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.

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