Happy Holidays to everyone. I decided to run my review a little early this month since I decided to theme on Holiday music and it seemed appropriate to actually have the review come out before the Holidays were over.
“I Dream Of Christmas” (24-bit-96kHz) by Norah Jones caught my eye and inspired me to do a Holiday themed review so I’ll start with that. The arrangements are interesting and well-executed and of course, Norah’s vocal is sweet and luscious yet the overall effect is rather dry. “Christmas Don’t Be Late” should be fun and playful with a feeling of joy, Norah’s version is almost a dirge, slow, downbeat, and sorrowful. “White Christmas” is my favorite Christmas song, though I was able to appreciate the artistry of the performance, the emotion just wasn’t there. On the other hand “Blue Christmas” really lent itself to Norah’s ability to bend a note, sung with a country flavor to a jazz beat. “Winter Wonderland” offered up some very unique and avant-garde instrument choices and pacing, a bit ethereal and fantastic. “Christmas Time Is Here” is straight Vince Guaraldi making one of the best songs on the album though the title of best song goes to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” which like “Blue Christmas” is a cross between country and jazz with a ragtime feel.
Ironically, Qobuz put up a 24-bit/192kHz remaster of Vince Guaraldi’s original 1965 recording of “A Charlie Brown Christmas (2012 Remastered & Expanded Edition)” (Vince Guaraldi Trio – 24-bit/192kHz – Qobuz) and it is as brilliant as it ever was, evoking the heart and soul of Christmas. Not only is the sound quality fantastic and musical it offers three bonus tracks, an extended alternate version of “What Child Is This” (“Greensleeves”), “Great Pumpkin Waltz”, and “Thanksgiving Theme”.
Looking for a Kwanzaa album I came across “Happy Kwanzaa Time” by the African Music Drums Collection, which turned out to be a very intriguing bit of ethereal ambient electronica. Not having much of a reference I can’t say how well it represents Kwanzaa, but it definitely had rhythm and soul and would easily appeal to lovers of ambient music.
“A Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Album” (Jeremiah Lockwood – 16-bit/44.1kHz) is another holiday gem celebrating Hanukkah. Again not knowing the traditional songs I can’t say whether these are original pieces that are simply homages to said traditional songs or if they interpretations of the original compositions, but they have a real old-world folk music feel, and the guitar work is wonderful.
I would like to finish this review (and the year) with my personal list of favorite holiday songs, though I should point out that not every song on this list is actually a holiday song but they still evoke the feelings of the holiday.
To start the list I need to turn your attention to Bandcamp, and before I do that I want to point out a little tidbit about Bandcamp. Something you probably don’t know is that unless you are signed to one of the major labels you need to pay an annual publishing fee if you wish your material to be available on iTunes or Spotify or any of the more well-known streaming services, a fee that is often greater than your share of the sales. (When I released my “2011” album I earned 13 cents from Spotify for the year 2012, this is why it is no longer available on iTunes or Spotify.) So, many musicians turn to Bandcamp which offers a forum for them to sell their music or let people stream it (usually for free). What I am getting at here is, the bands are getting nothing if you listen to their music, so if you find something on Bandcamp that you like, it would be a nice gesture to go back and buy some of their music (even if they offer it to download for free).
Which brings me to my list and the first song:
“A Christmas Peace” by Atlantic Rush https://atlanticrush.bandcamp.com/track/a-christmas-peace
(This is a new song to my list as I heard it for the first time today, but it is amazing and definitely is filled with the spirit of the holiday.)
“We Three Kings” by Dave Peterson https://davepeterson1.bandcamp.com/album/christmas
(Dave Peterson performs a four-part harmony to an energetic electronic harpsichord.)
“Xmas” by Gary Alan Barker https://garyalanbarker.bandcamp.com/track/xmas
(I composed this for the Cathy Watson comedy “I’ll be Home for Xmas”. The second part was meant for a children’s choir but was never able to make it happen.)
“I Believe in Father Christmas” by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer (“Works Volume 2” – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz)
“A Christmas Song” by Jethro Tull (“This Was” – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz)
“7 O’clock News / Silent Night” by Simon & Garfunkel (“Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme” – 24-bit/192kHz – Qobuz)
“Christmas” by The Who (“Tommy” – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz)
“Jesus” by Queen (“Queen” – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz)
“Jesus Came Down” by Lake (“Lake” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8zZVq_aqFg )
“I Believe In Everything by John Entwistle (“Smash Your Head Against the Wall” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqHHkxr4Hnw )
“After Forever” by Black Sabbath (“Master of Reality” – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz)
“Father Christmas” by The Kinks (“Come Dancing with the Kinks (The Best of the Kinks 1977-1986)” – 16-bit/44.1 – Qobuz)
“Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1984 Version)” by Band Aid (“Band Aid 20” – 16-bit/44.1 – Qobuz)
“The Gift” by Midge Ure (“The Gift” – 16-bit/44.1 – Qobuz)
“Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” by Bing Crosby & David Bowie with the London Symphony Orchestra (“Bing At Christmas” – 24-bit/96kHz – Qobuz)
“The Chanukah Song (Pt 1-4)” by Adam Sandler (“What the Hell Happened to Me?”, “Stan and Judy’s Kid”, “Eight Crazy Nights”, “The Chanukah Song, Part 4”– 16-bit/44.1 – Qobuz)
“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby (“White Christmas” – 16-bit/44.1 – Qobuz)
Well that’s it for 2021 here’s hoping that 2022 will be a much better year, Happy New Year to you all, and remember it’s all about the music!
Manley Absolute Headphone Amplifier, Audio-gd R2R-1 DAC, Cardas Iridium single-ended RCA interconnects, Cardas Iridium power cords, Core Power Technologies A/V Equi=Core 1000, Cardas Clear USB cable, iFi Purifier 3, Dan Clark Audio ETHER2 headphones.