Sheryl Crow - Home For Christmas
OK, if all goes to plan, I should be done with DDMadonna in the next month, and I'm pretty familiar with her new albums anyway so it should be easy.
AND obviously I'm doing Kate Bush after New Year, but I thought in the meantime I would take a look at some of the banshee Xmas albums.
I need your help a bit to pick which ones to do - I'm only really considering doing about 4 but if there are any GLARING omissions then I am glad to reconsider things.
I was going to do:
Sarah McLachlan - Wintersong
Aimee Mann - Another drifter in the snow
Jewel - Joy
Tori Amos - Whatever her new one is called
Any other ideas? I am not against subbing Jewel for something else, as I reckon it may be the HEIGHT of TEDIUM
I'm from N.E.R.D
Aren't you BRITNEY
Jewel's O Holy Night is lovely actually.
Not one of her finest monets but:
errr, the jewel one is the best, one time of year her twee-ity isn't utterly incongruous with reality
As albums the Aimee and Sarah ones are the best
"Wintersong" is GLORIOUS
I'm already listening to it regularly
I think December 1st is the earliest I'm going to go
Two or three weeks should do it
I enjoy the Aimee Mann and Sheryl Crow efforts. Tori's 'Midwinter Graces' is making it's way to me but I hear it's pretty good. Both Jewel and Cyndi Lauper's albums have their fine moments too.
Thea Gilmore has released one this year too, 'Strange Communion', which is positoned on Aimee's side of the Christmas church and is enjoyable in a miserable kinda way.
Other banshees have recorded Christmas themed songs if not albums that are well worth listening to. Off the top of my head I enjoy :
'20th of December Madison Avenue' - Lisa Miskovsky
'Always Christmas' - Heather Nova
'Christmas' - Leona Naess
'A Christmas Duel' - The Hives v Cyndi Lauper
'River' - Joni Mitchell
oh I purchased Thea Gilmore's Strange Communion last week and I'm really loving it. A combination of dark chilly acoustics and festive ditties. Somewhere between Sarah McLachlan and Kirsty MacColl.
Tori's is quite LOVELY.
i don't believe in love but i believe in you
buy my new book, got rent to pay
Oh lord, this seemed a good idea at the time...
In an effort to get a bit more FESTIVE this year rather than Grinchtastic OH EIGHT, I thought I might finally listen to some Christmas albums. I've usually given them a wide berth, I'm not really a fan of Christmas music, so I thought a more alternative intro might help.
As luck would have it, after my little mission into the land of Tori she picked this year to release her first holiday album. To go along with it, I picked out a handful of other banshees (some more banshee than others) and immersed myself in their Christmassy leavings (ew).
Will do these one at a time, when I can stomach it
OK let's get this going with a nice twee start. So clearly it's JEWEL TIME.
Let's go back to 1999, just after Spirit. She hadn't started fluctuating between failed slut and tedious country yet, and was on a bit of a roll. America lapped this up and it went Platinum.
Unsurprisingly she goes down the wholesome God-bothering traditional route, with a majority of the tracks going to tried-and-tested Christmas standards.
To give her credit, her voice is on top form here hitting the choir notes perfectly, and that really makes some of these tracks.
Joy to the world is a rather duff rendition competently sang but a bit too Dickensian for my taste, I can imagine the period drama setting already. O Holy Night ditches the choir and really shows how pure and lovely her voice can be and is an early highlight of the album.
Silent Night keeps us in the rather suffocating carol-singer territory, but again it's quite simple if utterly boring. Luckily she then strays into more contemporary circles (sort of) with Winter Wonderland. Twee still but really suits her again, I can imagine her being wet enough to frolick in the snow in the village park or whatever. Shame she detours into country SCAT (not that kind) with her zoiby-bointy ad libs .. awful, but more on THAT later.
O little town of Bethlehem doesn't exactly excite, just filler until the next little gem of Ave Maria. I hadn't got that down as something to be excited about, but her voice is just gorgeous on here. A whole album would have been a bit much, but I'm sure she could have found some better filler ... still, a highlight.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing is still alright but it's wearing a bit thin by now. Nice enough but I'm over it.
So Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. UTTER SHIT. Quirky does NOT SUIT her, especially on this load of bollocks. Mercifully it's over in 2 minutes.
Face of Love, I see she wrote this, is it an original? I really like this, bit of a slow start but it's got a solid chorus. Finally a glimpse of the Jewel I loved so much from Spirit. Not sure why they didn't try to promote this as a single really, she was hot shit then wasn't she?
A medley then, 6 minutes ... JOY. Proper Christian rock-sounding fare to start with Go tell it to the mountain, I don't hate it, reminds me of Ally McBeal really but not my thing (though when this was released I had bought a Vonda Shepard solo album for my sins). A bit of From a Distance too, I forget who does this but I always thought it was a lovely song, would have been worth covering it on its own. But barely a minute later we are into Life Uncommon from Spirit. It's a nice new version but not really miles from the original, good song though.
Another mini-interlude with Wonder as I wander, not really worth commenting on, blah. Gloria closes the album (bonus tracks aside), another choral piece which she does wonderfully. Not quite Ave Maria but lovely all the same.
Then a bonus of a Hands Christmas version (i.e. with Sleigh bells and choir). Still, it's a great song before we start, and the very minor interventions don't change that. The chorus with the choir at the halfway point does add a little festive glitter so I can't complain.
I found it hard to write a lot about this album really, it's very safe. I don't blame her of course, that's exactly what this was supposed to be, and she carried it off well. It is a lot to go through all at once though. It just makes me want to listen to Spirit again.
Oh no I was familiar of this through the Nanci Griffith version, my parents love it
She's an odd looking lady, a bit like Sissy Spacek
Time for the second of my banshee Xmas albums now, and a first for me. I owned Lost in Space for a little while but I didn't click with it, so One More Drifter In The Snow is the first Aimee Mann album I've really scrutinised.
I don't know why this was pitched to me like some sort sarcastic depressing anti-Xmas record. I mean of course it's much less sentimental than the sort of thing Jewel and Sarah McL would put out, but I don't find it particular unfestive.
Anyway enough of that, LET'S BEGIN.
I do prefer a lot of it to Jewel's more traditional festive standards, her voice is nice and rich, makes me feel more Christmassy where Jewel made me feel more CHURCHY. Can't say I know Whatever Happened to Christmas, and to be honest I don't really get what it's all about - to me, Christmas always seems pretty much the same. But still, a nice tune.
The Christmas Song (I didn't know that was the real name) is more familiar, I think one of my favourite Christmas songs. Very warm and fuzzy performed in a rather kitschy 50s-feeling key. Not much deviation from the previous track but I like it a lot more.
Christmastime, don't recognise it. A bit too jaunty, don't really like the pacing of it. Rather cruddy rhyming skillz .. it's alright, what serves as a chorus is pretty decent.
I'll be home for Christmas takes a while to get into it, ending up with another sort of country-tinged log cabin feel about it. Her voice is starting to get a bit boring by this point, which isn't great in such a short album. Bit of a nonstarter.
You're a mean one Mr Grinch sticks out like a sore thumb, in a great way. I love this so much, Seussian language really set it off. Your BRAIN is full of spiders. I love that narrator guy who steals the show really. STINK STANK STUUUUNK. The final chorus is just something else You're a THREE-DECKER Sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich ... with ARSENIC SAUUUUUUCE. Amazing.
Winter Wonderland is the first track in common with Jewel's effort. Again I can really imagine this in some cruddy bar in the American mid-West or something, perpetually stuck in the 50s. It's a classic song so she doesn't cause too much damage. Less sickly than Jewel's version, a highlight of the album.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas is one of the all-time best I reckon, and she delivers the goods. It's not the best of the versions I've heard but she has a lot of warmth in her voice that makes up for the lack of range. Still lovely.
