Monday, December 21, 2009

Listen Up: The Christmas Music Part Three

There are a few cds that I just have to listen to at Christmas; in the first part of this story I named some of the essentials for our house; but there are these truly lovely holiday cds that may not be in my Ipod in their entirety, but there are several (SEVERAL) tracks from them on my Christmas playlist and the whole cds get full playtime on the home stereo.
Amy Grant has three completely different holiday cds and one called something like The Christmas Collection. I have the three separate releases, A Christmas Album, Home For Christmas and A Christmas to Remember. I will admit that the first released of these, A Christmas Album, gets the least amount of playtime. It isn’t that it’s not good; it’s just a LOT of religious music (though not entirely) and that doesn’t interest me much. It’s a swell cd but I LOVE the second and third. Home for Christmas has a great mixture of Christmas Carols and Christmas songs; her It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Rockin Around the Christmas Tree are a lot of fun, while the Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Grown Up Christmas List are lovely. I really like her The Night Before Christmas and Breath of Heaven; and the I’ll be Home for Christmas is very sweet. It’s a good cd. A Christmas to Remember, though, is a great cd. It is essential holiday listening. From the opening (title) song, the listener is placed into a happy mood with tuneful melodies and festive, but unsentimental, lyrics. The Christmas songs are heartfelt but not schmaltzy and the carols are lovely and true to the original intent of the writers. There is even a delicious instrumental of Gabriel’s Obe, a piece of music created for the film THE MISSION, by Ennio Morricone – it was later given lyrics and turned into the song Nella Fantasia. With such rich material on one cd, how could Amy Grant have gone wrong?

Doris Day Personal Christmas Collection is right out of my childhood. I listened to her recordings on the Firestone record albums and many of them are in my personal history of the holiday – and all of them are on this cd! I mean, it just isn’t Christmas time without her versions of Silver Bells and Toyland, Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas and The Christmas Song. Then there are the songs I didn’t know as a child but came to love as an adult – songs like Snowfall and Be a Child at Christmas Time. One of the great stars and great singers of the last century, she turned out a real treat, a real treasure, when she made this album.

Christmas with Julie Andrews is practically (if not all – as I am not really sure how each song is categorized) Christmas carols. Like I said before, I tend to prefer Christmas songs to Christmas carols – but that isn’t an absolute. I love Christmas carols; they just have to be sung by the right person. When it is time for me to do a little caroling, this is where I come. Like the Doris Day cd, this song harkens back to my childhood and gives me great comfort. This is probably my favourite In the Bleak Midwinter and my favourite Oh Come All Ye Faithful.

Mariah Carey Merry Christmas. This is one of the occasions when I prefer the Christmas songs to the carols. A big Mariah fan, I love to listen to her rock out on All I Want for Christmas is You (one of my favourites) and Christmas Baby Please Come Home but the rest of the album is quite good. I don’t always play the whole thing but it’s worth a listen.

The Christmas Music of Johnny Mathis. No Christmas is complete without this cd. I think, during their duet on Bette Midler’s holiday cd, she calls him Mister Christmas. It’s just a fact. Mr Mathis’ Christmas songs are a part of the tradition itself. I defy anyone to get through the holiday without actually needing to hear It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas or It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, even Marshmallow World and Winter Wonderland. THIS is ESSENTIAL music for your Christmas holiday.

A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector is delicious! What more fun could there be than these famous recordings of The Ronnettes Frosty the Snowman or Sleigh Ride? How about The Crystals doing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town? And even though a lot of these songs are songs for children, these are straight forward, fun, rock versions of the songs that a grown up can enjoy. Darlene Love’s tracks on here are, particularly, good for me.
It’s a well known fact that Helen Reddy is my favourite singer. LaMott, Minnelli, Cox… I have my divas, doncha know. Miss Reddy is a big one for me. I love her; and true love lasts forever. I was very excited when she released this cd and I often drop it into the tray of the player and let it go. I don’t have all of it in my Ipod because she does a couple of songs just for the kids, including a children’s choir – and that falls short of being in the realm of my interest. However, the grown up portion of the cd really is wonderful, featuring her inimitable voice on songs like Christmas Mem’ries, Wishing You an Old Fashioned Christmas, The Christmas of Your Life and Christmas Auld Lang Syne. I do, I do love this cd.

A Cabaret Christmas is an interesting compilation for me because I, so rarely, like to listen to cds like this (remember my estimation of A Hollywood Christmas and the NBC Celebrity Christmas?) but this one is really simple and artistic. The artists let their artistry shine by giving it all over to the source material. Billy Stritch does this wonderful simple arrangement of I’ll Be Home For Christmas that is just him and the piano, a little bass, a little drum and that silky sexy voice of his. There is a lovely duet on Silent Night by Andrea Marcovicci and Karen Akers (a singer I rarely listen to). My favourites are KT Sullivan’s medley of Merry Christmas to Me/Hard Candy Christmas (HEAVENLY) and one of the greatest songs ever written by Johnny Mandel with a lyric by the Bergmans – A Christmas Love Song – and it is performed by the incomparable Ann Hampton Callaway. I am particularly fond of this one because it comes from one of my favourite Christmas movies, Christmas Eve. This cd is terrific.

And Here is one that requires absolutely no explanation whatsoever:


Anonymous Billy Stritch said...

I'm thrilled to have a song in your list of favorite Christmas recordings! Hope yours is happy and merry!
xox Billy

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Hampers said...

Your blog on Christmas looks awesome. It was nice going through your blog. Keep it up the good work.

8:28 AM  

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