Sunday, December 2, 2012

Countdown Part 2

Another disclaimer as people are reading this list. It is meant to offer up newer recordings that might speak to our audience and members. I know a few will contend that there are none of the classics here like Johnny Mathis, Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin or Julie Andrews. I love them all and have them all on my playlist as well. But I am trying to veer us away from the obvious and what are now holiday standards. They are all from a different era where every performer was part of the American Songbook and they were all great interpreters in their own way. Modern decades have opened so many different doors of styles to the genre. I am hoping my short list is a sampling that could stand the test of time looking back another 50 years. Even so, most of them are tiny chestnuts and not liable to be embraced by the general public. Give them a listen.

Today's trio is a pool of female talent, which most of my list leans towards. No idea why, not that I favor those voices. Maybe there is more material out there? But the three discs could not be more different and set different moods.

9) Vanessa Williams - Star Bright - most of us forget that before she was a television villain at large with a film following, she started out as a pop princess with a Miss America scandal. Her Christmas album from 1996 was her move to be taken seriously and break from that mold which has since taken her to major roles on Broadway. She is silky smooth with a breathy quality overriding her soulful alto that suits the holiday mood well. When surrounded by strings on I Wonder As I Wander or Sleep Well Little Children, she elicits dulcet tones. Then kicks it up a notch with some gospel backing on Go Tell It or swings a bit on What Child Is This. Some may find it a bit too sleek and polished, but it is a singular offering and great music for honoring the season while decorating the tree.

8) Joan Osborne - Christmas Means Love - may be the furthest leap on the list. But I adore her earthy quality and rawness that is her own. She has been in town at the Dakota playing smaller audiences and I am betting that she is as honest as they come. I love that she and her band are collaborators on each tune. The sincerity of Carole King with the edge of Janis. Her title cut lets you know exactly where she is coming from. Even on reverent hymns like The Cherry Tree Carol or Children Go Where I Send Thee, you are hooked from the get go. Trust me.

7) Jewel - Joy - was a surprise to me. I enjoy some folk and country, but in small doses. On seasonal music, her voice lends itself because of its simplicity; which may sound like a bad thing. O Little Town of Bethlehem rests like a gentle snowflake. And her Ave Maria & Gloria are indeed heavenly and lacking the pretense in many other grander versions.

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