Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gregory Douglass • Holiday Cheer

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I was surprised when I discovered I had never posted about 'Merry', Gregory Douglass' 5-song holiday EP release from 2009. The collection includes an original song, as well as favorites old and new. In fact, the first song is one written by George Michael, The Wham! hit "Last Christmas" from 30 years ago. Douglass slows it down a bit, and pares back the production to give it a more intimate feel. Then comes an original written by Gregory, "What A Long Year It Was". It is a pretty love song, one that truly warms the heart. "Walking in the Air" was written by Harold Blake 1982 for a British animated film of Raymond Briggs' 1978 children's book 'The Snowman'. Gergory gives the song a ethereal feel that I can't resist. He also imbues the traditional English carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" with an exotic, percussive flavor. The EP comes to an end with a stunning version of "O Holy Night", composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847. Doulgass' voice is pretty damn amazing here. Listen to the preview of 'Merry' by Gregory Douglass here.

Gregory Douglass' holiday EP 'Merry' can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and Gregory's Online Store. In 2010, Gregory released a new single for the holidays, "Imagination". He is accompanied by his friend, the magnificent cellist Monique Citro, adding a layer of lush to the production. Once again, this song is an original written by the talented Vermont native. I really love it. I hope you enjoy the music video for "Imagination" by Gregory Douglass featuring Monique Citro.

Gregory is putting the finishing touches on a new album coming out in 2015, but until that hits the stores, you can support him by purchasing his great holiday offerings. "Imagination" can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. To learn more about Gregory Douglass, visit him at his Official Website. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Chanticleer • Ave Maria

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I am strong enough to admit I am enough of a music geek to enjoy listening to chorale groups. One of my favorites is Chanticleer, the men's vocal ensemble started in 1978 to perform and celebrate the medieval and Renaissance music loved and studied by founder Louis Botto. I have several of their recordings, and am especially fond of the Christmas collections. It is on one of them that you can find the recording of the group singing Franz Biebl's "Ave Maria".

You can find this version of "Ave Maria" on the 'Fireside Christmas with Chanticleer'. It can be purchased from Amazon and the Chanticleer Online Store. You can also find the studio recording on 'Our Hearts Joy: A Chanticleer Christmas'. That album can be found on iTunes, Amazon, and the Chanticleer Online Store. To learn more about Chanticleer, visit the official website, You can also 'like' them on Facebook, and 'follow' them on Twitter.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

All That Christmas Jazz

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Clockwise: Julie London; Lena Horne; Kay Starr; and Nancy Wilson.

Holiday music from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s always warms my heart. When I was growing up, that is the music my Mother listened to, for she had a strong collection of Christmas records, both by artists, and compilations put out by a variety of companies. I remember the Goodyear series, and the A&P series, as well. I sure there were others, but these featured the artists of the day, from Ella Fitzgerald to Doris Day to Dean Martin, and countless others. These days, when I see the Ultra-Lounge collections, I cannot resist them. The four sounds here can be found on the 'Christmas Cocktails' album, which are played every holiday season. I will start off tonight with Julie London singing "I'd Like You For Christmas". The song was written by Julie's accompanist and husband, Bobby Troup. It is sweet, sexy, and fun. This is Julie London with "I'd Like You For Christmas".

When it comes to personal style, few could compete with the one and only Lena Horne. From the way she dressed to the unique phrasing she alone could claim, Miss Horne was definitely one of a kind. I was not a bit surprised to see she had her own distinctive stamp on "Jingle Bells", complete with new lyrics. I hope you enjoy Lena Horne singing "Jingle All The Way" as much as I do!

Now, songs about St. Nick don't usually swing quite as much as "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag". The song was written in 1950 by Irving Taylor, Dudley Brooks, and Hal Stanley. The song was made popular by a recording from Kay Starr, who Billie Holiday once called "the only white woman who could sing the blues." This is Kay Starr with "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With The Bag".

There is a delicious warmth to the voice of Nancy Wilson. When you pair that up with a beautiful song written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, you have another winner. "The Christmas Waltz" was written in 1954 for Frank Sinatra, as a B-side for his recording of "White Christmas". The song quickly became a standard, with many wanting to record it. In fact, 14 years later, Wilson made one of her own. This is Nancy Wilson singing "The Christmas Waltz".

Have a great holiday season!

Baby It's Cold Outside • Sammy Davis Jr & Carmen McRae

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I just thought it was time to Jazz up Christmas, and what better way than to add a little 1950s swing? I decided to play "Baby It's Cold Outside", written by Frank Loesser in 1944. The song, while not really dealing with Christmas directly, certainly speaks to the winter weather many of us encounter. I decided to go with the version by Sammy Davis Jr and Carmen McRae, featured on their 1957 album 'Boy Meets Girl'. I hope you enjoy Carmen and Sammy as they sing "Baby It's Cold Outside".

You can purchase Sammy Davis Jr and Carmen McRae's album 'Boy Meets Girl' from iTunes and Amazon. For more holiday Jazz, check back in tonight!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Alaska, Courtney Act & Willam • Dear Santa (Bring Me A Man This Christmas)

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Now, I don't think anyone can bring holiday cheer quite like a trio of drag queens. And I had to look no further than the alumni of RuPaul's Drag Race to find the new single from Willam (Season Four), Alaska Thunderfuck (Season Five), and Courtney Act (Season Six), the stars of the music video for "Dear Santa (Bring Me A Man This Christmas)". The song was written by Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer for The Weather Girls for their 1983 album, 'Success', which also gave the world the classic "It's Raining Men". It is a powerful song, and both Courtney and Willam prove they can sing, and Alaska can bring her own special blend of humor and drama to complete the trio. This is Alaska, Courtney Act and Willam singing "Dear Santa (Bring Me A Man This Christmas)".