Not sure God rest ye merry gentlemen really fits in, first bit of actual religious content here which seems oddly jarring here. A rather stern-sounding brass band backing rather deadpan delivery by Aimee. A bit of a different one, not sure if that's in a good way though.
White Christmas is another seminal Xmas standard, oddly not touched by the other banshees. I think maybe her voice doesn't quite carry it off. Pretty by-the-book rendition, doesn't really add much to it.
Calling on Mary is a new one to me, I do like the "Merry Christmas" refrain. I guess this is supposed to be one of the rather disillusioned tracks but it just sounds bored more than anything. It's pretty decent though, just doesn't really excite me. Picks up towards the end though, I wish some of the more filler tracks were a bit more like this.
So the verdict, I like Aimee's voice but this is just a bit much. The first time I listened to this was pretty good but now it just feels a bit samey. Not really very alternative, just feels like she can't keep up with what seems to be a normal Christmas album pretending not to play along.
Christmastime and Calling On Mary are Aimee's own songs, the latter is gorgeous. I adore her version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Like all Aimee Mann's albums the great parts only reveal themselves with repeated listens...in other words start playing Lost In Space again.
Now on to Sarah McLachlan, who I did have a proper thing for about 10 years ago. I loved Adia and after a time got Mirrorball which I still love to bits. A whole album that I've loved has been elusive though, and I'm not sure I'm quite there with Sarah.
But how will she fare with a Christmas album? I do love her voice, and I expected her to be somewhere between twee Jewel and left-of-centre Aimee. Wasn't far off really.
Happy Xmas (War is over): Love this, the song is OK but one of those songs you could never get away from. A fresh voice is just what I needed and it really works for me, a few sleigh bells in there too and it just hits all my festive buttons. HO HO HO
What child is this: Mm not so sure about this, more hymny and religious and just bores the socks off me. Just sort of drifts along without too much incident. I like her voice but that's about it. Zzzz
River: Now I had this one for a year or so, I never really think of it much as a Christmas song for some reason. Gorgeous, feels pretty typical Sarah fare and not too sappy as so many of these songs are tempted to be. Back in snuggly big jumpers and festive cheer now, gorgeous.
Wintersong: The title track now, very minimal with a lovely piano centerpiece. I love her voice on shit like this, her tone is just like an aural HUG. A bit depressing all things said, but still lovely. I hate how she pronounces Murrrrning though.
I'll be home for Christmas: Lovely but just a bit of a drag all things said and done. Blahhhh
O little town of Bethlehem: Back to the carols now, with a rather odd sparse intro. Again I'm not THAT interested but it's a nice enough rendition.
The First Noel/Mary Mary: Noeeeelllll I love when she goes all operatic, and that's a pretty killer start. I think this is one of the more intriguing-sounding songs on the album, "mmm yes pretty little baby". The "glory be to the new born KING" bits are oddly sinister, like when there's a proper YAY song in a Disney movie and the baddie is repeating the last line from the shadows as if to say "enjoy this, i'll slit your throat soon enough" .. maybe I'm reading too much into it. But anyway LOVE IT.
Silent Night: Did we need another version of this? Well whatever, sounds PRECISELY like you would except. I can't even laugh at the word VIRGIN like I did at school . Competent rendition, but so what?
Song for a winter's night. Bit of a weird vocoder Sparky's Magic Piano thing going on here, a little creepy. It's quite a sweet song though, sounds like a regular Sarah song which can't normally be a bad thing.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas: LOVE THIS SONG in all its forms, and happily I'll be 'treated' to three versions of it by all my banshees bar Jewel. Gorgeous song and her voice is lovely as ever so how can it go wrong? My yuletide is certainly a bit gayer as a result of this song.
In the bleak midwinter: Not sure I recognise this one, but it seems alright. A bit ploddy, but tuneful enough. Zzzz
Christmas time is here (with Diana Krall): Is this a duet? Where is Diana, on piano? What's the POINT? Loads of people can play the piano! Seems like a rubbish excuse for some dreary jazz-tinged boredom... bit of a boring finish.
