• 0 Aretha Recites The Night Before Christmas

    When Aretha Franklin gives you a reading of "The Night Before Christmas," it's not just the same old passage. We've added some of our own elements, including Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Your browser does not support the audio element. Listen to a quick two minute tale featuring The Queen of Soul, from her 2008 holiday CD, This Christmas Aretha. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Ledisi Lifts Christmas Up with Musical Style

    Ledisi is woman who offers a new breath of fresh air in the competitive arena of song styling. You'll pick up just a hint of Anita Baker and Chaka Khan in her magnificent delivery. Ledisi is more of a torch singer with the pipes to prove it. Don't confuse her with the trendy light-weight pop princess divas of today. According to the official Ledisi website, her name, (pronounced led-duh-see, is adopted from the word that means "to bring forth" in the Yoruba language of Nigeria). You can read her long biography at length on her website, but our focus here is her holiday album, It's Christmas. Ledisi has put together a top notch feast of Yuletide favorites. The opening track, "I'll Go," showcases her impressive vocal prowess within a 2 minute 4 second snapshot. This album is contemporary and tasteful. I enjoyed all the tracks. The strength of It's Christmas is Ledisi's fantastic voice. She adds just enough vocal improvisation to the traditional tunes to keep them interesting. Frankly, I'm quite impressed with her sophistication of craft. This is just her 2nd album for the legendary Verve label. Ledisi has been tagged as an R&B/Jazz/Pop singer. She's versatile enough to handle a broad range of material. After 2 Grammy nominations, there's definitely a future award waiting for Ledisi. Ledisi: It's Christmas "I'll Go" "Children Go Where I Send Thee" "Give Love On Christmas Day" "Be There For Christmas" "This Christmas (Could Be The One)" "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" "It's Christmas" "What A Wonderful World" "Please Come Home For Christmas" "Silent Night" "Thank You" Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 The 10 Best Funky-Christmas Party Jams

    Here are my all time picks for the 10 best funky-Christmas party jams (as appraised in 2008). "Christmas in Hollis" - Run-D.M.C. "N - Yo - City" - Bootsy Collins "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto" - James Brown "Christmas Rappin'" - Kurtis Blow "Little Drummer Boy" - Kofi "Joy To The World - Aretha Franklin " Winter Mix" - Gloria Gaynor "Nutcracker Suite (remix)" - Berlin Symphony Orchestra "Funky Christmas" - The Whispers "Happy Holidays" - Ohio Players bonus: "Here Comes Santa Claus" - Rupaul For the sonic volume, energy, and originality, Run-D.M.C. makes the top of the list. "Christmas In Hollis" is featured in the original 1988 movie, Die Hard. Bootsy Collins, James Brown, and Kurtis Blow all stretch out with a funky Yuletide beat. Kofi's entertaining reggae version of "The Little Drummer Boy" offers an edgy contrast traveling from a softer chorus to a driving percussion during different parts of his score. Aretha Franklin's version of "Joy To The World" is not exclusively funk, as it includes the high energy gymnastics of a soaring gospel choir. Gloria Gaynor offers "Winter Mix" to prove that exciting "house music" never goes out of style, even when reworking "Winter Wonderland," which is what she does on "Winter Mix." The remixed "Nutcracker Suite" by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra is crafty and clever. "Funky Christmas" from the Whispers dances along, old school style, with their trademark harmonically tight vocals. "Happy Holidays" from the Ohio Players has to be included in my list, even though this song barely propels itself up to a medium tempo beat. The Ohio Players managed to keep their unique style and identity on this nearly 8-minute track. While somewhat repetitive due to the length, the holiday message charms us into the spirit of the season. As a bonus, a shout out to Rupaul, who took Johnnie Taylor's "Disco Lady" melody, and turned it into a tongue-and-cheek party prance. This ain't cowboy Gene Autry singing here! Watch my exclusive 90 second video and count the number of friendly faces who have wonderful holiday songs to share with you! I make a quick appearance for a few seconds. Spoiler alert. Yes, I got Aretha to autograph her Christmas CD for me while she was on tour to promote it! Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Odetta Creates A Unique Christmas Concert

