A Guitar Heavy Holiday (Music Thoughts: Farewell December, Matt Nathanson)

I don’t normally listen to the kind of music Matt Nathan son sings – he is. singer songwriter, basically a guy with a guitar. But I don’t necessarily dislike his particular style. But I was intrigued that he has a track here that features the San Francisco Gay Man’s Chorus, and I thought that was an unlikely and interesting combination, so I went ahead and listened to the rest of the album.

And yes, this was a very pleasant listen, and I have to be honest, I don’t know if I will ever listen to this thing again. The track with the chorus, ‘Christmastime Is Here’ is very nice, and there are other tracks that appealed to me: his version of ‘Mamacita,’ and his cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River.’

But the rest just went over my head, if I have to be honest. His guitar heavy tracks like ‘Snow’ and ‘Father Christmas’ just did not appeal to me, and one track, ‘Granda Got Run Over’ just flat-out grated on me. But I am sure those tracks will have fans of their own.

Delta Dawned (Music Thoughts: Only Santa Knoes, Delta Goodrem)

I know Delta Goodrem is very popular in her native Australia, but I still don’t know here that much. I have listened to a lot of her recordings, but nothing has stuck over the years. I know I wrote about her Olivia Newton John tribute album a while back. but for the life of me don’t remember much about it – I am not even sure if I did like it.

Sad to say, I still feel that way about her after listening to her new Holiday album ‘Only Santa Knows.’ Nothing is still sticking to me. I can’t zone in on her voice – I mean, it’s very good technically, but it just doesn’t hit me in my heart.

For me, I just felt like she went through the motions here, and don’t remember any of the songs even after listening to them. Yes, it is anothjer case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’ Sorry Delta.

Francesca For The Holidays (Music Thoughts: This Christmas, Francesca Batistelli)

What the heck, since Halloween is over, we are, whether we like it or not, we are thrust in the Holiday season now. I don’t know how I will celebrate this year, if even i do. Pandemics can change your perspective about things, and for all we know, we may have our most meaningful holidays yet.

But surely I can go about my ‘tradition’ of writing about new holiday music, right? I had never heard of Francesca Batistelli before, and I did a little bit of googling – she ids a multi awarded young Christian and gospel singer. That would normally give me pause (she is probably homophobic) but I went ahead and listened to her album, and it is magnificent. It is soulful, and she really knows how to get into the meat of these songs. It is spiritual, for sure, and she definitely excels on these faith-based songs (Silent Night has never sounded more about the heart) My favorite one is ‘Messiah.’

But, she also was great singing the ‘regular’ songs – the title track is a fun one, and while it is a great cover, it sounds like her own. And speaking of her own songs, she has an original I like – ‘Christmas Valentine’ a fun dittie and romantic new holiday song.

so yes, I really love the album and will listen to it throughout the holidays. I hope she isn’t homophobic.

New York Christmas Mood (Music Thoughts: Christmas Eve, Kevin Dozier)

HolidayCover-e1575127592709Kevin Dozier is very active in the cabaret community in New York City and I knew when I saw that his Holiday album, ‘Christmas Eve;’ will be thoughtfully sung. Coupled with Alex Rybeck’s arrangements, Dozier’s vocals soar without making the songs sound overdone, and he gives them just the right amount of warmth and theatricality. I always say that ‘O Holy Night’ is always a good barometer of what kind of singer one is when they sing it. In here, he is able to put the songs cross without histrionics – there’s no hard sell her,  just honesty. And My favorite track is a medlette of ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ with Sondheim’s ‘Goodbye For Now’ (from Rags) The counterpoint is fitting, and touching, and makes the former sound like a brand new song. Rybeck himself composed the title track and it’s a nice sweet ballad from a child’s point of view. The rest of the album is good, but those three tracks stood out best for me. If you want an album that has a Manhattan Cabaret sound, then this one’s for you .

The Homophobe’s Holiday (Music Thoughts: Rejoice!, Calee Reed)

81jv5ybkx6L._SS500_Yo, I got duped. One look at the album cover of Calee Reed’s ‘Rejoice!’ album and I thought it was one of those fun frothy Christmas albums. But I find out she is one of those Christian Contemporary artists who for sure is homophobic and regularly eats at Chick Fil A because of the company’s values. Yikes. In all fairness, I listened to all the songs and now I need to take a shower to take the grime off me.

