A myHT Fortress

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 20 - Heartfelt Holidays

Heartfelt Holidays is one of the CD's in our collection, that is a collection itself.  Every song is by a different artist, from varying styles and eras.  This album made its way into our home over ten years ago, purchased through Bath & Body Works, of all places!

The album starts off with Andy Williams crooning "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."  Lou Rawls follows up with a jazzy "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town."

Now, quite a few albums have some setting of "Santa Baby," but Eartha Kitt seems to be the ultimate artist for this song.  You can't help but imagine this sleek, sultry "Catwoman," as she tries purr-suading Santa to "hurry down the chimney" and leave absolutely everything.

Nat "King" Cole once again is gathered into a collection CD, with "O Holy Night."  Of course, He does a smooth and splendid rendition.

Judy Garland is the only voice I can ever imagine singing, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  She beautifully delivers that wish.

I am not that fond of "Little St. Nick," but the Beach Boys give a great performance of it here.

Variety.  Variety in artists.  Variety in songs.  Variety in styles.  If you enjoy that kind of variety, you will enjoy Heartfelt Holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 19 - Tony Bennett's "Snowfall: The Christmas Album"

Tony Bennett is one of those classic singers from recent decades that cannot help but be pleasing to the ear.  He has a very smooth, endearing sound for any age.

His album "Snowfall" is a great Christmas collection that can please several generations of the family.

The CD begins with "My Favorite Things," to which he gives a fine male voice.  (Sorry, ladies, for female voices you cannot beat Julie Andrews; but Tony gives an outstanding masculine vocal.)

"The Christmas Song" is next, and Tony does great with this, too!

The album includes a track that combines "I Love the Winter Weather" and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm."  Again, his smooth, classic cool style is wonderful!  (I'm still kind of partial to Dean Martin on "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," but this is thoroughly entertaining.

Even Bing's numbers, like "White Christmas" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" have a fabulous sound when Tony croons them.

Since the 1990's he has been introduced to a completely new generation of fans, and that rekindled fame is well-deserved.  "Snowfall" is a case in point.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 18 - A Very Special Christmas

Well, for some of you who have commented, I am finally posting my agreement that this is a great assortment of songs to add to your Christmas collection: A Very Special Christmas!

This disc, I believe, debuted in 1990.  Just a few words on a few tracks.

The album begins with the Pointer Sisters' exhilirating "Santa Claus is Comin to Town."  The Eurythmics follow that with a rather techno "Winter Wonderland."  Whitney Houston's "Do You Hear What I Hear" breathes a little life into what can often end up being a sleeper on other albums.  John Mellencamp gives his distinct style to "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."  

Of course, I have alluded before how much I enjoy Sting's rendition of "Gabriel's Message!"  It sounds  like it is soaring in the stone arches of a Medieval cathedral.

This album will be a lot of fun, both for the person who likes fresh twists on old songs, as well as the rock fan in your house. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 17 - NBC Celebrity Christmas

We have a number of compilations in our Christmas library.  One of those compilations is the NBC Celebrity Christmas, realeased in 2001.  While not all of these celebrities are Harry Connick, Jr.'s or Michael Buble's caliber, they are entertaining.

Sean Hayes ("Jack" from "Will and Grace") sings "The Christmas Song."  He does fine, but is no Nat "King" Cole.

Notable mention goes to Bebe Neuwirth and John Lithgow, with "Baby, It's Cold Outside."  That is probably the best track for the album, and for me, their playful rendition made it worth the purchase.

"The Coventry Carol" is sung by Alex Kingston (Dr. Elizabeth Corday on ER.)  She does a fine job on this sorrow-filled lullaby for one of the Holy Innocents.

While not our favorite, this CD does provide some nice variety for the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 16 - Our Christmas

In 1995, a collection of various CCM artists put together a Christmas album that is a nice addition to our library.  The disc begins with Michael W. Smith's "Reve du Noel."  ("Sing we now of Christmas; sing we all 'Noel'...")

Three tracks in is my favorite, a song I had not previously heard; "One Small Child."  David Meece sings this hauntingly beautiful song.  (I have heard others sing it since, and most do not do this song justice.)

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is arranged on the album with a rather Jewish "sound," in the woodwinds.  This hymn has been a favorite of mine since I was around seven.

"Angels We Have Heard on High" almost has a fun, glee club/a capella sound (although it is accompanied.)  

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" has been another favorite of mine, as long as I can remember.  Guess I am just drawn to Rennaisance era and other Old English sounds.

