Sunday, November 25, 2007

2nd Annual Christmas/Holiday CD Review

Here we are again, folks.
Last year I wrote about some Christmas CDs I had purchased and I thought I would do it again this year. Since I always make it a point to buy newly released Christmas CDs each year why not share whether I think they're good or not, right?
And of course if you disagree then by all means let me know.
I'm (sometimes) open to suggestions and won't (always) hold a grudge.
All ratings are based on a 4-star scale - I like to think of this as your Michelin guide to Christmas CDs.
And here we go!

The first one is by Marie Osmond. Might as well start with the most popular (but not most talented) dancer on Dancing with the Stars (DWTS). Not that I watch the show, mind you. Marie is riding a wave of popularity right now and I am just not sure what caused the resurgence. After all Wayne Newton was on DWTS and you don't see anyone running out to get his Christmas CD featuring "Danke Schoen" although we might be a bit inclined to watch "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" on a more regular basis. Marie's CD was a bargain at The Devil's Store - only $9.99. Isn't it sad that I consider the waste of $10 on a coaster in a plastic jewel case a bargain? Sad, sad commentary on our world but what's worse is QVC is selling this thing for $19.97!!! Plus shipping and handling! Wow. I'm in shock. Let me regroup for a sec.Okay, so this was the first CD I bought this year. Thought it would be good, after all I grew up as a Donny fan and used to watch Donny and Marie on Friday nights. Tells you a lot about my teenage years, right? So with hope in my heart I put Marie's CD into my Bose radio for a listen while I washed the dishes (or moved them around in the sink or something). Little did I know that saucy Brittany from the Chipettes had taken over Marie's voice. Now I was always under the impression that your voice is supposed to get deeper as you get older and I never expected Marie to have that whisky and soda-type voice like Suzanne Pleshette or Lauren Bacall, but she seriously sounds like she's coming down off of a helium high. DN2 wanted to listen to the Chipmunk sing but she didn't get it. I think she's caught up in Marie's beauty mark and thinks that is a sign of a good CD - how pretty the person looks on the cover. If that's the case then I don't know how Iggy Pop is still selling CDs. Oh wait, talent, that's what it is that sells CDs. Well Marie has it but it is just not evident here. The CD works best when Marie's son or her brothers are singing lead and Marie chirps out a harmony.
Number of stars: 1 1/2 (and I'm being generous)

Who doesn't like some Toby Keith? Well I know there are people out there who just don't get how awesome a big hunk of man he is (your loss), but I like him just fine. So I was ready to be overwhelmed by his CD A Classic Christmas.Now Toby comes as a double. Imagine that, double the TK. Not a bad deal really when QVC will sell Marie Osmond to any shill for twice the price for only one crappy CD. And Toby Keith's Classic Christmas is actually a very nicely done CD. If you like Toby Keith. I asked DN2, "So how did you like this?" She replied, "Not at all." Well she is kind of a purist (for a 9 year old) when it comes to "Go Tell it on the Mountain" - don't ask me why - so she doesn't like Toby's faster version of the song. I could not care less one way or the other (I'm obsessed with "O Holy Night") so it was just one song to get through. But you know Toby is normally an over-the-top, in-your-face performer and all about being loud and dogmatic. Surprisingly enough he is respectful of many of the songs on this album, playing them at the proper tempo and with a large amount of reverence. Even nicer is that there are two volumes, so if one CD (for me it's volume one) floats your boat more than the other you're not really missing out on anything. It was a good purchase for me. Well and also because I entered a contest on Toby's website and he's going to let me win a Ford truck (so don't even try). Yee haw!!
Number of stars: 3