Somewhat Fab (Music Thoughts: A Fabulous Christmas, John Barrowman)

JohnBarrowman_FabulouChristmasThere’s nothing really extraordinary about John Barrowman’s ‘A Fabulous Christmas’ but it’s a pretty solid and well-sung Christmas album and sometimes that’s a;; you need. I wish there was something truly ‘fabulous’ about it, but the arrangements are expertly done, if a bit familiar. Barrowman’s has a good theater voice, and he injects his singing with enough character and authenticity that you will be able to enjoy the songs as you listen to them. My Holiday album renditions admittedly skew towards female versions, but maybe knowing that Barrowman is openly gay made me relate to his versions more? I wish I was in the UK to see his concert tour to promote this album as that would probably be a great show.

Canadian Rock Holiday (Music Thoughts: Christmas EP, Bryan Adams)

Bryan-Adams-Christmas-EP-album-cover-820I love Christmas albums that do not sound like every other one out there. Bryan Adams has released a Christmas EP this year, titled ‘Christmas,’ and the best thing about it is that it sounds just like a Bryan Adams album. He penned a new song, titled ‘Joe and Mary,’ and it’s a great pop-rock song that I couldn’t get out of my ears after listening to it. The other new track here is ‘Must Be Santa,’ which I know from the Bob Dylan version from a couple of years ago.  The rest of the EP has all previously released Holiday songs from Adams, and all in all, the recording has a very cohesive feel, and I have to say that even if I am not normally a ‘rock’ person I appreciated this.  Your mileage may vary.

Merrily We Roll Along (Music Thoughts: Sugar & Booze, Ana Gasteyer)

91vOsi45SrL._SY355_Like most everybody, Ana Gasteyer is known for her stint at Saturday Night Live.  But I also know she is a pretty good singer, one who skews towards traditional Mid-Century Swinging arrangements. I should listen to her one other standards album called ‘I’m Hip,’ named from Blossom Dearie’s fun song, so you know she knows what she is singing about.

My initial impression from listening to her new Holiday album, ‘Sugar and Booze,’ is that it is really a fun album. Most Holiday albums contain one or more ‘sad’ Holiday songs but there is just joy in ‘Sugar & Booze.’  Looking at her track listing, the only traditional melancholy song here is ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,’ but in Gasteyer’s hands, the meaning is just pure joyous greeting. And there’s a lot of celebration elsewhere in the album, from the title track, which celebrates the best Holiday traditions: the time where people freely eat a lot of desserts and drink alcoholic beverages. I also loved ‘In The Market For A Miracle,’ which is a humorous take on Jewish people and Hannukah. And you would think that ‘Blue Black Friday’ would be melancholy, but it is hilarious – it’s about someone missing her love because she has no one to buy for during the Black Friday sales. There is so much original things in this record, like a salsa arrangement of ‘Sleigh Ride,’ and an updated take on June Christie’s ‘The Merriest.’ Her duet with Maya Rudolph, the tongue-twisting ‘Secret Santa’ is cute, but I wanted more (or maybe I had Everest-level expectations?) But all ina ll, this is a great Holiday album, topical but will prove to be timeless.

In Martel’s Holiday (Music Thoughts: Christmastime Is Here, Marc Martel)

51-nq6UeJyL._SS500I have no idea who Marc Martel is, but Spotify ‘recommended’ his Christmas EP to me, so I listened.  And it was okay – very live and bright. I found out that Martel provided some of the Freddie Mercury vocals in the film ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’  I had the impression that Rami Malik did those vocals, but apparently they also used Martel’s voice and they made everything sound seamless.  I am by no means a Mercury expert but apparently Martel has a voice that is very similar. And then I found out that Martel is a Christian, and writes and sings religious music. But I guess if he consented to singing Freddie Mercury songs, then he probably isn’t the very preachy kind.

The EP is okay, and as I said, it has a lot of rhythm and the songs and arrangements are nice enough to make an impression on me. And it;s not as overtly religious as I thought – he even covers Mariah’s ‘All I Want For Christmas.’  It’s all nice and good very alive, and could be good pick=up music for the Holidays. You can listen to it in the car on the way to seeing relatives you don;t want to see.

Buon Natalie (Music Thoughts: A Little Bit Of Christmas, Natalie Williams)

1511488273_folderNever judge an album by its cover. I thought that Natalie Williams’ Holiday album ‘A Little Bit of Christmas’ was a country album, but as it turns out, it is a jazzy one. Williams is an up and coming jazz singer in the United Kingdom and she has already gotten a bit of acclaim. This album will steer her to get more. Williams has a jazz vibe in her singing, and has a soulful voice that is apparent in these tracks. When I heard her ‘O Holy Night,’ for example, I couldn’t help but pay attention – the high notes did not seem forced. And I actually liked her original songs: ‘What Does Santa Get For Christmas,’ was pretty catchy, and there’s a welcome sauciness in ‘Xmas X My XXX.’  All in all, you don’t get a sense of sameness when you are listening to the album, and for me, that is always very welcome.