Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Daniel J. Cartier • Auld Lang Syne

Daniel Cartier

In an earlier post, I mentioned the history of the song, which started out as a poem written by Scot Robert Burns in 1788, and then set to a traditional Folk tune. Through the years, it has maintained a popularity, especially when it comes to celebrating New Year's Eve. I remember hearing the song played by Guy Lombardo and his band at midnight, my parents watching him every year. This is a different version, a haunting and beautiful version by sing/songwriter Daniel J. Cartier, a truly talented man whose music I love. And for me, the New Year wouldn't be the same without listing to Daniel sing "Auld Lang Syne".

Happy New Year, everyone! For more about Daniel, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on FaceBook, where you will find some of his music, and a free download can often be found. "Auld Lang Syne" can be found on Daniel's album 'This Christmas', available on iTunes and Amazon.

Adam Shenk • Auld Lang Syne

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As this is New Year's Eve, it seems only right to mark the occasion with the traditional song, "Auld Lang Syne". The song, written as a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788, and set to a traditional Folk song. It offers up a toast to where we've been, where we are, and where we have yet to go. I remember by parents watching Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, and this song playing while one year became the next. This is a brand new version I found, sung by out and proud singer/songwriter. This is Adam Shenk singing "Auld Lang Syne".

To learn more about Adam Shenk, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook. While this song does not appear on his debut album, three is plenty of great music to be heard. You can find 'Suitcases' on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.

Clay Aiken • What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

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I remember when this was a question on the minds of everyone. Of course, I was much younger then, and more likely to be going out to celebrate the new year. That is no longer the case, as I am definitely more of the stay-at-home type, listening to some great music. This would include more than one recording of the 1947 song written by Frank Loesser, and recorded by The Orioles, a group that took "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" to #9 on the Billboard R&B chart. It quickly became a favorite of several artists, from Ella Fitzgerald to Patti LaBelle. It was also included on the 2004 album by Clay Aiken, 'Merry Christmas With Love'. I hope you enjoy Clay Aiken singing "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?".

The album remains a favorite of mine to this very day. Aiken has a lovely voice, and also has such a great charm inherent in his work. To learn more about Clay Aiken, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook. You can purchase 'Merry Christmas With Love' from iTunes and Amazon.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Johnny Mathis • Sending You A Little Christmas

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Earlier this fall, Johnny Mathis released a new Christmas album, and somehow, I managed to miss the news. Thankfully, my buddy JD Doyle of Queer Music Heritage did not, and sent me a note to check it out. It is a 'no brainer' that I would, since his first holiday album, 'Merry Christmas', is a favorite of mine. The album was a part of my own holiday soundtrack, for I have been hearing Johnny sing Christmas music all my life. In fact, I remember hearing his Pop songs and his Christmas music on the radio, and in the house. That first holiday album was released 55 years ago, yet I still play it every year. On the new album, Mathis works with such amazing artists as Billy Joel, Natalie Cole, Jim Brickman, Gloria Estefan, Susan Boyle, Vince Gill and Amazy Grant, and delivers another album I think I might be playing every year! This is the list of songs.

01. The Christmas Song (with Billy Joel)
02. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (with Natalie Cole)
03. This Christmas
04. Sending You a Little Christmas (with Jim Brickman)
05. Mary's Boy Child (with Gloria Estefan)
06. This Is a Time For Love
07. Do You Hear What I Hear (with Susan Boyle)
08. Home for the Holidays (featuring The Jordanaires)
09. Merry Christmas Darling
10. Decorate the Night
11. I'll Be Home for Christmas/White Christmas (with Vince Gill & Amy Grant)
12. Count Your Blessings

Now, I thought it would be fun this Christmas morning to let you hear the whole album, and let it be the soundtrack to your Christmas morning. It is a great holiday treat, and I am sure you will love it. So grab your cup of coffee or tea, and start opening your presents. Have a great Christmas day, and enjoy 'Sending You a Little Christmas'.

I must admit, Johnny Mathis has also been a hero of sorts for me. The man was courageous enough to come out of the closet in 1982 in 'Us' Magazine, long before it was the popular or safe thing to do. Handsome, talented, and gay, who could ask for anything more? You can purchase 'Sending You a Little Christmas' from iTunes and Amazon. You can still purchase 'Merry Christmas' from iTunes and Amazon as well. For more about Johnny Mathis, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Robert German • Xmas Bells/White Xmas (Not Bing's Version)

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Robert German Is another very special artist I just love, and can't get enough everything he does. In 2010, he wrote an original tune for Wanda Wisdom's 2010 Online Special, 'A Christmas Wanda'. There is something very special about Robert's Christmas song, filled with humor, charm, and a big dose of adult content. This is a song from the special, 'Xmas Bells/White Xmas', performed by Robert.

You can find 'A Christmas Wanda' on YouTube. For more about Robert German, check out his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook. To find his first album, 'Sirens of Brooklyn', it is available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. I remain hopeful I might get some new music sometime soon!

Magical Christmas Movie Music

White Christmas photo White_Christmas_zpsc4860731.jpg The Muppet Christmas Carol photo TheMuppetChristmasCarol_zps280d97ee.jpg
The Polar Express photo ThePolarExpress_zpsadc4cd7f.jpg Meet Me In St Louis photo MeetMeinStLouis_zpsbc31dce7.jpg
Clockwise: The covers of soundtrack albums for 'White Christmas", 'The Muppet Christmas Carol', 'Meet Me In St. Louis' and 'The Polar Express'.

