Coming hot on the heels of last album Frontier, Three Kings is a Christmas EP release from Ireland born, London based singer/songwriter Michael Gallagher. The release is inspired by his Irish upbringing, recent Christmases spent in Spain, and a heartfelt love of all things Christmas. The result is a sincere and somewhat nostalgic look at that most magical time of the year, influenced by the likes of Scrooge, traditional folk Christmas songs, and more modern fare.
Three Kings contains just about everything you would usually find in Christmas songs. Children singing? Check. Jingling bells? Check. Crooning? Check. Ghosts? Check. That's not to say this is a by the numbers Christmas release however.
Long Way To Christmas features the children and the bells, but it's not a twee Christmas song, with not a hint of the Cliff Richards' about it. Covering the long build up and rising anticipation, there's a real yearning to the track, and yet not wanting the anticipation to end. Christmas Number 1 is a nod to the sentimental crooning of years gone by, but at its heart it's about how lonely Christmas can be when you aren't with someone over the festive period.
It's a leap back to the modern world for Wild Gift, an irrepressibly upbeat track about the baby Jesus. The drum background really keeps this one moving well, and the song feels full of hope and optimism.
The highlights come at the end however, with two songs full of dark melancholic magic. Ghostwriter feels like a cross between Dickens' Christmas Carol, and an M R James tale, and is the tale of the ghost of a twisted failed writer full of malevolence. Having lived on Holloway Road myself, there's usually little magic to be found there, but in Gallagher's hands it may as well be Narnia. Inspired by memories of his childhood when living there, it's an achingly beautiful song, helped by the Spanish guitar of producer Paco Loco.
We all have our favourite type of Christmas songs, and whatever type you prefer there will be something for you in this collection. Three Kings is as Christmassy as the smell of mulled wine, the taste of sprouts, and the rustle of wrapping paper. It's also as far from a cynical Christmas cash in as you could get, and is nothing if not genuine and heartfelt. If you're looking for a festive soundtrack that is a bit different and alternative, you won't do much better than Three Kings.
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