I am not debating here the issue of CCM styles in other contexts.  That is not the point of this blog post.  But as a Christmas CD to simply enjoy at home or in the car, this is a nice addition.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 15 - The Sinatra Christmas Album

Among the "classics" in Christmas music libraries is "the Chairman" himself, Mr. Sinatra.  This collection is from a great era when most Christmas albums were not afraid to be Christmas albums, were full of sacred carols as well as fun-filled secular numbers.

His version of "Jingle Bells" is one of the greats.  You are sure to have heard his fun spelling out of "J-i-n-g-l-e - bells" in the opening.

With "The Christmas Song," the version ingrained On everyone's mind is that of Nat "King" Cole.  Yet, Sinatra does a fine job, as well.

"The Christmas Waltz" presents a great and flowing rendition of that "song of mine, in three-quarter time."

The truth and joy of the Christmas message are witnessed in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Adeste Fideles," "Silent Night," and more.

Friday, December 7, 2012

In Bethlehem, the House of Bread: A Christmas Hymn and a Eucharistic Hymn

In Bethlehem, the House of Bread,
Jesus was born, the Church's Head.
Within the Church, the House of Bread,
Those born in Christ His flesh are fed.

The Babe wrapped up in swaddling clothes
Wraps up His Church, that she, enclosed
Within His flesh and blood may be
Clothed with divine humanity.

Archangels, angels, saints above,
Magnify Him who came in love,
To call the hungry to His Feast,
From north and south, from west and east.

The manger held the God of life,
Who came to swallow sin and strife.
Christ, let my tongue Thy manger be,
That I may swallow life in Thee.

His mother's flesh, which Christ assumed,
Is by His Virgin Bride consumed.
The Word made flesh makes her His own,
Joined flesh to flesh and bone to bone.

Born in the darkness of the night,
The Father's uncreated Light,
Illumines us with earthly wine,
Full of the glow of blood divine.

O God made man, make us in Thee
Partakers of divinity.
Feed us Thy flesh and blood, we cry;
Fill us with Thee, O God Most High.

Chad L. Bird

To be sung to the tune Bethlehem,
by Burnell F. Eckardt, Jr.

First published in the Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany 2001 issue of Gottesdienst.

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 14 - A Very Veggie Christmas

So when our son was a pre-schooler, we endured many a "Silly Song."  Today, I share an entire album of them.

"A Very Veggie Christmas" is a CD by the "Veggie Tales" gang.  Although their theology is lacking, and typically moralistic, and hits heavy on Law, rather than Gospel, when it comes to "Silly Songs," they can be a lot of fun!

Much talking goes on throughout the album, giving the feel that it is a recording from a Christmas party, or even from an intended TV Christmas special.

The songs are from "around the world," beginning with "Feliz Navidad."  This is followed by a hilarious rendition of the English "Boar's Head Carol," which is thoroughly, eruditely, and expertly explained by Archibald Asparagus.  Germany is represented by "Ring, Little Bells."

Fans of the Veggie films will recall "Can't Believe It's Christmas" from the video, "The Toy that Saved Christmas," and Larry's Silly Song, "Oh Santa!"  

Junior Asparugus sings his heart out, just like that rambunctious 5-year-old that sings his heart out at many-a-Christmas-program, in "While By My Sheep."

And the album wraps up with the "8 Polish Foods of Christmas," which all somehow include meat!

It's funny.  It's diverse.  It's silly. It is unlike any other Christmas album you own.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 13 - Mannheim Steamroller: A Fresh Aire Christmas

When I think of Christmas music from my college days, I instantly think of Mannheim Steamroller.  Chip Davis is a talented man in the realm of synthesized music, an area which may offend many of my dear friends who go beyond the virtual and play conventional instruments.  Still, it is a good series of albums.  If space permits in this series, I may return for one of the others, but today I have selected "A Fresh Aire Christmas."

The album starts off with "Hark! The Herald Trumpets Sing," a triumphant piece that serves a sort of Lutheran idea of "prelude" for the next track, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

Chip Davis has great accompanying notes with the disc.  He tells the story of "Veni, Veni."  He had heard "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," and thought that it would sound fabulous in Latin, like a bunch of monks chanting it.  He asked a friend to begin the task of translating it into Latin, when the friend started laughing, telling him the ancient song's origin.

"The Holly and the Ivy" is a great piece that sounds very medieval, like flute or recorders with a lute.

"In Dulci Jubilo" is a highlight for the disc, with the sound of drums, flute, and bells.  It very much sounds like a Renaissance-era dance.  It very much has the feel of the "Sweet Jubilation" of which it sings!

Only one track on the entire album is not sacred: "Traditions of Christmas," yet even that is classical-sounding, soothing, and sweet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Straight No Chaser - Who Spiked The Eggnog?

I forgot to mention one of the fun songs on Straight No Chaser's Christmas Cheer!  "Who Spiked the Eggnog" is an original, light-hearted song about finding the culprit at a Christmas party.  The title is self-explanatory.