While I tend to focus on Broadway shows and performers on the blog, I have certainly never shied away from the talented singers and performers from the great movie musicals. After all, many of the great films started life on the stage. And since is is a very special week, I thought we could revisit some very special movie moments. And, with Christmas just one sleep away, I thought a look at some magical Christmas musical memories was in order. I will begin with a memory that I still hold dear. You see, I remember watching the movie 'White Christmas' with my family when I was quite young. The 1954 film starred Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen as entertainers and love interests. This was the second film to use the song written by Irving Berlin, the first being 'Holiday Inn' from 1942, another charming film starring Crosby. The storyline is somewhat similar, although the latter one incorporated more musical numbers and patriotism, and was shot in glorious technicolor. The following clip is from the film, with Bring Crosby singing "White Christmas" in the film to his fellow soldiers while serving overseas. This is Crosby singing "White Christmas".

If anyone caught my reference in the opening paragraph, it would reflect this next memory. While it might not be from a film more than 50 years old, it is more than twenty years old. 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' was released in 1992, a retelling of the great classic by Charles Dickens, 'A Christmas Carol'. The film was a mixture of muppets and live actors, with actor Michael Caine playing Ebenezer Scrooge, and the Muppets making up a majority of the cast. The film had original music by Miles Goodman, and the songs were written by Paul Williams. My personal favorite of the soundtrack is when Bob Cratchit, played by Kermit the Frog, sings "One More Sleep 'til Christmas". This is a charming number, as 'Bob' is closing up the office on Christmas Eve, and addresses all the best parts of Christmas. I hope you enjoy Kermit sings "One More Sleep 'til Christmas" from 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'.

That brings me to the most recent film of all four I have showcased here, the animated holiday treat, 'The Polar Express'. The soundtrack of the 2004 film featured some classic songs, like Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas", Frank Sinatra singing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", and the Andrews Sisters with "Winter Wonderland", all of which make for a delightful listen. but it is the new song, written by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri, that steals the spotlight. "Believe" is a soaring ballad, with such light and hope oozing out of each line, you can't help but fall in love. And it had a stellar performance by Josh Groban to complete the magic. From the film 'The Polar Express', this is Josh Groban with "Believe".

With my final clip for the evening, I was unable to resist featuring Judy Garland with a song I still love to this very day. The film was directed by Vincent Minnelli, Judy's husband at the time, and the father of Liza Minnelli. The storyline featured a family living in St. Louis at the time of the 1904 World's Fair. The film features two songs sung by Judy that could and should be considered iconic, and both were written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. One such song was "The Trolley Song", a truly wonderful number. But the one I am including here is the stunning "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", a song that has been sung by many since being debuted in the 1944 film, but never better than by Judy. She added just the right amount of everything to make this brilliant. I hope you enjoy this clip of Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from 'Meet Me In St. Louis".

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all!

The Skivvies • Le Snowman

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The Skivvies - Le Snowman photo LeSnowman003_zpseff41e18.jpg The Skivvies - Le Snowman photo LeSnowman004_zps39bfb450.jpg
Clockwise: Shannon Ford, Lauren Molina, and Nick Cearley.

Sexy and seductive, The Skivvies have come out with their take on holiday music. With Lauren Molina doing her best Catherine Deneuve, and Nick Cearly offering up a bit of Olivier Martinez realness, the music video for "Frosty le Snowman" is like a scene from a Louis Malle film, so dark and moody. Lauren and Nick are joined by Shannon Ford to give new life to the classic "Frosty the Snowman", mashed up with "Melt With You", the iconic 1980s song by Modern English. Ford was offering his own sexy version of Frosty, complete with a corncob pipe, a button nose, and a penchant for playing the spoons. The mood of the video was captured perfectly by director Mitchell Jarvis and cinematographer Paris Remillard.

To learn more about The Skivvies, visit their official website. You can also 'like' them on Facebook, and 'follow' them on Twitter. YOu can purchase "Hardbody Hoedown" from iTunes, Amazon, or Bandcamp. On Bandcamp, you can check out two other singles that are available only on Bandcamp, a delicious take on the first song broadcast on a fledgling MTV, "Video Killed The Radio Star", and a moody cover of Lana Del Rey's "Diet Mountain Dew".

Liza Minnelli • Ding-A-Ling

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Well, I recently saw this posted on Facebook, and knew it had to make it to the blog, so it is only right to me it would appear on Christmas Eve. This is the amazing Liza Minnelli in a television special from 1966, 'The Dangerous Christmas of Little Red Riding Hood'. With music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, who also wrote the score to the musical 'Funny Girl', it is easy to see why Liza signed up for it. This was, after all, the year before she had her first every credited movie role. It was the year after she was in 'Flora, the Red Menace', and was awarded the Tony Award for Leading Actress in a Musical. This television special was a new look at the Red Riding Hood tale, and starred Minnelli as Red Riding Hood. In the song "Ding-A-Ling", Liza is joined by Cyril Ritchard, who played the Big Bad Wolf. There is just something deliciously wrong about this song and number, and I can't watch it enough! This is "Ding-A-Ling", from the television special 'The Dangerous Christmas of Little Red Riding Hood'.

Have a great holiday!

Josh Zuckerman • The Twelve Days of Christmas

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I proudly admit I am a huge fan of Josh Zuckerman. Not only is he very handsome - if I were 15 years younger, I'd flirt irresponsibly with him - he's also a talented Rocker whose music holds a special place in my collection. I knew I was going to be buying music for years to come once I purchased 'A Totally New Sensation', and boy, was I right! A few years ago, Josh released a new Christmas song I still listen to and love, so I was thrilled when I saw he posted a video with a new present this year! Josh has his own take on the traditional 18th century English carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Josh, who is a school teacher as well as a Rocker, exposes how "The Twelve Days of Christmas" can be translated for teachers.

Now if that wasn't cute enough, I have even more for you. I had mentioned Josh released a Christmas song in 2011, still a favorite. Well, not only did he do that, he also wrote and recorded with his former band, China White. It seems I am not the only one to love the song - it was also used for a dance number for a rather sexy lady in a clip you can see below. With her short 'Santa' skirt, fluffy boots, and her tap shoes moving, she dances while Josh sings his original Christmas song, "All I Want For Christmas is You".