Well there we have it, I think this just about has the edge on the other two, but I'm beginning to think I just don't SUIT Christmas albums. I'm almost relieved that it's nearly over now, but who is left?.... only old Torn Anus herself Wish me luck.
Wintersong is probably my favourite Christmas album of all time.
OK I just want RID of this bloody Xmas album thing, it was a horrible idea that I shall never repeat *does Diddy does Xmas Divas next year*.
As if to hammer the point home I'm finishing with bloody TORI now. If anyone's going to be a downer at Christmas, or have a scene and ruin Christmas dinner, it's HER. So let's see what she has to offer...
What Child Nowell: Actually nice to hear old-school Tori's baroque-sounding songs back again. No amount of sleighbells will make this xmassy though, but it is a pleasant listen and as such makes it as good as at least half of her recorded output.
Star of Wonder: A bit of a tinker with an song I remember doing at school. This really does feel like a normal Tori album, which is comforting in a way. If she was in front of a log fire with a patterned jumper and a Christmas tree I would worry, but as it is she's floating like a Stretch Armstrong on the cover so all is normal. Ten points for using "solar fire" as a lyric in a Christmas song though
A silent night with you: A new song I take it, what shit lyrics though, "the radio plays my holiday faves" .. useless. But it's not that bad tune-wise, turns almost festive towards the end, imagine that!
Candle- Coventry carol: Brass band gets wheeled in for this headache of a song about a candle. NO THANKS *skip*
Holly, Ivy and Rose: I rather like this, and I'm oddly fascinated by the inclusion of her daughter too, she has a distinctive vocal style. A little of that feels a bit like echoes of MOMMY, god knows how that kid is going to turn up. The song is a bit of a slow starter but it's alright.
Harps of gold: Disappointed that this isn't a Christmas remake of the Esther Rantzen theme tune Hearts of gold, but whatever. Bit of a non-event but it's quite uptempo, I just can't understand what she's saying (as PER)
Snow Angel: Finally something feeling a bit more wintery, but just feels a bit like a standard Tori album. Am I the only one thinking this? This sort of drifts along, not making much impact. NEEEXT.
Jeanette Isabella: Did I put The Beekeeper on by accident? She's all very pleasant and tinkly here, and I'm feeling bored senseless. Are you SURE this isn't The Beekeeper?
Pink and Glitter: Sorry what? When did she suddenly do Big Band? In the middle of a holiday album too, of all places. Still, a bit of excitement (to a degree) at least. It's not that bad, especially as I hate Big Band. I can't really imagine Tori wanting to shower the world in pink and glitter though. Decent enough.
Emmanuel: Oh god can I stop yet? Droney blah blah blah. I can do without this.
Winter's Carol: This is definitely 00's Tori behind the wheel now, despite the promise of the first track. Still, this isn't that bad, more Scarlet's Walk than anything which isn't an entirely bad thing. Dramatic piano and bizarre stereo singing breakdown. Quite like it.
Our new year: Thank god this is the end. A nice New Year song, why don't people do more of those? Feels like it's going to build to something, finally making it in the last minute. Nice epic strings, lovely! Why couldn't the rest have been like this?
Have yourself a merry little Christmas: A little addition by me here, not on the actual album, but it's possibly my favourite of the three renditions of it. Spooky and ethereal but softening into my favourite Christmas carol-type song. Sounds like a Little Earthquakes for a time, I love it. I think this song is really unwreckable, gorgeous. I do love how she leaves the "... gayyyy" bit hanging too, I don't know why, call me immature
OH GOD IT'S OVER. I wondered how to compare Tori's effort to the others, but it's hardly worth it. I think it's a bit of a stretch to even think of this as a Christmas album, it just feels like business as usual for a Tori album. A bit of a mishmash of styles though, feeling like she takes from a number of her previous albums.
Nice try (i think), but ultimately more Frankenstein than frankincense.
You should have did Diddy Does Christmas Albums, why limit it to banshees
The traditional Xmassy fare would be much more jolly and festive
Though good Xmas albums are very thin on the ground
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