Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas CD's I Listened this Christmas 2009

David Lanz, The Christmas Album- It is little wonder that Lanz's two previous seasonal recording are among the top sellers in the Narada library. His live piano interpretation of familiar songs such as "Silent Night" and "What Child Is This?" as well as not-so-familiar instruments such as "Dreamer's Waltz" are more emotional than all the words used to describe them. Lush won't do it - brilliant would be better. Even Scrooge would have caved in to sentiment after hearing this.

New Age - Although new age music in its acoustical incarnation, is sometimes derided as "jazz without benefit of improvisation," that jibe can work to the listener's advantage on Christmas albums. For example when David Lanz expands on seasonal favorites on his holiday best-of, The Christmas Album (Narada), his modestly virtuosic ornamentation reinforces rater than obscures the themes, making his renditions of "Silent Night" and "What Child Is This?" quietly compelling.

David Lanz, Christmas Eve-"Winter is the time when Mother Earth takes a breath inward, and I believe it very natural for us to pause and do the same -- to allow ourselves time for introspection amidst all the celebration and activity of the holidays. The music on Christmas Eve was created during such a time in my own life.

Though the arrangements for some of these carols and the idea for the album began in the winter of 1990, most of the work and all of the recording offered at home during an "extended Christmas respite" that followed a very rigorous touring schedule during most of 1993.

"As the work progressed and each carol developed from fragments and wisps into finished works, I imagined that an Angel, a Guardian Angel of sorts, existed for each of the songs. These Angels seemed to guide my hand and heart throughout the process. They also resulted in the seven "Angel improvisations" threaded between the carols. Musical inward breaths.

If the music encourages your own quiet introspections, that was my hope and intention. This mood is surely the very essence of the spirit of the holiday. But if you do take that inward breath, don't be surprised if you feel a light brush of Angel wings and hear the softest of whispers..."

Peace, Jim Brickman’s second collection of holiday-themed music, is largely a mirror image of his first (The Gift, released in 1997). Both feature a mix of solo piano works, augmented piano selections (involving oboe, strings, synthesizers, a pop-jazz ensemble, or some combination thereof) and glossy, radio-ready pop vocal productions. To some ears, the polished sheen of the vocal tracks (four are included) may infringe on the more contemplative mood of Brickman’s instrumental tracks, the way a city’s after-dark glow can seep into your view of a deep night sky’s canopy of stars. Still, as with The Gift, Peace is an attractive mood-setter for the season. Brickman’s best arrangements will resonate with a listener’s introspective sensibilities. "Jingle Bells," "Away in a Manger," and "We Three Kings," for instance, all receive slow-building, reflective treatments that might prod you into pondering deeper meanings. A pair of nonholiday originals, "Early Snowfall" and "Blessings," achieve the same heart-nudging effect. As for the vocals, The Blind Boys of Alabama reinforce the finger-snapping, muted-trumpet, ‘40s-swing vibe of "Let It Snow;" Kristy Starling takes a sweetly romantic turn on "Sending You a Little Christmas;" and country’s Collin Raye (also featured on The Gift) earnestly conveys the clear-eyed optimism of the title track.