Straight No Chaser - 12 Days (original from 1998)

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 12 - Straight No Chaser: Christmas Cheers

Straight No Chaser is an a cappella  group formed at Indiana University in 1996.  Around the time of their 10th anniversary, someone posted a 1998 video of their version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" on the Internet.  It went "viral," and they gained a widespread following.  The reunited group now tours and records, with their outstanding a cappella vocals.

While there are several, excellent sacred pieces, such as "O Holy Night" and "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," the album also has a variety of fun secular songs.  However, even the sacred ones can get a twist.  "We Three Kings" has this driving beat that calls "Mission: Impossible" to mind.

"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" is a family favorite.  The group does a ... well, it's not really a descant with male voices, is it?  Anyway, there is a counter-melody that blends well with the flow of the song.  It gives a fresh feel to this secular classic.

Of course, the most popular song for this group is their rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  It is a mixed-up conglomeration of many songs, adding hilarity in the variety.  Listen for other carols to find their way into the mix, as well as the Dreidel Song!  Yet the great, laugh-out-loud moment comes with Toto's "Africa."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 11 - Josh Groban: Noël

The year 2007 saw the release of Josh Groban's Noël.  This album is one on our "short list" of favorites.  Josh's style has been called "classical-crossover," and is very much suited for great sacred music.

It's hard to pick out favorite tracks on this one.  "What Child Is This" is particularly good, and has a portion where the accompaniment goes quiet and his vocals are clean, clear, and awe-inspiring.

"Little Drummer Boy" goes far beyond the typical and expected little drum.  There is almost a Celtic feel to it.  Great percussion and soaring vocals take a song that can be a bit of a sleeper on some albums, and makes it memorable.

"Panis Angelicus" is a great Latin hymn.  How many artists will take a risk and sing a Latin song on their contemporary album?  Josh Groban does, and does it splendidly!  The title means "Bread of Angels," and while (strictly speaking)it is not a Christmas hymn, you can make allusions to "Bethlehem" meaning "House of Bread," where Jesus, the Bread from heaven was born.

Yes, Josh Groban is yet another powerful and great male vocalist in our Christmas  list of favorites!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 10 - Christmas With Julie Andrews

One of the memorable voices for Disney fans such as ourselves is that of Dame Julie Andrews.  Whether you first fall in love with her accent, crisp pronunciation and enunciation, her broad vocal range, or just her kind, "practically perfect in every way" aura, Julie Andrews is a wonderful performer to have in your Christmas discs.

Christmas With Julie Andrews begings with putting the "triumphant" in "joyful and triumphant" in "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful!"  Her soaring vocals along with he orchestra might be a bit much for some, but for Julie Andrews' fans, it is majestic!

My first memory of "See Amid the Winter Snow" (or at least when I first paid attention to it) was this album.  Now, you can sing along with Dame Julie, if you pick up your copy of Lutheran Service Book.  

"Patapan" is a family favorite.  For some reason, in the late 1990's, the woodwinds and percussion of this number made our musical baby thrilled!  He enjoyed the song somuchthatwe repeated it on the CD often.

"In the Bleak Midwinter," "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Hark,the Herald Angels Sing, and "Away in a Manger" add to a great collection of sacred songs.

For some, Julie Andrews' music can seem over-the-top.  Yet in the Heinz household, Disney nuts and Julie Andrews fans that we are, this album is simply "supercallifragilisticeialidocious!"

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 9 -- Natalie Cole: Christmas With You

For many, Nat "King" Cole's "The Christmas Song" is one of the all-time favorites.  His daughter, Natalie, is a marvelous artist in her own right, and has a beautiful addition to many Christmas collections.

The album starts off with "The Christmas Song," and thanks to the wonders of technology, her voice is edited in with her late father's, to make a fine duet.

Humor is interjected with her version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," (although I would personally leave that to either The Muppets or Straight No Chaser.

The London Symphony Orchestra is also featured on the album, and does a majestic arrangement of "Gesu Bambino."

"What Child Is This," "Sweet Little Jesus Boy," and "Silent Night" round this out into a fine disc for anyone's music library.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 8 - Glenn Miller Orchestra: In the Christmas Mood

Another fun genre of music comes from the Big Band/Swing era.  Benny Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, Jimmy Dorsey, and others are all fabulous, but perhaps most iconic of such music is Benny Goodman.

In the Christmas Mood is a great album put together by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  From the fun opening number of "Sleigh Ride" to "Frosty the Snowman," from a couple sacred medleys, to "Silent Night," the fun energy of the brass and woodwinds of this orchestra is sure to please, and put you in the Christmas Mood!