Archive for the ‘songs’ Tag

Hankerin’ for some fresh Christmas music?

Looking for some fresh (if not new) Christmas/Holiday/Winter music to add to your annual listening tradition? I know, nobody really buys or listens to “albums” anymore, with our iTunes-driven music world being so song-centric. Well, that may be true most of the time, but at Christmastime I’m still quite album-centric, since I prefer to pack my cds away with the decorations, and essentially rediscover them each year.

Plenty of the mainstream classics are among my annual favs too, including those by John Denver & The Muppets, Vince Guaraldi, The Carpenters, Leontyne Price, and Mariah Carey. BUT, it’s a relief to have less touted treasures to lean on, especially when the classics are getting overplayed…like right about now! Please weigh in on your own rarer holiday favorites.


Images de Noël: Karina Gauvin (’99)
A phenomenal, underrated crystalline soprano, who specializes in baroque repertoire. Here, she offers spirited renditions of holiday-themed art songs.

The Christmas Album: Original Masters: Various Artists (’03)
Vintage German/Austrian favorites, originally recorded from ’52 to ’70. Includes greats Gundula Janowitz, Fritz Wunderlich and Hermann Prey. You’ll feel like you’re having a Christmas in Salzburg! The retro graphics are charming too.

Carols From the Old and New Worlds: Theatre of Voices (’93)
I first experienced this album thanks to my old voice teacher, who was a member of Theatre of Voices at the time of this recording. It features TIGHT harmonies that feel authentically old world, but still fresh.


A Cold December Night: Erin Bode (’08)
This album offers perfect winter simplicity, delivered in Bode’s gentle spirit.

Classic Christmas: Billy Gilman (’00)
This is easily my most fun and cheerful Christmas album…it’ll make you feel a bit more like a kid again.

The Hotel Café Presents: Winter Songs: Various Artists (’08)
A great compilation of atmospheric, moody contemporary performances, including many originals. Tracks 1, 7, 11, and 15 are favs.

Christmas Means Love: Joan Osborne (’95)
Originally released by Barnes & Nobles, this album didn’t get wide enough distribution. You’ve gotta listen to “What Do Bad Girls Get?”. Her inspired pipes are showcased throughout!


Have Yourself A Jazzy Little Christmas: Various Artists (’89)
There is NO better jazz compilation than this. All tracks are mid-century recordings, performed by jazz greats. Originally given to me as a gift, it has become a necessary annual tradition for me! Truly perfect!

An Oscar Peterson Christmas: Oscar Peterson (’95)
Tired of Guaraldi, but you like the whole jazzy Christmas thang? This is another great option.

Hymns Carols and Songs Sbout Snow: Tuck Andress (’91)
Of Tuck & Patti fame, Andress offers up some gentle renditions of the classics.


Christmas Disco: The Mistletoe Disco Band (’78)
Wanna shake things up a bit (literally!)? I grew up on this album, and was SO obsessed with the girl on the cover (or, was it her outfit?)! This is some of THE finest Christmas cheese, and the periodic sexy back-up singers are priceless.

The Bells of Dublin: The Chieftains (’91)
I’m honestly not sure how many or few have this album, but I’ve never heard it get any play on the radio, nor heard a friend reference it. So, I’m going to assume it’s not as well known as it should be. Do some vicarious travel to Ireland, thanks to this cd.

So, pour a glass of egg nog, nestle under your most comfy blanket (with a loved one, pet or just yourself), and enjoy some less “played” tunage!


An Early St. Patty’s Day Gift

A couple of days ago I had one of those true music discovery moments, while listening to KUSF 90.3. These happen less and less these days, with my radio listening being greatly diminished, and entertainment being so much more “programmed”, via my iPod/iTunes. It seems most of us now revel in the fully customizable listening experience they provide. But, radio discoveries remind me of my (even) younger days, when that was more commonly a mode for being introduced to artists, and I felt a sense of wonder accompanying the feeling of unlimited musical horizons.

A sonorous bass voice tenderly wafted from my speakers. “Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling… From glen to glen, and down the mountain side…”.

(No, this isn't my car radio, but it conjures up the lost charm I'm going for.)

(No, this isn't my car radio, but it conjures up the lost charm I'm going for.)

I knew the song immediately, but I couldn’t identify the singer. I have always loved Danny Boy. At my grandmother’s recent funeral a version was sung with the same melody but an adapted text. The song is one of the truest musical embodiments of longing for me. It has a sweet sentimentality that is undeniable. Honestly, it is really the melody itself (the Irish tune Londonderry Air) that speaks to me each time, and less so the text.

Over a decade ago I enjoyed Aprile Millo’s performance of it on The Johnny Carson Show. Ah, I miss the days when real grand divas/divos would perform on night shows, or any popular tv forum for that matter… and I know you do too ;-). And, Eleanor Steber’s version from CD 2 of the “Eleanor Steber In Concert (1956-58)” double album.

Well, the singer I heard that day was Paul Robeson. He is probably most famous in the mainstream for the ’36 film version of Show Boat, and his performance of Ol’ Man River (which has never been matched). I certainly know him well, but had never heard his beautiful rendition of this song. He possesses legendary endowment in the cavernous basso profondo nether regions. But, what I didn’t know is how tenderly he could float and caress a higher phrase. That was largely why I was surprised to hear it was him. Also, there is something so disarmingly simple and real about this recording that I didn’t even suspect it was an “opera singer”.

I hope you enjoy it too. And Happy St. Patty’s Day!