Letters

Letters 08-25-14

Save America

I read your paper because it’s free and I enjoy the ads. But I struggle through the left wing tripe that fills every page, from political cartoons to the vitriolic pen of Mr. Tuttle. What a shame this beautiful area of the state has such an abundance of Socialist/democrats. Or perhaps the silent majority chooses to stay silent...

Doom, Yet a Cup Half Full

In the news we are told of the civil unrest at Ferguson, Mo; ISIS war radicals in Iraq and Syria; the great corporate tax heist at home. You name it. Trouble, trouble, everywhere. It seems to me the U.S. Congress is partially to blame...

Uncomfortable Questions

defending the positions of the Israelis vs Hamas are far too narrow. Even Mr. Tuttle seems to have failed in looking deeply into the divide. American media is not biased against Israel, nor or are they pro Palestine or Hamas...

The Evolution of Man Revisited

As the expectations of manhood evolve, so too do the rules of love. In Mr. Holmes’s statement [from “Our Therapist Will See Us Now” in last week’s issue] he narrows the key to a successful relationship to the basic need to have your wants and needs understood, and it is on this point I expand...

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Sounds of the Season: What‘s New in Christmas Music

Ross Boissoneau - December 9th, 2004
Each year’s holiday time brings some treats for the season. This year is no exception, with new seasonal favorites sure to join the Christmas chestnuts you pull out each year.
Of course, there are some that don’t measure up as well. Maybe they’re like the proverbial fruitcake that gets passed around each year, and there are really only a couple clinkers. It’s Christmas time – we can wish, right?
Various Artists: I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Windham Hill)
Easily one of the best holiday discs of this or any other year. It covers a lot of ground stylistically, from light, swinging jazz (Phillipe Saisse’s “Winter Wonderland” and Sean Harkness covering the Charlie Brown classic “Christmas Time Is Here” by Vince Guaraldi) to more classically-oriented and new age pieces such as Tracy Silverman’s “O Holy Night.” Not that all is sweetness and light: Piano favorite George Winston grabs his harmonica for a way-too honky-tonk version of “Sussex Carol.” But for the most part this is engaging music with the spirit of the holidays intact.

Various Artists: Ultimate Christmas 2 (BMG)
When I think of Christmas, I think of... Britney Spears. Oh, yeah, and NSYNC. Doesn’t everyone? Here you’ve got Whitney Houston, Elvis, Santana, and, hey, it’s Kelly Clarkson, trotting out originals and Christmas classics. Do you really have to listen to know how this one turns out? Whitney’s overwrought as usual, Dido’s trancey “Christmas Day” is about as un-Christmasy as you can get, at least until you get to Britney’s “My Only Wish (This Year)” – the word abominable comes to mind. That’s also applicable to Christina Aguilera’s overdone hip-hop version of “Angels We Have Heard On High,” complete with drum machines, acoustic guitars and cheesy organ. Or the total twang of Alan Jackson’s “Honky Tonk Christmas.” When you see this on the shelf, run, don’t walk, the other direction.

Will Downing: Christmas, Love and You (GRP)
Holiday music all dressed up and nowhere to go. Smooth, soulful new jack versions of “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas” don’t do much, and originals like “All I Want For Christmas Is You” with its party-down atmospherics fail to elevate the proceedings. Best to move on.


The Rugrats: Holiday Classics (Nick Records)
Nearly every year some cartoon group releases a holiday album, whether it’s the Chipmunks, Arthur and Friends, or this year, the (gulp) Rugrats. If you find the Rugrats’ antics amusing, you may enjoy this revised set of seasonal favorites. Kids will love to hear their favorite characters on these “improved” versions of “Twelve Days of Rugrats,” “Jingle Babies” or “Toys for the Girls.” Adults, however, will probably fail to see the novelty.

