, shoegaze, folk, classical and soundtracks. This song from his 2007 album The Last Resort is a beautiful magical tune with some gentle sounds, acoustic percussion and sonic manipulations to spice things up. with a frosty, glockenspiel-laced ambience. It sounds a bit like the music that Santa  would play in his Santa-mobile heading home from a hard nights work as dawn is breaking on Christmas morning

1-05 While the Cold Winter Waiting

White Winter Hymnal -  Fleet Foxes
Taken from the 2008′s debut lp by the Seattle 5 piece, This chorale roundelay about a school trip to the woods in winter is just 52 words and two-and-a-half minutes long. Songs don’t get tinier, but Fleet Foxes pack their miniature tale with an eerie plot (“I was following the pack/ All swallowed in their coats/ With scarves of red tied ’round their throats”) repeated with slightly more instrumental oomph in each of the three verses and sung in the sweetest of Beach Boys inflected four-part harmonies. It’s a cold song on every level.

02 White Winter Hymnal

Winter – The Rolling Stones
Here they were in sunny Jamaica, recording their 1973 long player Goat’s Head Soup,  and the Stones were writing and recording an entirely convincing and evocative picture of a Northern Hemisphere winter. Perhaps they were so happy to be escaping the season they felt that starting the sessions with “Winter” could transition them out of the old and into the new climate. Though it bemoans many of the negatives of the season [in the] lyrics… “Winter” seems to simultaneously celebrate the season as something inherently beautiful, with other evocations of holiday scenes and wanting to wrap a coat and keep a lover warm.

08 Winter (Remastered 2009)


New Release : Colorama – Heaven’s Hotel


Lovely new EP just arrived, ‘Heaven’s Hotel’ on  AED Recordson from Colorama

It’s produced by Carwyn Ellis & Mason Neely (whose worked with the likes of Lambchop & Sufjan Stevens.

There are 5 brand new tracks on the EP.  All tracks were recorded in Cardiff at Colorama HQ. As with all Colorama releases they draw on many musical styles including – 70s Relaxation, Nashville Beat, Ambient Punk, Cinematopoeia, Soultronica and Electro Vaudeville. Something for everyone then!
There’s also two shows to mark this release: on Thursday February 27th, at Gullivers on Oldham Street in Manchester, and on Sunday March 2nd, &  The Three Kings in Clerkenwell, London.

Look out for a Colorama ‘All Back To Mine’ mix coming soon

Colorama – Brother

05 Brother

Colorama – Heaven’s Hotel

02 Heaven’s Hotel

Cover to Cover – Witchi Tia To


Many years ago I was introduced to a song called Witcha Tai To by a mate of mine Simon Dine. The version he played me was by  soft rock harmony group Harpers Bizarre. I feel under the spell of this incredible record instantly, & it soon became a big favorite on my late night radio show, often inspiring listeners to contact the show asking more details.  I didn’t have that many (this was pre Google), Simon had burnt the track onto c.d. but I didn’t even know who wrote it. Then I found a 7 inch version by a band called Everything Is Everything from 1969, composer listed as J. Pepper.  Jim Pepper was of Native American descent. He came from a family of “road men”, the peyote priests of the Native American Church. Peyote being the small cactus plant  known for its psychoactive properties when ingested (i think you know where this is going).  He was also a jazz saxophonist, playing primarily tenor sax. In the mid ’60s Pepper began experimenting with mixing Native American music and jazz. “Witchi Tai To” is a prime example of that blending, taking a peyote song he’d learned from his grandfather and putting it in a jazz setting.   The  song is very simple in all it’s elements. It’s that simplicity and the spiritual intent behind the words that gives the song it’s power. The  words are untranslatable now – Pepper said his grandfather never did tell him what they meant in English – but he sings them anyway, and adds English lyrics which emphasize the roots in the peyote ritual, especially speaking of the Water Spirit, who carries the visions brought by the peyote.

Witchi tai to, gimee rah
Hoe rah neeko, hoe rah neeko
Hey ney, hey ney, no way

Witchi tai to, gimee rah
Hoe rah neeko, hoe rah neeko
Hey ney, hey ney, no way

Water Spirit feelin’ springin’ round my head
Makes me feel glad that I’m not dead

Witchi tai to, gimee rah
Hoe rah neeko, hoe rah neeko
Hey ney, hey ney, no way

Witchi tai to, gimee rah
Hoe rah neeko, hoe rah neeko
Hey ney, hey ney, no way

I soon discovered many other versions that had been recorded over the years. Straddling musical genres from jazz to prog to folk, even the Supremes where rumored to have had a crack at it (if you have this please …..).  Tim Gane from Sterolab, was another Withci Tai To fan & kindly burnt me a c.d. of his band doing it live (which i then lost !!!!!).
One of the listeners who rung me whilst I was on air after playing it was  dj Andrew Weatherhall, who tracked down a copy & shared it the other dj legend, Ashley Beadle…who was then in the chart topping dance trio X-Press 2, who then went & housed it up & brought in Tim DeLaughter from the Polyphonic Spree to provide the vocal.

So here’s a small selection of the tune which makes me want dive into it’s spiritual waters & float downstream.

Witchi Tai To (Original) – Everything Is Everything

2-15 Witchi Tai To (Original)

Witchi Tai To (Invocation) – Paul Winter Consort

06 Witchi Tai To (Invocation)

Witchi Tai To (Sunshine Pop) – Harpers Bizarre

14 Witchi-Tai-To (Sunshine Pop)

Witchi Tai To (Raga) – Brewer & Shipley

07 Witchi-Tai-To (Raga)

Witchi Tai To (Jazz) – Maurizio Camardi

11 Witchi Tai To (Jazz)

Witchi Tai To (Easy) – The John Schroeder Orchestra

43 Witchi Tai To (Easy)

Witchi Tai To (Piano Ballad) – A.J. Webber

05 Witchi-Tai-To (Folk)

Witchi Tai To (Indie) – BMX Bandits

2-02 Witchi Tai To (Indie)

Witchi Tai To (Chant) – Jim Pepper

Witchi Tai To (Chant)

Witchi Tai To (Pipes) – Pete Wyoming Bender

01 Witchi Tai To (Pipes)

Witchi Tai To (Alt.) – Future Pilot A.K.A

03 Witchi Tai To (Alt.)

Witchi Tai To (Sitar) – Oregon

09 Witchi-Tai-To (Sitar)

Witchi Tai To (House) – X-Press 2

01 Witchi Tai to (House)