Now, I am not sure if you were paying attention, but that was Josh taking the video, congratulating his mother on a dance well done! Yes, it seems good looks and talent do run in the family. The song is fantastic, and perfect to play at your holiday parties! You can purchase "All I Want For Christmas Is You" on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. To learn more about Josh Zuckerman, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook and 'follow' him on Twitter.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dark Monday • We Need A Little Christmas

Angela Lansbury - Mame photo angela_lansbury_zpsd0081d2e.jpg
Angela Lansbury & Beatrice Arthur - Mame photo Angela_Lansbury_Beatrice_Arthur_zpse946844a.jpg Mame - Original Broadway Cast Album photo MameBroadwayCastAlbum_zpsa47f98b3.jpg
Top: Anglea Lansbury in 'Mame'. Bottom, left: Lansbury with Beatrice Arthur.
Bottom, right: The cover of the Original Broadway Cast album.

In 1966, a little musical opened on Broadway, and, almost fifty years later, there are still people talking about it. Of course, when that show starred Angela Lansbury and Beatrice Arthur, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, that is something you might expect. The musical was also directed by Gene Saks, a hugely successful director who also happened to be married to Arthur. From all reports, Lansbury and Arthur were good friends throughout their lifetimes, and reunited to perform "Bosom Buddies" on the 1987 Tony Awards. But the real reason I am speaking of 'Mame' tonight is because this holiday season, it is time to celebrate. That is exactly what Jerry Herman had in mind when he wrote "We Need A Little Christmas", the wonderful song Mame sings to her young nephew during the Great Depression. Sometimes, people just need to add a little something extra in your life. This is Angela Lansbury from the original cast album of 'Mame', singing "We Need A Little Christmas".

And while I have featured a clip from the 1987 reunion of Arthur and Lansbury singing "Bosom Buddies", I thought I would add another nugget to the post, and allow Beatrice Arthur to sing her big song from the show, "The Moon Song (The Man on the Moon)". Arthur played Vera, best friend to Lansbury's Mame. Vera was an actress, albeit one who has a fairly big drinking problem. She also had a flair to pick some unusual roles for herself, like that of a lady astronomer. That is why she sings "The Moon Song (The Man on the Moon)", from the original Broadway production of 'Mame'.

Have a great holiday season! And if you "need a little Christmas", you can purchase the Original Broadway Cast Recording of 'Mame' from iTunes and Amazon.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Erasure • Gaudete

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Last month, Erasure released a new album, and I somehow managed to miss it until I read about it on Marc Harshbarger's wonderful blog, Deep Dish. Erasure first came to my attention back in 1985, with the release of their first single, "Who Needs Love Like That?", a great song that convinced me to buy the album. I have been a big fan since. Erasure is made up by Andy Bell and Vince Clarke, both wonderfully talented men. Bell's voice has an unerring clarity, and Clarke's use of keyboards is beyond reproach, as can be heard from his days with Depeche Mode to Yazoo to this 28 years with Erasure. 'Snow Globe' is the name of the latest, and it is a 13-song offering is collection of holiday music, both old and new. The first single off the album, "Gaudete", is a lovely song, part Pop yumminess, and part chorale treat. And it is traditional color, composed in the 16th century, and arranged by Bell and Clarke. This is the official music video for "Gaudete".

The first cut on the album is an original written by Andy and Vince. "Bells of Love (Isabelle's of Love)" is a wonderful song, sounding very much like an Erasure song, but carrying a message fitting for the holiday. It takes a look at what is happening in society today, and the need to healing hands to help be a part of the change for the better. This is an audio track for "Bells of Love (Isabelle's of Love)".

While just over half of the tracks are either tradition or newer holiday favorites, they are arranged by Andy and Vince, giving them a new sound and feel. That would include the eleventh song on the collection, "Midnight Clear". It is a Christmas carol written by Edmund Sears, pastor of the Unitarian Church in Wayland, Massachusetts, in 1849, better known as "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear". The following year, Richard Storrs Willis, a composer who trained under Felix Mendelssohn, wrote a melody that would be the sound of this music. Again, Bell and Clarke add their magic to the mix, making it a special track. This is the audio for "Midnight Clear".

I will grant you, the title "Blood on the Snow" does not sound like a great start to a holiday song, but never underestimate the power of Clarke and Bell. The dynamic duo tell a modern-day story of life and the struggle that comes with it. The search for divine intervention, for the sign to let us know we are moving in the right direction, sounds both timely and timeless in the hands of Erasure. This is the audio track for "Blood on the Snow".

This is a wonderful album, a must-have to Electronica fans, and people who love great music. You can purchase 'Snow Globe' from iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Erasure, visit their official website. You can also 'like' them on Facebook, and 'follow' them on Twitter. To check out Deep Dish, Marc Harshbarger's wonderful blog, you can visit the official website. You can also check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Chris Cornell • Ave Maria

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When I was thinking about having a post for Sunday morning, just three days before Christmas, I wanted to have an interesting interpretation of "Ave Maria", so I checked to see who I had in my iTunes that might work. Well, once I saw I had a version by Chris Cornell, I knew the search was over. In 1997, Chris recorded the Franz Schubert, written in 1825 inspired by Walter Scott's poem, "The Lady of the Lake". Well, a German translation of the poem, at least. I am sure Schubert had no idea that 172 years later, the song would be interpreted by a Rock Star, with a voice like Chris Cornell. I am a huge fan of Cornell, so when I read about his recording of the song, I had to make it a part of my collection. It appeared on the 1997 album 'A Very Special Christmas 3', where Cornell sung with the band Eleven playing on the song.