    In 2005, Odetta, the singer of folk based African American traditional songs, released an immaculately recorded live album. Gonna Let It Shine, A Concert for the Holidays is a stellar collection of spirituals celebrating Christmas. If you love gospel, praise, and traditional spirituals, Odetta delivers a definitive 16 song collection of favorites. The clarity of the live sound is phenomenal. Gonna Let It Shine, A Concert for the Holidays was recorded in front of a festive audience on the campus of Fordham University in New York City. Throughout both the ballads and uptempo tracks, Odetta respectfully transmits an inspirational message propelled by the power of faith and the glory of Christmas. Gonna Let It Shine, A Concert for the Holidays, is a completely different Christmas album. It comes from the classically trained, civil rights savvy, legendary vocalist from Birmingham, Alabama, the late Odetta (who passed away on December 2, 2008). "Intro" "This Little Light of Mine" (with the Holmes Brothers) "Rise Up Shepherd" "Mary Had A Baby" "What Month Was Jesus Born In?" "Shout For Joy" "Virgin Mary Had One Son" "Down By The Riverside" (with the Holmes Brothers) "Poor Little Jesus" "Freedom Trilogy" "Somebody Talking 'Bout Jesus" "Keep On Movin' It On" "O Jerusalem" "If Anybody Asks You" "Midnight Special" bonus: "This Little Light of Mine" (unedited - with the Holmes Brothers) Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Gloria Gaynor Will Survive with New Christmas Cheer

    The pleasant, appealing voice of Gloria Gaynor has been reactivated for Gloria Gaynor's Christmas Presence. You may have missed this holiday treat, originally released in 2007, but still new for 2008. Dismiss your Gloria Gaynor preconceptions and join her sleigh ride for this Yuletide out-of-the-box potpourri of holiday hits. Christmas songs may shine not always because of the singer, but because of the infinite creative arrangements these songs are given. Gloria combines both assets to serve up yet another take on these seasonal favorites. I was expecting hard core R&B as the dominant vibe. The actual sound is lighter but still contemporary. A touch of jazz here, a touch of pop there, and a dash soul to boot. Gloria Gaynor's Christmas Presence has it all. She projects a warm voice that soothes and comforts without the panache of shouting. All the tracks are enjoyable, but I especially rate highly "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," along with the mellow "Christmas Blue," the playful "Frosty The Snowman," and the funky bonus bouncer "Winter Mix." Gloria Gaynor has brought her distinct personality to this collection by recording a very mass appeal Christmas record. You can fire up this CD for the office party or holiday gathering with the confidence that the hip factor is strong enough to please almost everyone. Christmas Presence is not perfect, but it offers a different dimension of the "I Will Survive" diva. It's contemporary, polished, and main stream, without being cheesy. Gloria deserves the credit for trying something different. "Happy Time of Year" "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" "All I Want Is You For Christmas" "Christmas Blue" "Frosty The Snowman" "Do You Hear What I Hear?" "Joy To The World" "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" "Let It Snow!" "O Holy Night" "Little Town of Bethlehem" "Winter Wonderland" "The Christmas Song" "Joy Came To The World" "Christmas Prayer" "Winter Mix (Radio)" bonus track "Winter Mix (Dance)" bonus track Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Brian McKnight Comes Home for Christmas

    Brian McKnight fans, Rejoice! B.M. has just released his 2008 holiday chestnut, I'll Be Home For Christmas, his 11th album. Brian cheerfully reports at that "Christmas has always held a very special place in my life and my heart." "When it arrives, it brings with it memories of the past and the promise of a future of memories with friends and family all over the world." 5 of the 12 tracks on I'll Be Home For Christmas feature duets with Vince Gill, Josh Groban, Nikolas McKnight, Noel Schajris, and Take 6. "The Christmas Song" kicks of the collection. McKnight gives the spunky arrangement his best - keeping the vocal range in his trademark higher register. When it comes to inflecting passion into his actual singing sound, McKnight has always been a vocalist who shines in the understatement. You won't mistake his articulated sonic discipline to the flashy nature of a Luther Vandross or Marvin Gaye. McKnight has built a solid following over the years. He now slots himself into mature R&B territory that young guns Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Akon, and Usher can't quite occupy yet. As for the other tracks on this new release, cut 2 "Silver Bells" chimes to McKnight's clear, measured resonance. In a departure, "Christmas You and Me" teams Brian with Vince Gill. This track, grounded in R&B, has contemporary country music overtones, and succeeds nicely in the way Lionel Richie's 1986 "Deep River Woman" duet with Alabama did. "Let It Snow," also featuring Nikolas McKnight, is bright, frothy, and bubbly with an ample supply of strings to delight the light hearted. "It's the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" packs a powerful jazzy punch. It's the best uptempo track of the collection. Overall, the mood is mellow on the I'll Be Home For Christmas album. The CD has a 'quiet storm' tone, with enough energy in the uptempo songs to provide good balance. Piano builds the foundation of the classy instrumentation. These songs are well arranged. Even if you are not a Brian McKnight fan, you probably will be pleased with this charming Christmas CD. Spread the news: "Brian McKnight Comes Home for Christmas!" I'll Be Home For Christmas: "The Christmas Song" "Silver Bells" "Let It Snow" (featuring Nikolas McKnight & Brian McKnight Jr.) "Christmas You And Me" (featuring Vince Gill) "I'll Be Home For Christmas" "Silent Night"(featuring Noel Schajris) "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" "Adeste Fideles" "Who Would Have Thought" "Angels We Have Heard On High" (featuring Josh Groban) "Christmas Medley" "Bless This House" (featuring Take 6) Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Al Jarreau's Christmas 2008