Various Artists: Classic Rockin’ Christmas (Koch Records)
The Pretenders, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, The Smithereens, Dave Edmunds, Bobby Helms, The Ventures – talk about your wild lineups. That would be true whatever the season, but it’s particularly true for a set of holiday music. There’s more rockin’ than classics here, but it is also more hit than miss. High points include the opening “Father Christmas” by the Kinks, “Christmas Song” by Jethro Tull, “Rock and Roll Christmas” by Thorogood, and Michael McDonald’s medley of “White Christmas/Winter Wonderland.” Less successful are Pat Benatar, the Pretenders and Billy Squier. As for the Ventures, well, listen for yourself to a surf guitar “Sleigh Ride” and see what you think.

James Taylor – A Christmas Album (Hallmark)
Here’s a twist: This collection of traditional tunes by America’s favorite troubadour is available only at Hallmark shops. No matter, as it’s yet another triumph for Sweet Baby James. Taylor only gets better as time passes, and this pairing of Taylor with Dave Grusin and a host of great musicians – Chris Botti, John Pizzarelli, Michael Landau, Vinnie Colaiuta – bears great fruit. The opening “Winter Wonderland” sets the tone for this heartfelt collection of classics, including “Deck the Halls,” “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” and even a duet with Natalie Cole on “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

Hiroshima – Spirit of the Season (Heads Up)
Hiroshima brings its exotic smooth jazz sound to bear on favorites like “White Christmas” and “Little Drummer Boy” as well as originals. Some feature vocals, such as the title track, which opens the set, while others are instrumentals, including an otherworldly “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” with a zesty mix of koto and trombone leading the way.

Nelson Rangell – All I Hope For Christmas (Koch)
Smooth jazz saxophonist Nelson Rangell turns in one of the most enjoyable and surprising records of the season. The surprises start right away, when he eschews his sax on the opening “Let It Snow” for the trills and thrills of flute and piccolo. He keeps things zesty with an uptempo “Do You Hear What I Hear?” this time with soprano and flute. Throughout, he’s smooth but also soulful, and consistently inventive with his arrangements.

Tingstad & Rumbel – Peace On Earth (Narada)
This is the 13th album from Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel, and it’s a lucky number for listeners. Both performers play keyboards, with an occasional assist from David Lanz, Garey Shelton on bass, and drummer Ben Smith, but the focus is clearly on Tingstad’s gentle guitar and Rumbel’s exquisite work on oboe, English horn and ocarina. That they make beautiful music together is hardly news. Those who long for simpler times or who simply wish to gaze out on a snow-covered field in the starlight will find this a perfect soundtrack.

Various Artists – Acoustic Christmas (Favored Nations)
After the promising “Greensleeves” by Andy Timmons opens the disc, it’s all downhill. Johnny Hiland, Adrian Legg and others are just too twangy, including Mimi Fox’s slowed-down-to-a-crawl version of “Winter Wonderland.” The album’s rescued by the closing three cuts, all originals. Pierre Bensusan’s “Fodere L’Astronome” is gentle, Pete Huttinger’s “The 25th Day” is melodic and Marty Friedman’s “Meditation From Thais” ventures from acoustic to swinging surf guitar to metallic shrieks that truthfully have little to do with the season, but presents such an engaging contrast it merits plaudits.

Various Artists – The Very Best of Celtic Christmas (Windham Hill)
This compilation includes over 75 minutes from the label’s Celtic Christmas series, and it’s a winner. You won’t find much in the “Greensleeves” or “Rudolph” category, as this is more in the line of traditional Celtic music. “The Wexford Carol” opens the disc on a high note, which the numerous artists continue throughout.

Also noted:
• Dianne Reeves – Christmas Time Is Here (Blue Note) The classy Reeves essays a variety of holiday tunes in a jazzy vein.
• The Trans-Siberian Orchestra – The Lost Christmas Eve (Lava) A heady combination of rock, jazz, new age and Broadway styles.
• Yellowjackets – Peace Round (Heads Up) Previously available only through their website, the jazz fusion quartet’s standout holiday disc is now available through stores or websites like Amazon.
• Chris Isaak Christmas (Wicked Games/Reprise Records) San Francisco’s love balladeer releases his first Christmas album of 12 songs, including five originals. For a preview, catch Isaak on “Soundstage,” WCMU Public Television, Thursday, Dec. 9 at 10 p.m. performing the album live.


 
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