Since I was feeling it Country style I also bought another Christmas CD. After all I do live in the West. Yeah, Western NY. Hey, it looks like the mid-west in some places here. Corn, cows, flat lands, and roads laid out in grid square patterns. I got Hear Something Country Christmas and certainly not because it has 2 American Idol contestants - please, I can't stand that show. Too much drama for me - I need something more believeable like NCIS or the Boob Whisperer. Because they're not make-believe, right? That's a joke. Do you get it? Oh forget it. The CD opens up with Carrie Underwood singing "Do You Hear What I Hear" because apparently we're all supposed to be overly infatuated with her now. Meh. Personally I have a lot of respect for Brad Paisley and he delivers in his normal folksy style. Kellie Pickler found it necessary to perform a Madonna imitation when singing "Santa Baby". Yeah, underwhelming. Personally no one has ever topped Earth Kitt's version (and Jennifer you can tell her I said that next time you run into her on the Post Road - but don't literally "run into" her please - I know how she is at that intersection). I bought this CD primarily for Johnny Cash's version of "Silent Night" which is very well done. My favorite JC song is NIN's "Hurt" but that's really not appropriate for the holiday (I know, right). Terri Clark subdues her belting alto voice and does an excellent rendition of "O Little Town of Bethlehem". This is an okay CD - about what you would expect for a compilation. Nothing out of the ordinary and relatively good background music for country music lovers.
Number of stars: 2 1/2

The next CD is Josh Groban's Noel.
This is the first CD of his I've ever bought and I picked it mostly because my favorite line in "O Holy Night" is when they sing "...down on your knees/Oh hear the angels voices/O night divine..." - you know that part? You're singing it now? Good stuff. Well there's so much passion in that line that if it's sung right it's amazing. If it's sung wrong, then forget it, I will hate the entire CD. Great song, right? Well it's not on here. Not to worry, though, Josh does a very nice job. He has Faith Hill on here and I'm kind of not all that crazy about her anymore - she was much better singing "Wild One" back in the mid-90s and not quite so arrogant, but if that's the only low point to the CD I suppose it is a passable one. He also sings "Ave Maria" which is a song I absolutely love (second to "O Holy Night") - and I'm not even Catholic (but if I look out my front window I can see a statue of the Virgin Mary on the old Catholic school across the street). Beautifully performed by a man with a voice to do the song justice. I had heard that Josh Groban is a very staunch Republican - not sure if this is true or not - but he does include messages from troops in Iraq in his version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and the way the messages are interwoven into the song is very touching. Very. So Republican or not he's pro-troops which means he supports military personnel and keeps them separate from the Administration and doesn't group the two together. And that's all I ask. This is an excellent CD and definitely worth purchasing.
Number of stars 3 1/2

Finally I have to admit that I responded in true Pavlovian style to an email from Amazon. I can't recall why they thought I would enjoy this CD, but apparently based upon some shopping pattern I have exhibited in the past they thought I would. And dang it if Amazon wasn't right. Curse them. The
Think Global World Christmas CD is one of those "finds" - you know, one of the good ones that you find every few years that quickly becomes your favorite. Seriously, if you want to listen to music and not let on to everyone that you are listening to Christmas music, then most of the songs on here are for you. Sure people will listen to some of these songs and pick up the melody, but most of it is not in English, so they won't know what's going on. Unless you hang out with polyglots who can speak Spanish, Swedish, French, Italian, Bulgarian and Hungarian. Or they listen to The Cox Family sing "Go Tell it on the Mountain". (For the record I am a huge bluegrass fan and I miss listening to bluegrass gospel on the radio on Sunday mornings - we just don't have that here in New York.) And even when the song is in English, you might not be able to understand it anyway. Take Joseph Spence for example. His Bahamian version of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" is totally the best I have ever heard. Honestly. It cracks me up and I find myself singing out the chorus in imitation of his voice at random moments, like in the middle of Applebee's and at the mall. There are some unfortunate points here, Cherish the Ladies sing "O Holy Night" with their lovely crystalline voices, but not much passion. It's alright though because they use a penny whistle in the song and who doesn't love a penny whistle at Christmas time I ask you. So I'll overlook my previous rule because this deficit is quickly overcome by the song by Kitka "Zamuchi Se Bozha Majka" which is classified as USA/Bulgaria. It captures the Eastern flavor found in many Eastern European countries (let's not talk about Turkish invasions right now) but I listened to it several times and couldn't get enough. The first two songs are from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and of course as soon as the CD started DH walked into the kitchen and said, "Hey, what are you listening to?" That's the best thing about this CD, it has something for everyone. Plus it supports Oxfam charities - always a good thing. Definitely a "find" and worth the rating. Number of stars: 4

So that's it for this year, folks. If you have any other suggestions for new Christmas CDs I'd be glad to hear about them. Cheers!

1 comment:

Kat said...

I am a little bit country, so I will buy Marie. Still, I think the fainting spell was a carefully orchestrated PR move. But I'm a cynic, really.