    The term "song stylist" get tossed around a lot. Al Jarreau is one singer who has earned the tag. Jarreau's distinctive voice and phrasing style puts him in unique company among the fraternity of balladeers. Al's Christmas is a charming collection of holiday favorites. "Winter Wonderland" kicks off the yuletide mix bouncing along with a soulful beat to Mr. Jarreau's lilting inflections. "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" gets a respectful contemporary reading embellished with nice classical touches. If you like your Al Jarreau contemplative and melodramatic, "White Christmas" delivers in this style. The 2 tracks featuring the group Take 6 showcase the pure magic of traditional vocal harmony. Jarreau touches various styles from jazz to R&B to pop in this, his first holiday collection. Some of the arrangements remind you of similar approaches other artists have taken sculpting these familiar melodies. However, the power of Jarreau prevails giving these songs a vibrant Mr. J personality. Two thumbs up for Al Jarreau Christmas: "Winter Wonderland" "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" "White Christmas" "Interlude: By My Christmas Tree" "Carol Of The Bells" "O Come All Ye Faithful" "The Christmas Song, (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) - (featuring Take 6) "I'll Be Home For Christmas - (featuring Take 6)" "Gloria In Excelsis" "Christmas Time Is Here" "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" "Some Children See Him" "The Little Christmas Tree "Angels Singing..." untitled bonus Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Aretha Returns with This Christmas 2008

    Aretha Franklin has recorded several Christmas songs throughout her career, but never a complete holiday album, until now. On Tuesday, October 14, 2008, This Christmas Aretha is scheduled to be released. The album is a joy. Aretha's magic is her unique ability to stamp her vocal personality on this material with trademark nuances of gospel, blues, and straight ahead soul. Every cut is a pleasure to listen to. It's hard to choose a favorite. This Christmas Aretha weaves a tone of tradition tying together the varied selections. The songs are a vibrant showcase for a style that only Ms. Franklin can serve up. Her pipes are still peppy with precision. Though she can't command some of the silky tonality of her younger years, there's no doubt that Aretha's voice still has plenty of pop to dominate these excellent arrangements. Aretha Franklin fans, old and new, will love This Christmas Aretha: "Angels We Have Heard On High" "This Christmas" "My Grown-Up Christmas List" "The Lord Will Make A Way" "Silent Night" "Ave Maria" "Christmas Ain't Christmas (Without The One You Love)" "Angels" "One Night with The King" "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" "T'was The Night Before Christmas" Here's Ms. Franklin signing copies of the This Christmas Aretha CD 'booklet insert' at Borders in Washington, DC (Monday, October 20, 2008) for hundreds of adoring fans (photo by Hugh Smith). Listen to 30 seconds of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" by the Queen of Soul, Aretha. Your browser does not support the audio element. Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Funky Cotillion Christmas

    The year was 1976. Do you recognize the classic soul stars celebrating Christmas? This album from the archive brought together artists from Atlantic Records' Cotillion label. From left to right, Lou Donaldson, Willis Jackson, Luther (Vandross) is at the piano, directly behind him is John Edwards, (later a member of the Spinners). The 4 guys on the right are the Impressions. Margie Joseph is directly behind the Impressions (in front of the Christmas tree). Merry Christmas 2007! Previous Post | Next Post

  • 0 Luther Vandross Christmas 1995

    19 years after the Luther photo in the vinyl Funky Christmas Cotillion album, Mr. Vandross captures the decade of the 1990's as a superstar. Sony Music released This is Christmas in 1995, featuring 10 memorable Luther Vandross holiday favorites on the CD: "With A Christmas Heart" "This Is Christmas" "The MistleToe Jam" "Every Year, Every Christmas" "My Favorite Things" "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" "I Listen To The Bells" (duet with Darlene Love) "Please Come Home For Christmas" "A Kiss For Christmas" "O' Come All Ye Faithful" A true classic. Previous Post | Next Post

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