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Music Reviews

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December 13, 1995

Holiday Music

Holiday Music - Like many Grinch-like critics, I'm not a big fan of Christmas music. However, there's always a flurry of new releases for Christmas. Here's a rundown of some new releases.

XmasVarious Artists, Mother & Child (Gai Saber/I.R.S. Records 1995) - Billed as a "Christmas celebration of motherhood," Mother & Child is a compilation of Christmas music sung by mothers to their children. The album was released by Gai Saber, a newly-established division of I.R.S. Records.

According to label chairman and founder Miles Copeland, the album "celebrates the extraordinary relationship that exists between mother and child, and is also a gentle reminder of the love and acceptance we should extend to each other every day, especially during the Christmas season."

The disc contains 11 songs covering every genre of music, from R & B to pop, gospel, and country. Included are nine original compositions performed by such artists as Olivia Newton-John, Amy Grant, CeCe Winans, and Belinda Carlisle (and it's true - Belinda looks a lot better in the glamour shots than in person).

The disc also includes a classic rendition of "Ave Maria" by Beth Nielsen Chapman, and a stirring take on "O Holy Night" performed by Martina McBride. Gail gives this release a thumbs up!

Yules of YoreVarious Artists, Yules of Yore (Nick at Night Records/550 Music 1995) - My holiday favorite is Yules of Yore, billed as "TV land tunes from Christmas Past." Among the 14 tracks on this sweet treat are "Silver Bells" by Mike Douglas (who, as it turns out, had a great voice), a fine cover of "You Make it Feel Like Christmas" by Neil Diamond, and a charming song called "Merry Christmas Neighbor" by The Cartrights (Ben, Hoss & Little Joe).

Also featured is "Here Comes Santa Claus" by Gene Autry, "Christmas Eve in My Hometown" by Jim Nabors, and Slim Whitman's "Sleep My Child." I grew up with a lot of this music, and it brings backs memories. And that's part of the season.

Superstars of ChristmasVarious Artists, Superstars of Christmas 1995 (Capitol 1995) - Capitol's special holiday chestnut features three new holiday recordings not available anywhere else, together with eight classics from Capitol's vaults, all expertly remastered for this release.

The new tree trimmers include "O Holy Night" by Jon Secada, Willie Nelson's "Pretty Paper" (a new version of his 1963 hit for Roy Orbison), and "Silent Night" by Diana Ross, a 1994 recording that has only been available in Britain.

Also included is "Wonderful Christmastime," which was originally released by Paul McCartney in 1979, the Beach Boys' "Little St. Nick" (from their 1964 release, The Beach Boys Christmas Album), and Ella Fitzgerald's "The First Noel" (first issued in 1967).

Like many holiday releases, Superstars of Christmas has something for everyone, and, happily, it doesn't take itself too seriously.

Gary HoeyGary Hoey, Ho! Ho! Hoey (Zoo Records 1995) - Ace guitarist, Gary Hoey chimes in with Ho! Ho! Hoey. Gary performs 11 instrumental classics on this album, including "Blue Christmas," "Away in a Manger," and "White Christmas."

Hoey's an ace guitarist (as evidenced on the soundtrack to Endless Summer II), but doesn't let his pyrotechnics get in the way. Get this disc for your hard-to-satisfy, hard-rockin' stocking stuffer.

Loreena McKennittLoreena McKennitt, A Winter Garden (Warner Bros. 1995) - Celtic crooner Loreena McKennitt (who has also released The Visit), contributes A Winter Garden, subtitled "Five Songs for the Season." Says Loreena, "This recording is a collaborative few days, in July, 1995, between some of the musicians I regularly work with and some special guests. The primary purpose was to explore the potential of our musical chemistry."

Loreena continues, "I used the vehicles of some familiar and lesser-known Christmas and winter carols, as well as traditional English lyrics." Loreena's tastes veer into offbeat selections, including such songs as "Coventry Carol," "Good Kings Wenceslas," and "Seeds of Love."

TV LandVarious Artists, Christmas in TV Land (Nick at Night Records/550 Music 1995) - Nick at Night has also compiled this 14-track selection, which it bills as "Classic favorites from holiday specials." Christmas in TV Land features such songs as "Toyland" by Doris Day, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Johnny Cash (from his 1982 special), "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" by Burl Ives, and Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (from the 1963 Christmas special with her children).

Various Artists, Jazz to the World (Blue Note 1995) -- Jazz fans will flip for this 16-song collection, which includes Herb Alpert & Jeff Lorber's rendition of "Winter Wonderland," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Diana Krall, and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Herbie Hancock & Elaine Elias. Jazz isn't really my bag, but this is a first-rate compilation.

-- Randy Krbechek

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