Well, Happy Thanksgiving. I figured that I'd use this beginning of "The Holiday Season" to talk about some holiday-time CD releases.
I'll start with the holiday music that I have enjoyed for ten years now - Broadway's Greatest Gifts: Carols for a Cure year, in honor of the decade-long milestone, the two-disc set includes not only traditional holiday music and specialty material performed by current Broadway and off-Broadway companies, but also ten tracks from previous editions of the series. So, you can check out what the company of Hairspray offered up in 2003 – a delightfully demented version of "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" featuring original cast members Harvey Fierstein, Dick Latessa, et. al., and the current company's marvelously beatnik-sounding rendition of "Santa's Comin' to Town."
The first track on this two-disc set is a real treat – "Cold Christmas," an original Christmas song from Elton John, performed by the company of his hit musical, Billy Elliot. For those who've had the chance to see "Billy," there's a wonderful sense of the characters from the musical celebrating the holidays with this slightly off-beat tune. For those who haven't experienced the show for themselves, this track, along with the cast recording allows you to get a sense of what the buzz is all about.
Other highlights of on this year's "Carols for a Cure" are the Xanadu company's disco-infused take on "Deck the Halls," here entitled "Hit the Deck." The company of Altar Boyz, which has been providing truly memorable original material for several years now, continues the tradition with "Shepherd's Fury," and the cast of In the Heights shines with a grandly contemporary take on "Los Peces en el Rio" (which can also be heard in a more traditional incarnation on the track from Antonio Banderas during his days in Nine).
"Carols for a Cure" not only gives you the chance to enjoy some truly unique holiday music, the discs are also raising money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, making this musical indulgence a good deed as well.
Now, since you won't be able to grab these online today, I figured I'd talk about one release that you can get online, and thus, have it playing as you're prepping your holiday meal and then, enjoying it: Kristin Chenoweth's A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas, a beautifully conceived disc that highlights the stage and screen star in a variety of moods.
The disc begins with a gently melancholy rendition of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and then, shifts gears as Chenoweth offers up a Hawaiian-infused specialty number, "Christmas Island." During this one, you'll find that Chenoweth's effervescence is truly infectious. In the traditional "Do You Hear What I Hear?," the singer captures the sense of a child's wonder during the holiday season, and you'll experience the true emotional breadth of Chenoweth's soprano, both delicate and powerful in the disc's final track, "Sleep Well Little Children/What a Wonderful World." This disc, from Sony/BMG Masterworks will be welcome today and for the rest of the season. (Here's a link to the iTunes store for this one.)
A couple of other releases to bear in mind today and then, up until the 25th, come from DRG Records/b>. These two will take you back in time to the late 1950s and early 1960s. The first is "chestral Music of Christmas," which contains some 20 tracks of traditional music being performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. The songs range from a majestic "O Tannenbaum" to a more playful "Deck the Hall," and highlight the work of two conductors/arrangers – Carmen Draggon and Alfred Newman. Another notable selection on this enjoyable orchestral disc – which sounds terrific in DRG's remastering – is "23rd Psalm" from Newman's David and Bathsheba.
DRG's second holiday reissue this year is The Story of Christmas "As sung and told by Tennessee Ernie Ford and The Roger Wagner Chorale." This disc might be a bit too traditional for some people's tastes, but there's no denying the power of Ford's rich baritone as it glides over songs like "Some Children See Him" and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." Alongside Ford's vocals with the chorale and the strong choral work in general, are passages from the Gospels.
Finally, for those who are not interested in partaking of holiday music even as we spiral into the season, let me suggest you taking a listen to (or quick purchase of) Philip Chaffin's gorgeous and richly diverse When the Wind Blows South. This sparkling new disc from PS Classics may make you wish you had some pecan pie to go alongside the pumpkin pie today and is a wonderful mix of classics and contemporary music. Chaffin's gentle vocals seem to caress Jerry Herman's lush melody for "Loving You," a song written for the movie version of Mame. The singer is equally adept at navigating the intricacies of Ricky Ian Gordon's "Is It Too Late?" from the little-known My Life With Albertine. Chaffin's terrifically playful with Burton Lane and Yip Harburg's "Old Devil Moon" and captures just the right of comedy and melancholy in "I Never Has Seen Snow," from Harold Arlen and Truman Capote's House of Flowers.
Chaffin's vocals are accompanied by a full orchestra, conducted by Sam Davis, and the arrangements from a variety of artists, grandly support the singer and I believe that this disc will find its way into listeners' CD players, iPods and hearts for some time to come. (Again, a quick iTunes link for your downloading convenience.)
I hope you have a very happy holiday!
---- Andy Propst
|« Green Ogre Makes Greenbacks - Shrek Sets Box Office Records||ATW Review - The Seafarer – Performances Deal a Full House »|