There is a certain majesty to his voice, a depth to his vocal that few can match. And it never hurts to know he is so nice to look at. You can find 'A Very Special Christmas 3' on iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Chris Cornell, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Presents from Christmas Belles

Big Maybelle photo Big_Maybelle_zps4b260bac.jpg Doris Day photo Doris_Day_zpsb697631c.jpg
Bette Midler photo Bette-Midler_zpsda25c726.jpg Sarah Vaughan photo sarah-vaughan-4_zps426c40b3.jpg
Clockwise: Big Maybelle, Doris Day, Sarah Vaughan, and Bette Midler.

It is just over three days before we celebrate Christmas, so I thought I would invite some very special ladies to sing a few special songs to make the holiday that much better. And I will start with a legendary talent from the the middle of the last century. Day was a star of movies and music, she was the girl next door they all wanted to know. In 1964, she released 'The Doris Day Christmas Album', which included the song "Be A Child At Christmas Time", with music by Martin Broones and lyrics by William A. Luce. The song is just so sweet and charming, and delivered perfectly by Day. This is Doris Day singing "Be A Child At Christmas Time".

Big Maybelle has always been a favorite of mine, her voice just so amazing. She has made a lot of different music, and it all makes me happy. One of the recordings I love so very much is her rendition of the 1940 sing by Irving Berlin, "White Christmas". While it was first made famous by Bing Crosby, Big Maybelle gives it s different twist, a Jazzy and Bluesy sound. It really shows off the richness in her tone. I hope you love when Big Maybelle sings "White Christmas" as much as I do.

When I type in the name Bette Midler, I immediately feel better. I know if there is music involved, I will soon be a very happy man. And if it is a a song off her 2006 album, 'Cool Yule', I know it is going to be magic. She sings "Merry Christmas", a song written by Fred Spielman and Janice Torre for the 1949 movie 'In The Good Old Summertime', sung by Judy Garland. Bette imbues the song with all the warmth and and care you could ask for, and then some. This is Bette Midler singing "Merry Christmas".

And in our last song of the evening, I have picked the great Sarah Vaughan singing a wonderful wintery tune. The song is the title cut of her 1963 holiday album, and was written by Russell Faith and Clarence Kehne. "Snowbound" is a great song, and her delivery is just about perfection. There is a wistful and romantic feel to the song. This is Sarah Vaughan singing "Snowbound".

I hope you are having a great weekend!

Leon Redbone • That Old Christmas Moon

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I readily admit I am a big fan of Leon Redbone, and can listen to him anytime. His interpretations of early 20th century music makes me weak in the knees, it is so fresh and true. But come the Christmas season, I don't know if I could make it through without playing 'Christmas Island', his holiday album released in 1988. The album is chock-full of great music, but for this morning, I chose to feature "That Old Christmas Moon", a song written by Terry Waldo and performed to perfection by Redbone. So please enjoy one of my favorites, as Leon Redbone sings "That Old Christmas Moon".

The album is just a delight, with one charming song after another. You can purchase 'Christmas Island' on iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Leon Redbone, visit his official website, where you can hear some of the great music Redbone makes. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and listen to some more great music.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Date Night • A Gay Christmas

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I found this delightful short that is just perfect for the holiday season. 'A Gay Christmas' is a short by Cornfather Productions in association with Paignton Film Company. It was written and produced by Michael Cornacchia, and directed and edited by Jeff Payton. It gives us a glimpse into the lives of Sand & Mrs. Claus, specifically when son Hermy comes home from his first semester of college. The film stars Michael Cornacchia and Kristina Hayes as Mr. & Mrs. Claus: Kristina Hayes; Mickey Meyer and Jeffrey Schuetze as Hermy Claus and Zapatos Zeddmore; with Mark Kelly, Joseph Keane, Jake Miller, Matthew Shaffer and Jeff Payton. I hope you enjoy 'A Gay Christmas'.

Happy holidays!

A Very Disco Christmas

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Since it is Friday and the start of the pre-holiday weekend, I was looking to find some music that might propel us into the weekend and the holiday spirit, all at the same time. And I was lucky enough to find a track I didn't even know existed to kick off the proceedings. I thought I knew all the songs released by the Village People, and, in fact, had most of them. Well, they fooled me, for I was not aware of a Christmas release, and could only find a version of "Disco Santa Claus", a campy take on their hits "Y.M.C.A." and "Macho Man". After a bit of research, I discovered it wasn't the Village People at all, but a sound-alike group called Holiday Express. They have adapted the lyrics, and spell out "N.O.E.L.", although I am not sure I would know the arm motions to spell it out! Please enjoy the Village People singing "Disco Santa (Santa Claus/N.O.E.L.)".

My remaining selections for the come from bands not nearly as well known, but still making sparkling Disco nonetheless. The Roller Disco Orchestra take on a song written in 1934 by composer Felix Bernard and lyricist Richard B. Smith, "Winter Wonderland". The song has been sung by many, but none with quite the flair in this recording. I hope you enjoy the recording of "Winter Wonderland" by the Roller Disco Orchestra.

The Hit Crew was a name used by a record label who put out many sound-alike covers of songs, and released on cheaper albums of so-called hits. But they also seem to want to take advantage of more than just the summer hits, for they did some interesting holiday covers as well. They did a Disco cover of "Silver Bells", the holiday classic written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, and first introduced by Bob Hope in the 1950 film, 'The Lemon Drop Kid'. I hope you enjoy this cover of "Silver Bells" by The Hit Crew.

