CD Reviews: Music of the Holiday Season

By Faith Frenz

Carole King

A Holiday Carole (Hear Music)

A delightful gift for the season, with Carole’s bubbly personality breathing new life into some old chestnuts — “Sleigh Ride” and “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” among them. A Holiday Carole was recorded in Los Angeles as a collaboration with family and friends and is enhanced with the personal touch of a collection of family pictures on the insert.  In an additional family connection, the album was produced by her daughter, Louise Goffin, who also contributed four original songs. The singing is vintage 70′s Carole King. Even though she plays the piano on only three numbers — “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, and “New Year’s Day” — her delightful exuberance is something we can always welcome a little more of in these troubled days.

Elf: The Broadway Musical

Original Broadway Cast Recording (Ghostlight Records)

Based on the New Line Cinema film Elf, the Broadway musical of the same title is faithful to the sweet and sentimental story of a human baby who is raised by Santa’s elves.  Until he grows to maturity and gets Santa’s permission to return home to New York to find his parents and teach them the true meaning of Christmas.

Although not presently running on Broadway, the album (just released) could be considered a return engagement for the original cast. With song titles like “Sparklejollytwinklejingley,” “Nobody Cares About Santa Claus,” “There is a Santa Claus,” and “Never Fall in Love with an Elf,” I think one can get the general idea of the book and the score. All bounce and cheer, if you are a Broadway Musical fan, this album is worth adding to your collection. The insert contains all the credits and lyrics for the entire libretto. And it also has tons of holiday cheer.

Tony Bennett

The Classic Christmas Album (RPM Records/Columbia Legacy)

A 40-year legacy of Christmas songs produced over the years in a catalog of five holiday albums is the source of all but one of the 18 chestnuts selected for this 2011 Classic Christmas Album. You can either purchase this budget priced album if you want to hear a whole lot of Tony Bennett, or go online to purchase indiviual MP3s of just your favs, of which there are no doubt quite a few.

As you can imagine, 40 years will provide a broad spectrum of style and orchestration, with something for everyone, from big swing orchestra to small jazz combo. The selections are balanced between  traditional Christmas Carols such as “The First Noel” and sentimental holiday classics like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”.  This is really an album which has something for everyone, especially Tony Bennett fans.

Various Artists

Putumayo Presents A Celtic Christmas (Putumayo)

A warm and inspiring collection of Christmas themed music derived from traditional solstice carols with Celtic roots (Scotch, Irish, English and French) that are hundreds of years old, performed with accordians, harps, pennywhistles and fiddles. The music creates an ambiance of nostalgic Christmas carollng in a cold winter’s night — a community setting to put aside ones troubles and rejoice in the season of celebration.

The pagan roots of the season show through as well,  especially in songs such as Noel Nouvelet, which is a 15th Century French New Year’s carol. The album’s pamphlet, rich with historical background for this most engaging collection of  winter holiday music, helps to enhance the listening experience, with its refreshing orchestrations and comfortable balance of diverse vocals. Especially notable are the Dougie MacLean rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” and a Gaelic translation of “White Christmas.” A refreshing change from the old chestnuts and highly recommended for folks (like me) who program their winter holidays with music 24/7.

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