Uproarious and outrageous, I can't get enough of the song. You bet it went into my Christmas playlist! And now I know exactly what I want for Christmas this year... You can purchase "Dear Santa, Bring Me A Man" from iTunes and Amazon. For more about Alaska Thunderfuck, visit her on her official website, Facebook page, and Twitter page. For more about Courtney Act, visit her official website, Facebook page, and Twitter page. For more about Willam, visit her official website, Facebook page, and Twitter page.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Michael Feinstein • A Michael Feinstein Christmas

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I have been a fan of Michael Feinstein long than I (or Mr. Feinstein, for that matter) would care to admit. I have long enjoyed his music since the mid-1980s, with his 1986 release 'Live at the Algonquin' and 1987's 'Pure Gershwin'. I loved his part in the revival of the Great American Songbook, and his take on some incredible classics. In 1988, I went to see him performing live on Broadway, and hung around the stage door long enough to get him to autograph by Playbill, which I still proudly have.

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I have been listening to his music ever since, collecting albums by the fistful. Whether Feinstein was singing the music of Frank Sinatra, or taking on the collected works of some of the great songwriters, to his collaboration with Broadway star Cheyenne Jackson, I have a healthy collection of his music. So when I heard he was ready to release a collection of Christmas music, I was very excited, and put in my pre-order on iTunes! On October 14th, I was able to download 'A Michael Feinstein Christmas', a 15-song collection of many of the most popular holiday songs ever sung. It all kicks off with the great song written in 1944 by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé. There is such inherent warmth in Michael singing "The Christmas Song", I felt like I was sitting next to the fire where there were chestnuts roasting. "Sleigh Ride" was composed by Leroy Anderson in 1946, and Mitchell Parish added lyrics in 1950. I hope you enjoy Feinstein's take on "Sleigh Ride".

There is such sweetness in the recording of "There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays", written by Robert Allen and Al Stillman in 1954, and first recorded by Perry Como. The music is lovely, and I love how Michael's voice fits. In 1934, Felix Bernard and Dick Smith wrote "Winter Wonderland". It is said Smith wrote the lyrics while in the hospital, being treated for a case of tuberculosis. Outside of his hospital window, he he saw a park covered with fresh snow. Feinstein adds just the right amount of sentiment to it. Next up, we have the classic "White Christmas", written by the great Irving Berlin in 1940. It was not written for any film, but it was first sung by Bing Crosby as part of his radio show, 'The Kraft Musical Show'. This is Michael Feinstein with "White Christmas".

Irving Berlin wrote "I've Got My Love to Keep My Warm" in 1937 for the film 'On The Avenue'. I love the swing feel that Michael gives it. In 1944, Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin wrote "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" for the film 'Meet Me In St. Louis'. It was originally sung by Judy Garland, and soon by countless others. Michael's version has a sweet and tender quality I love. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" was written in 1934 by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie for Eddie Cantor's radio show. The song became an overnight hit, with the sheet music selling out across the country. I love the ragtime feel Michael adds to the song, keeping me smiling. In the summer of 1945, Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne wrote "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" in the California heat, imagining cooler temps. I feel them as I listen to Feinstin's upbeat take. The most recent song of the group was written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman with composer Johnny Mandel. "A Christmas Love Song" is a wonderful song, so pleas enjoy it!

Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne wrote "The Christmas Waltz" in 1954 as a b-side for Frank Sinatra, Little did they know, it would go on to be a holiday standard. There is a delightful Jazz feel to this version of the song. I had no idea Johnny Marks wrote "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" after reading story published by the Montgomery Ward Company in 1939. I had always thought it was written for the holiday special I watched every year! Michael gives the song a bunch of swing, and I love it! I love the warm feel of Feinstein's cover of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas", written by Meredith Willson in 1951. In 1941, Kim Gannon, Walter Kent and Buck Ram wrote "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to honor those serving in the military overseas. Michael's version continues that tradition. In the final track of the seasonal collection, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?", we go beyond Christmas to the next holiday. I live the flirty take on the song written by Frank Loesser in 1947. This is Michael Feinstein singing "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

Needless to say, I really enjoyed 'A Michael Feinstein Christmas', and think you would too. I have played it several times this holiday season, and play to give a few people copies of their own. You can purchase it from iTunes and Amazon. For more about Michael Feinstein, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook.

Spencer Day • Christmas With You

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Okay, so it is confession time. Well, that seems to be a constant state on this blog, for I am always admitting to one thing or another. But back to the topic at hand, I have a total crush on Spencer Day. After all, he is tall, handsome, and so damned talented! So when I read he was going to release a new version of the song "Christmas With You", this time out featuring The Joel Evans Big Band, I was awfully excited. The song, featured on his holiday album 'If Christmas Doesn't Kill Me', was written by Joel Evans and Cliff Goldmacher, so it is no wonder he rerecorded it with The Joel Evans Big Band.

Every time I listen to it, it just makes me feel merrier. Spencer can have that effect... You can purchase "Christmas With You" from iTunes, Amazon. To learn more about Spencer Day, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook and 'follow' him on Twitter. You can also find Spencer's EP 'If Christmas Doesn't Kill Me' on iTunes and Amazon.


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