Finally, there is also a Disco version of the Rock=influenced "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree", a song written by Johnny Marks and recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958. The song combined the sound and feel of Rock and Pop music, with a nod to the contemporary Christmas songs being made at the time. A couple of decades later, the holiday themed Mistletoe Disco Band added the song to their repertoire, and gave the Christmas classic a new sound. This is "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by the Mistletoe Disco Band.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gregory Douglass • Imagination

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When it comes to the music of Vermonter Gregory Douglass, I must admit to having a problem. You see, I just can't get enough. The talented and handsome singer/songwriter have been making music for a while now, and I do believe I have his complete collection in my iTunes. After all, you never know when you might need to get that fix, or which song might be needed to scratch that itch. This time of year, I am looking for holiday music, and once again, Gregory does not disappoint. In 2010, he released an amazing new song he had written, and it remains a favorite of mine today. "Imagination" is both dreamy and sweet, with a wonderful cello accompaniment by Monique Citro. This is the music video for "Imagination".

I really do love this song, and love when it comes up in my Christmas Mix. You can purchase "Imagination" on iTunes and Amazon. One of the wonderful things about being a fan of Gregory, besides the music and some cool music videos, is feeling safe in the knowledge "Imagination" is not the only song to play during the holiday season. In fact, Gregory has a 2009 release that is quite special. 'Merry' is 5-song collection that combines a few old favorites with some special new songs from Douglass.Among the older songs was a wonderful cover of Wham's "Last Christmas", first heard in 1984. It was written by the oh-so-talented George Michael, and went to #2 on the UK Pop chart, behind only "Do They Know It's Christmas?", the fundraiser by Band Aid, which included both George and Andrew from Wham. This is a video featuring the song "Last Christmas".

The 'Merry' EP also includes original songs "What A Long Year It Was" and "Walking in the Air", as well as classic favorites "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "O Holy Night". I'd tell you my favorite, but I can't pick one, they are all so good! 'Merry' can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon To learn more about Gregory Douglass, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter and 'like' him on Facebook.

Sugarbeach • My Perfect Christmas

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The sexy ladies from Sugarbeach have done it again. What, you might ask? Well, Marlee Walchuk and Tully Callender wrote and produced their own holiday single, "My Perfect Christmas". It is a beautiful song, and it tells such a wonderful story, I feel we've been invited into their home for the holidays, enjoying life by the fire and watching the ladies prepare for Christmas Day. I know what I can now put on my wishlist, and it is hearing this song as often as I can this Christmas season. Give a listen to Sugarbeach celebrating "My Perfect Christmas".

Unfortunately, "My Perfect Christmas" is not available for purchase anywhere. However, fortunately for us all, Marlee and Tully are great people, and have made the song available for FREE DOWNLOAD! You just visit the Soundcloud page, and click on 'DOWNLOAD' underneath the sound file.To learn more about Sugarbeach, stop by their official website. You can also 'follow' them on Twitter, and 'like' them on Facebook. You can check out the RightOutTV website, and check out some great music from the LGBT community. Marlee and Tully are also responsible for the RightOutTV Music & Video Awards, and the regular readers enjoyed the chance to hear the music of all the winners these past few years. Discover some great music and videos on RightOut TV!

Eli Lieb • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

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There is something about a handsome man singing a beautiful classic to me that just makes me a happy man. And that is exactly how I would describe Eli Lieb's recording of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". The song was was written by Ralph Blane and lyricist Hugh Martin, and introduced to the world by the always brilliant Judy Garland in the 1944 film 'Meet Me in St. Louis'. Later, the song was recorded by Frank Sinatra with new lyrics, and those words are the ones more commonly sung today. But as Eli tends to do, he uses the original as a launching pad to allow the song and his voice to go places no one has gone before. And I swear, when I listen, it sounds like he is singing to me! This is Eli Lieb singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas".

Almost 70 years later, the song still sounds fresh. And, Eli's rendition certainly helps that along. You can purchase Eli Lieb's "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" from iTunes or Amazon. While you are there, you might check out his other music, from the cover songs to the original music. Honestly, I am partial to his original stuff. For more about Eli, visit his official website, where there is an official store, so yous can buy music and t-shirts. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, or 'like' him on Facebook.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spencer Day • If Christmas Doesn't Kill Me

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When I went to see Spencer Day singing live at the Rrazz Room the beginning of the month, I had a true goal in mind. I was hoping he would sing at least one of the holiday songs off his 2012 EP. 'If Christmas Doesn't Kill Me', so I could tape it for the blog. But I also wanted to enjoy the show, and take pictures of the handsome singer while he was doing his thing live. (That is one of my picutres from the night above.) Well, I must admit I didn't get my video camera set up soon enough, and when he sang the title cut second, I missed it. Thankfully, another patron was way more ready than I was, and caught it on video. This is Spencer Day singing "If Christmas Doesn't Kill Me" at the Jazz club in New Hope, PA.

Now, I mentioned he released an EP of holiday songs, and I have to tell you, it is one of my favorites. It is a collection featuring one classic and three brand new seasonal songs. The first track is the classic, "Silver Bells", written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, first released in 1950 by Bob Hope and Carol Richards. Spencer puts his own smooth patina on the jewel. Next up is "My Kind of Christmas", written by Spencer and Cliff Goldmacher. (This pair also wrote the sexy and fantastic "Till You Come To Me" off Spencer's 'Vagabond' album). There is a sweet blues quality to "My Kind of Christmas" that I love. "If Christmas Doesn't Kill Me" was again written by Day and Goldmacher, and it combines the reality of living in tough economic time with the joy of the season to bring out a bittersweet quality that also has a touch of humor involved. The last cut on the EP, "Christmas Without You" was written by Goldmacher with Joel Evans. It has a bubbly charm, and features a piano solo that brings so much warmth to my heart. I invite you to watch and listen to the video below, and get a delicious taste of all four songs!

Like I said, the EP immediately became a favorite of mine, and a valued addition to my holiday playlist. You can find 'If Christmas Doesn't Kill Me' on iTunes, CD Universe, and Amazon. To learn more about Spencer Day, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook and 'follow' him on Twitter.

