Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

Home · Articles · News · Music · Christmas Music
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Christmas Music

Ross Boissoneau - December 7th, 2006
Christmastime is here,” sang the Peanuts gang 41 years ago in the classic TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” And so it is again, with as many new recordings of holiday chestnuts as you could hope to fit under the tree.
Speaking of Peanuts, one of the offerings this year is a remastered version of the soundtrack to that seminal animated special. Vince Guaraldi’s creations remain staples of the holiday season, whether it’s Schroeder’s – I mean Guaraldi’s – “Linus and Lucy” or the immortal “Christmas Time Is Here,” heard here in not only instrumental and vocal versions, but an alternate vocal take, one of four bonus tracks on the disc.

Andreas Vollenweider, Midnight Clear (Kin Kou): Swiss harpist Vollenweider still has it, as he demonstrates on this holiday collection. Special guest Carly Simon sings on four tracks, but they are not the highlights. No, it’s Vollenweider’s unique instrumental combinations of harp, laud, bells, bass clarinet, frame drum, and other occasionally exotic instruments that make this one of the most appealing of his albums, the holiday focus notwithstanding.

The Klezmatics, Woodie Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah (JMG): Who says holiday music can’t be danceable? Certainly not the father of American folk music, who wrote these tunes that are irrepressible and instantly singalongable. The Klezmatics, today’s most popular klezmer band, does them all justice.
Simply Christmas – Home for the Holidays (Sony): This compilation brings together various jazz and classical performers, including clarinetist Richard Stoltzman and two former Spyro Gyrans, Jeremy Wall and Dave Samuels, on a delightful “Ding Dong” followed by harpist Ayako Shinozaki on “O Christmas Tree.” Unexpected joy abounds throughout.

The Nativity Story: Sacred Songs (New Line Records/Word Records): The soundtrack to the movie is another compilation, this one featuring a host of Christian and country stars. Point of Grace, Kenny Rogers & Wynonna, Amy Grant, and BarlowGirl are among the contributors, producing a very mixed bag.

Joy To The World, The Ultimate Christmas Collection (INO Records): This label’s compilation includes many of its Christian rock/pop performers: Darlene Zschech, 4Him, MercyMe, SONICFLOOD, etc. Reminiscent in places of the Trans Siberian Orchestra’s metallic pomp and others of whiny folk, this is perhaps the least successful and least engaging of any of this year’s releases. Not the kind of thing to put on at the family get-together, in other words. 

Jazz Yule Love II (Mack Avenue Records): It’s always difficult to create jazz versions of Christmas tunes. If the artist improvises too much, the song’s soul is lost; not enough, and it’s not jazz. This Detroit-based label is nevertheless as successful in creating Volume II as Volume I, with the Hot Club of Detroit, guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves and vocalist Ilona Knopfler. An unqualified success, with Knopfler’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” the signature track.

Christmas Break, Relaxing Jazz for the Holidays (Telarc): This sounds like a paean for smooth jazz aficionados, but it’s really a selection of classic tracks from the vaults of one of the genre’s most respected labels. Thus we get Oscar Peterson’s “White Christmas,” Mel Torme recreating “Christmastime is Here,” guitarist Jim Hall’s “O Tannenbaum,” and nine other tracks.

Steve Oliver, Snowfall (Koch Records): This set is more in line with what radio programmers prefer. Guitarist/vocalist Oliver is best served by his six-string. It’s when he sings that he typically treads closest to pop, and this is no exception. He even comes off as country at times, as on a twangy version of “Silent Night.”

Brian Culbertson, A Soulful Christmas (GRP): Keyboardist Culbertson does himself and the music a disservice with this mish-mash of smooth jazz, gospel, and pop. Even Michael McDonald, heard here in an original entitled “All Through the Christmas Night,” can’t save this. But the Tower of Power-style horns on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are fun, if out of place.

John Fluker, J is For Joy (Retribution Records): Why is this more successful than the Culbertson, as it essays approximately the same territory? Well, it’s more consistent and just plain better done. Fluker sings, plays keyboards, and is responsible for almost every sound here, apart from an occasional sax, guitar and some programming.

Erich Kunzel, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Christmastime Is Here (Telarc): A host of guests, including Ann Hampton Callaway, John Pizzarelli, Tierney Sutton, even the Singing Hoosiers from IU, don’t do a whole lot for this recording. 

Celtic Woman, A Christmas Celebration (Manhattan Records): This is surprisingly un-Celtic, featuring tunes like “White Christmas” and “The Christmas Song” alongside more expected songs like “The Wexford Carol.” Well done, but only “Carol of the Bells” is transformed into something Celtic-like, with the fiddle the focus. And the swinging big band version of “Let It Snow” is just outré.

Todd Agnew and Friends, Do You See What I See? (SRE Recordings/Ardent Records): Christian rocker Agnew apparently decided that a Christmas CD wasn’t good enough. No, it had to be a musical with guests such as Mike Weaver of Big Daddy Weave and Christy Nockels of Watermark. Each of the guests plays a different role in the musical: Weaver as Simeon, Nockels as Mary, and so on. The contemporary-gospel sound is a refreshing change from Agnew’s regular rock vibe.

Carl Tanner, Hear the Angel Voices (Timeless Media): Tenor Carl Tanner delivers the goods on holiday music secular and sacred. “Little Drummer Boy,” “Agnus Dei,” “O Holy Night” and “The Christmas Song” all receive the operatic treatment, with Tanner’s marvelous voice atop the orchestra and backing choirs. If this is your cup of tea, you won’t find anything better. But pop enthusiasts will be out of their league.

Jill Parr, Christmas Maxi Single (Whiplash Records): This may be nothing more than repackaged material (the two songs were offered last year as free mp3s from Parr’s website), but it’s worth the 99 cents. Parr proves her versatility by first screaming out a pop-rock version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” and then slowing down considerably for “O Come All Ye Faithful,” more reminiscent of Amy Grant’s first two Christmas albums than anything else.
Of course, in this age of digital downloads, many of the above are available at iTunes. But also available are some tracks previously available only on full non-holiday albums. So George Michael and Wham’s heartbreaking “Last Christmas,” Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas,” Basia’s “Angels Blush” and the Waitresses’ witty “Christmas Wrapping” are easy to purchase by themselves. So too is Uncle Carl’s fun and festive “Have A Hap, Hap, Happy Christmas” apart from the rest of the soundtrack of Trust the Man, and the new Christmas EP by Leigh Nash (formerly of Sixpence None the Richer), which is elevated to mediocrity by her versions of “Last Christmas” and “O Holy Night.” And finally you can find any number of settings of “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” including not only the original by Band-Aid but various others, including a music-box version.
 
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