One of the more aggravating parts of listening to Christmas music on the radio is hearing a song you absolutely love, only to find that it’s impossible to find in any fashion other than as a download. It’s even worse when it’s by an artist who has lots of Christmas CDs available, but rarely includes his holiday radio hits on them.
Such is the case with Jim Brickman.
He got his start recording jingles for various corporate clients. In the early 1990s, he signed a recording contract as a new-age pianist recording for the father of new-age labels, Windham Hill. His first Christmas hit was “The Gift,” which set the template for his later holiday radio singles: It was credited to Brickman “featuring Collin Raye and Susan Ashton.” That song was relatively easy to find, as the correct radio version appeared on his CD The Gift.
As time went on, however, Brickman’s holiday songs became more elusive. He started to record “holiday versions” of songs that were otherwise not of the season, with new lyrics referring to Christmas. At least one of these is better than the all-season version: “Simple Things” featuring Rebecca Lynn Howard, which hit #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in the first week of January 2002. Without question, the existence of the “holiday version” of the song allowed it to hit the top. That one was elusive for many years, as it was only on a couple of promotional-only CD singles. Now, the holiday version of “Simple Things” is on a Brickman CD called Greatest Hits: Christmas, which includes 15 of his seasonal selections, most of which feature other artists.
But my Christmas Song of the Day for December 3 is not on it, and as far as I know, has never been on a commercially released CD.
In 2011, Brickman came up with a perky, peppy song called “Fa La La,” which was one of the highlights of that Christmas season. I can remember that year as one filled with hope and potential; I had a girlfriend, and we were starting to plan a life together. Alas, it didn’t work out, but for better or worse, “Fa La La” reminds me of that happy time.
Brickman did two distinctly different versions of the song in 2011. One of them, which has none of the energy and magic of the radio hit, featured Genevieve Bellemare. That appeared on the CD All Is Calm and also appears on the Greatest Hits: Christmas album. The real version was much better, as sung by Olivia Jade Archbold, then 15 years old, who was a semifinalist on the television show Britain’s Got Talent in 2010. During the Christmas season of 2011, that version was available as a free download – in the lossless WAV format, no less – on Brickman’s web site.
You still hear this on the radio every once in a while, five years later.