Drake Jensen • Here Comes Santa Claus

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Last week, I mentioned that hunky Drake Jensen had a brand new holiday song hitting the airwaves. Great news, everyone, for this week, I can talk about an old favorite make new once more. Drake put his own spin on the song, offering up even more charm for this darling song. It was written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman, and first released by Autry in 1947. It quickly became a classic, and was recorded by many of the biggest names in music, including Doris Day and Elvis Presley. And now, we can add Jensen's name to the list. This is Drake Jensen singing "Here Comes Santa Claus".

I can't listen to it without smiling from down deep. There is a wonderful sweetness and love in Drake's vocals, and I just can't get enough of them! "Here Comes Santa Claus" can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. You can purchase Drake's 2012 holiday release, 'Christmas At Home', from iTunes and CD Baby. For more information about Drake, visit his official website. You can also 'like' Drake on Facebook, or 'follow' him on Twitter. To check out his most recent music video, for "Live Every Day (Like It Was Christmas Day)", click here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Voice - Season 5 - One Last Note

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Left to right: Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, and Blake Shelton.

Last night, Tessanne Chin, Will Champlin, and Jacquie Lee all gave their fans plenty to cheer about with strong performances, the type that earned them a berth in the finals. Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera also worked hard, doing duets with their artists, and beaming proudly when they were singing. Coaches Blake Shelton and Cee-Lo Green seemed surprisingly more interested than I might have guessed, despite the fact Carson Daly rarely asked for their thoughts on performances. But they stayed engaged and polite, allowing the three artists to take over center stage. And with the show tonight, we can expect less deference to them, as the producers have signed up some stars to make the evening a celebration worthy of crowning a champion.

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Clockwise: Jacquie Lee, Will Champlin, and Tessanne Chin.

When all was said and done, when the last notes were sung, and the last instruments played, I came to the conclusion that Tessanne Chin had won the night, earning the title of 'The Voice', at least in my eyes. Her talent to sing every song given her this season has been remarkable, showing off her power, as well the softness and vulnerability of her voice. Her recording of "I Have Nothing" starting up the iTunes chart the minute it was released, and soon made it to #1. Her duet with Adam Levine, "Let It Be", went to #4 on iTunes at the close of voting. Jacquie Lee also scored with "And I Am Telling You", making it to #9, while Will Champlin's recording of "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" went to #10. Will and Adam's "Tiny Dancer" clocked in at #11, while Jacquie and Christina's "We Remain" went to #21. While signs might point to Tessanne being crowned, we never know for sure until the announcement is made, about 115 minutes into the 120 minute broadcast.

The show kicks off with Carson on stage with the finalists, and he introduces the coaches. He begins to recap last evening. Then he speaks with Adam, who talks about how much he enjoyed performing with his team. And Christina is just thrilled with Jacquie and her performances. But it is time to bring back all the talented singers as the Top 20 sings "Tonight Is The Night", the hit from Outasight.

The coaches seem relaxed, and happy to be there. Adam is sad a winner must be named, they were all so good. Cee-Lo remains impressed they were that good, after a long and arduous process. Christina is still excited about Jacquie's performances, and the great night it was. Blake wants to first mention he has presents for the coaches, and then makes the announcement that he can tell us who the winner will be - either Tessanne, Will, or Jacquie. And speaking of Christina's artist, she is the first one up to bring back some friends to join her. Jacquie sings with Matthew, Caroline, Cole, and James, taking on the iconic 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. The song is great fun. Then we learn that Tessanne will be singing with one of her favorite artists, when she joins Celine Dion on "Love Can Move Mountains". They are fantastic together, just electrifying. The audience goes wild! Carson is quick to point out Celine will be back on to sing again later in the program. Then we are reminded that Ryan Tedder wrote a song for the winner of the show to sing, once the announcement is made. But first, Tedder comes out with his band OneRepublic to sing their new single, "I Lived".

"I Lived" can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. It was great the band played it totally live, and had the audience out of their seats. I cannot wait to hear the song he wrote for the winner! After a commercial break, it is time for more music, but first there is a tribute to Cee-Lo Green, and his use and occasional abuse of the English language. Ray, Preston, Matt, Nic and Josh sing a Bruno Mars song, "Treasure". They sound great, and very boyband. Nic is jamming, as expected, but while he sounds great, Ray was not buying into the dance moves. And I respect him for that. For his song, Will has asked Jonny, Cole, Caroline and Austin to join him singing "Wagon Wheel". The song was written by Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor, and perfect for this group of artists. It is a wonderful and rootsy performance. After a break, Carson talks with the parents of the finalists, and it is a sweet moment. Then it is time to pay a tribute to Christina, and the magnificent noises she can make. And then Jacquie Lee gets to sing with the band Paramore on their hit "Ain't It Fun".

This is a great pairing, and allows Jacquie to really shine. I wish she had sung some music like this during the season. Paramore's "Ain't It Fun" can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. Carson introduces some amazing ladies for the next performance when Amber, Shelbie, Stephanie Anne, Kat, Tamara, and Grey sing Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without U". It is a rousing rendition, bringing the coaches to their feet. Next, we see the finalists getting a private tour of the backlot of Universal, and soon we find out all three are getting a brand new car from Kia Motors! Then we see the final confessional, and the touching words from the finalists who explain what winning could mean to them. Then it is time for Celine Dion to return to the stage to sing her new single. Celine is joined by Ne-Yo to sing "Incredible".

