Hand Of Glory release a compilation album of original Christmas songs. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews Christmas Joy In Full Measure.  8.5 / 10

Billing themselves as ‘The World’s Greatest Record Label’ is something to live up to but Hand Of Glory have certainly given it all that they’ve got. Christmas Joy In Full Measure brings together twelve artists, each with an original seasonal song to give one of the most eclectic alternative Xmas albums you’ll probably hear.

Label founder, Mary Epworth, opens with The Wolf And The Woods which celebrates people bringing the outdoors into their homes. It touches Goldfrapp territory circa Red Cherry as its magical bass line is complemented by haunting voices and echoes with a sleigh bell feel. It’s a track that grows listen upon listen and is a fitting beginning.

The obvious Xmas feel continues with a clever song from Young Knives. With no chorus, the song is constructed using several verses performed in various harmonies created a neo-Carol feel describing the modern Xmas.

The feel of the album then takes a dramatic turn as Be A Ghost sees Extradition Order in a Mark E Smith/Mark Stewart guise visits Warrington’s pubs. The Count Of Chateau Noir give another arrangement which is maybe more historic than modern. Several voices take part on Awake Awake, some which are better than others; it’s a toe-tapper and often displays a dark humour.

Papernut Cambridge give us a potted science lesson on 93 Million And One and explain that the reason for snow is something to do with the Earth’s axis in a gentle, wistful track that makes your feet go all toasty.

Two tracks stand out in particular – On Christmas Day by Citizen Helene recounts Beach Boys’ harmonies successfully, and The Webb Brothers contribute the album highlight with a song that has all the feel and emotion of the yuletide songs of the 70s. Think George Harrison with Wizzard and The Glitter Band and you won’t be far off. Are You Coming Home For Christmas? is the first new Webb track for five years and is well worth the wait.

Kiran Leonard questions the concept of Father Christmas via the eyes (and mind) of a young boy whilst going slightly prog, and Aliens Pat skilfully destroys every child’s dream in the twelve seconds of Santa Fell Down The Chimney and the bearded man’s death.

Jon Epworth, Mary’s Canadian cousin, rams good old rock ‘n’ roll down our turkey filled throats with the wonderful Atheist that contains some superb guitars. The Unwritten Christmas Card sees a tale of sadness from The Outdoor Types as they ponder over lost love and the reasons of life. Closing the album with the appropriately named Richard Holley, Old Year’s Night provide an evocative lament recounting the previous year.

If you’re fed up with Xmas already, Christmas Joy In Full Measure may just give you something to look forward to again.