Their voices work really well together, and it is a lovely song. "Incredible" can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. After the break, Carson talks to Ryan Tedder about the song to be sung by the winner. We learn Ryan will continue to work with the winner in the new year, creating more music with them. Will returns to the stage to share the spotlight with Aloe Blacc to sing "Wake Me Up", and they sound great together. This is a fantastic song, and Will seems so happy to be singing it. After a break, Tessanne brings back her friends, so she, James, Preston, Olivia and Grey sing "Hold On, I'm A Comin'", the big hit for Sam and Dave in 1966. The group has a bunch of fun, and James is a live wire! They bring the coaches to their feet once again. And it is time to pay our final tribute of the night, to Blake Shelton and his inability to dance. But it is time for out next guest of the evening, as Lady Gaga comes out to perform "Do What You Want" off the album 'ArtPop'. This is the official video for "Do What U Want" by Lady Gaga featuring R.Kelly.

But for the performance tonight, Gaga is joined by Christina Aguilera, with the ladies in beautiful matching outfits. They both sound wonderful, and Christina's fellow coaches are brought to their feet. "Do What U Want" by Lady Gaga and featuring R.Kelly can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. And after another commercial break, and 113 minutes of programing, we finally get to hear some results. The finalists are brought out on stage, and each takes a turn to thank their coach. Then it is time to learn the artist in third place, and it is Will Champlin.

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That leaves Tessanne and Jacquie, and we learn that Jacquie Lee places second and the winner of 'The Voice' is Tesssanne Chin! The confetti falls, and it is time to sing her new song.

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'The Voice' will return with Season 6 in February, with coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher, and Shakira. To learn more about 'The Voice', visit the official website. You can also 'like' them on Facebook, and 'follow' them on Twitter.

Andrew Abaria • They Say It's Christmas

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Andrew Abaria adds to the collection of holiday songs with a new original that has plenty of what every Christmas song needs, charm and warmth. The piano-driven song is lyrical and sweet. It is also a soaring treat meant to tug at your heart-strings, which it does so well. Written and recorded by Andrew, the song is beautiful, much like a modern day "White Christmas". It takes a look at what one person thinks about the holiday, and the very honest memories are so honest and real, you cannot help but identify. The song has a certain melancholia, paired with a love that just makes it touch us all that much more. This is the music video for "They Say It's Christmas".

The video helps capture the song well, as it keeps it simple, focusing on the man and the feelings he holds dear. You can purchase "They Say It's Christmas" from iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. To learn more about Andrew Abaria, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook and 'sollow' him on Twitter. To read my review of his EP 'We Are The Underdogs', click here.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Voice - Live Performance Review - 12/16/2013

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Left to right: Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Carson Daly, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine.

Last week, it was revealed that Jacquie Lee, Will Champlin, and Tessanne Chin would be competing tonight for the win, and coaches Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine could not be happier. On a sad note, this will be the first season Blake Shelton will not have a finalist competing for the win. It also marks the first time someone received the 'Judge's Save' and made it to the finals. In fact, Will was saved twice, once by Christina when eliminated by Adam, and then re-saved by Adam when eliminated by Christina! In the remaining contestants, we have two female power singers, and one guy who can really be both powerful and a little quirky.

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Left to right: Jacquie Lee, Will Champlin, and Tessanne Chin.

Tonight, each finalist will sing three songs, two solos, and one with their coach. One of the solos is the song that made the chairs turn in the blind audition, as well as a brand new song. In fact, if the leaks are right, Jacquie will be singing a song co-written by her coach, and sung by her for the soundtrack of 'The Hunger Games - Catching Fire'. The show begins with a montage, showing the Top 3 on their journey, from blind auditions to Finals. And they jump right in with songs, as coaches Blake Shelton, Cee-Lo Green, Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera sing "Pour Some Sugar On Me" with the help of the band Def Leppard, who had a #1 hit with the song 25 years ago.

Well, that certainly lit the fire for the night. After a commercial break, it is time for Tessanne Chin to sing the song "Try" by Pink, and all three chairs turned around, and all four judges fought to get her on their team. Before the performance, Adam remarks how he knew when he heard her she would be here in the finals, competing for the win. She is in great voice, showing both power and control. She moves with such ease and grace on the stage, showing real charisma. Adam is so proud, and tells her that he has learned so much from being her coach. Cee-Lo tells her he is a fan, and that everyone watching is as well. There is a question session, and it can't pass quickly enough. And it is time for another look back as Will Champlin sings "Not Over You" by Gavin DeGraw.

Will does seem to really thrive with this song, and he shows such great range with it. He was excellent in the audition, causing three chairs to turn. He has such a great quality in his vocals, which build so nicely as the song goes on. Adam talks about how inspiring it has been to work with Will, and how much respect he has for him. Through it all, his work ethic has kept him strong. Christina also appreciates how, like him, she can get in her own head too much, and he has managed to stay strong and good despite how tough it can be. After another break, it is time for Jacquie Lee to sing the song that introduced her to the audience, "Back To Black". The Amy Winehouse was a perfect fit for her, and made two chairs turn, including Coach Christina. She does a nice job with the song, but I must admit I am not a big fan of her voice, which as times has a harsh and shrill edge. And it does with this song, too. Christina is thrilled to be her coach, and loves to be able to support this 16-year-old. She makes Christina happy to be a part of her journey. After another break, it is time for the artists to duet with their Coach. First up, we have Tessanne and Adam to sing "Let It Be", the iconic song by The Beatles.

First up I have to say, Tessanne's dress is stunning. Looking at her actually distracted me from looking at Adam, which isn't and easy thing to do. It is an odd duet, for Tessanne's voices is so much fuller and richer than Adam's, but somehow, she makes it work. Again, she shows an ability to show a softness in her vocals, a vulnerability. When they break it down for a Reggae section, it is a great moment. After a break, we learn that Jacquie will be joined by Christina to sing "We Remain", co-written by Christina for the soundtrack of ''The Hunger Games - Catching Fire'. The song is not an easy sing, as it is as rangy as one would expect from a Christina song. Christina was quite kind, and took the very high end, allowing the full body of Jacquie's voice to take center stage. And they looked lovely in their red dresses. After a break, it is time for the final duet of the night, as Will teams up with Adam to sing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer".

Who knew the song would be great for Adam's voice? Adam keeps his vocals simple, and allows Will to take wing with his vocals. He looks so happy singing up there, smiling and moving to the beat he hears in the music. This is really much nicer than I thought it would be, for I find Will's voice to be very different than Adam's, but in both his duets tonight, Adam had made them work. After another break, and an odd moment with Blake and cakes, Carson brings the Top 3 back on stage, and they sing "I'll Be There", a huge hit for the Jackson 5 forty-two years ago. It is a sweet moment, but it really shows me that, no matter how the results play out, Tessanne has the voice that stands out to me. But the tenderness of the connection between Jacquie, Will, and Tessanne is unmistakable. There is another break, and it is time to begin the final song for each artist. The first up is Tessanne, who takes on another powerhouse when she sings "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston.

It is not easy to take on an icon like Houston, but if there is someone up to the task, it is Tessanne. Sorry, I wrote nothing while she was singing, for that took my breath way. There was brilliance and power, and such a richness, I am without words. Adam is also speechless, so blown away by her ability to take on every task, and take them to places unexpected. For him, she is the winner of 'The Voice'. I fear I have a tough time arguing with him on that one. Another break, and it is time to for Will Champlin to sing "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams. Adam works closely with him in rehearsals, and I think it paid off. His emotional connection to the song is so strong and true, it is like he is bleeding the song. And as he is wont to do, Will takes the song down roads and alleys to make it truly his own. At the end of the song, he kisses his wife and his daughter, a truly wonderful moment. He is a wonderful performer, as he has proven time and time again. Adam is so proud of him, and thinks he can declare a victory, no matter the outcome, for making it to the end despite the crap he has been through on the show. Blake always enjoys his performances, and thought it was great he kept this one simple, with no extra glitter. And now it is time for the last competitive performance of the season, as Jacquie Lee sings "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from 'Dreamgirls'. The song was originally sung by Jennifer Holliday in the Broadway production of 'Dreamgirls', which earned her the Tony Award. Later, Jennifer Hudson picked up the Academy Award for her performance in the film version. This is the live version from the 1982 Tony Awards, featuring the incredible Jennifer Holliday.

This is another huge song, one dripping with emotional hurt and and heart-wrenching pain. It is big and powerful, and comes from down deep. Most of the way through the song, I just feel this was a bad song choice. I don't feel the emotional connection to the lyric, and I am saddened by that. I know I might very well be in the minority here, but that was lacking. The song comes from the soul too much to be as karaoke as that. Christina is so proud, and feared that she is coming for her career. Blake is amazed at the journey she has made on the show, and how perfect the coach/artist pairing was for her.

For me, there is only one conclusion, and that is Tessanne Chin took this season of 'The Voice'. She has consistently shown me the range and strength of a world-class vocalist, week after week. Her connection to the material has been so right on, and I can't think of a bad turn she has made this season. She will get my votes. To vote for your favorite, you can call, purchase the song on iTunes, and go to 'The Voice' website. To call, each phone number has 10 votes. For Tessanne Chin, call 1-855-864-2301; for Will Champin call 1-855-864-2302; and for Jacquie Lee call 1-855-864-2303. To vote on iTunes, just purchase the song offered - but keep in mind, only one purchase per account will count as a vote. To vote online, just go to 'The Voice' Online, and I think you have 10 votes per email address. Voting closes at 11AM Eastern Standard Time Tuesday morning, and the results of that vote will be made public on Tuesday night, 9-11PM, on your local NBC station. The guest list for that show is looking big, with Lady Gaga and R. Kelly, Celine Dion and Ne-Yo, OneRepublic, and Paramore scheduled to appear.

Matt Zarley • Still Time To Be Hopeful

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I just wanted to offer up a little reminder that you have until Wednesday afternoon, December 18, 2013, to be a part of the romance with Matt Zarley. Just one look at a picture of the handsome and talented actor and you can see how easy it would be to feel the romance, and be quite hopeful about it. 'Hopeful Romance' is the name of the upcoming project from Zarley, the new album he is looking to release in the coming year. And I am not the only one offering up reminders, for Matt has released a couple of pictures to remind people out it.

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And, by 'it', I mean his Kickstarter page, set up to help Matt raise some of the money needed to album, and the accompanying music videos. The videos are helpful in promoting the music, as anyone who reads this blog regularly must know. Another given is the fact that Zarley is a natural on camera, as he has been wonderful to watch in previous music videos, like one of my favorites, for the song "Trust Me".

"Trust Me" was written by Matt, Mark Picchiotti, and Joe Hurt. The track appears on his last album, 'Change Begins With Me'. The video was directed and edited by Benjamin Pollack, and choreographed by Benjamin Allen. And while Matt does sexy and flirty so very well, he also can deliver the goods when it comes to heartfelt and sweet. The song was written by Matt and Andy Zulla, and produced by Grammy winner, Zulla. This video was directed by Randal Kirk II. This is the music video for "Perfect", also off the latest album.

It didn't take shirtless shots to get me to be a part of Matt's campaign. It is all about the music, and damn, does he do that so well. I will admit I have the Matt Zarley discography in my collection, including his wonderful Christmas song, "One More Christmas With You". So I became a supporter, and would encourage you to do the same. With only a few days remaining to make a pledge, you can give as little or as much as you'd like. For $15, you can get a download of the album before it is available to the public.

If you would like to learn even more about Matt Zarley, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook and 'follow' him on Twitter. But most importantly, you can find Matt Zarley on Kickstarter. Check him out, I'm sure he'd love to hear from you on any of the above!


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