Holiday music countdown: Canadian Bubl croons Christmas tunes
1. Michael Bubl "Christmas," Reprise. It's not often that America welcomes winter wind from Canada. Exceptions are made when it's classic Christmas crooning channeled con Connick Jr. (Harry) or synthesized stylizing ala Sinatra (Frank). And who can blame Michael Bubl for formulating from two of the best saloon singers of the 20th and 21st century? Had he emulated the voice of Curt Cobain or Ozzy Osbourne, Bubl's bubbles would not have been broadcasted beyond the borders of Canada.
Covering Christmas classics may prove to be a strategic career move as more males are destined to get their first introduction to Bubl's music under the influence of alcohol and mistletoe. It doesn't take three wise men to know that this is a smart move.
2. Tommy Emmanuel, "All I Want for Christmas," Favored Nations. With a surname like "Emmanuel," you might well wonder why this unique finger-picking Australian guitarist waited more than half a century to record his first Christmas album. Maybe he got the idea from his childhood hero Chet Atkins who personally awarded Tommy Emmanuel the title of "c.g.p./Certified Guitar Player Award" in 1999. "All I Want for Christmas" is a mood-setting acoustic guitar album with occasional orchestration that does not distract from the beautiful calmness of this Christmas chestnut.
3. Carole King, "A Holiday Carole," Hear Music, Concord Music Group. This is the first Christmas album from the Grammy award winning singer songwriter and her first studio album in 10 years. King's voice has been woven into the Tapestry of the American music scene for more than four decades. Her songwriting goes back even further. Carole's daughter, Louise, co- wrote three original songs for the album that she both encouraged and produced for her mother. One of her songs, "Chanukah Prayer," is especially meaningful to Carole as she learned these prayers from her parents as they did from her grandparents. This heartfelt jazz tinged song unites the Goffin/King family vocals of Carole, her daughter and her grandson.
4. Mark O'Connor, "An Appalachian Christmas," OMAC-16 Records. As a winner of the Grand Masters Fiddle Championship at the age of 13, National Flatpick Guitar Champion at 14 and World Mandolin Champion at 19, you expect Mark O'Connor to let his fingers do the talking. But when he needs a vocalist, he flat-out picks the best in that field too. The Grammy award-winner Shanghaied James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Jane Monheit and Renee Fleming for this holiday hearth hugging harbor and Appalachian sleigh ride. When he is in need of a second fiddle or cello to be more exact, he plucks Yo Yo Ma to further fuel this Christmas Yule.
5. Mannheim Steamroller-Chip Davis, "Christmas Symphony," American Gramaphone. Newly orchestrated symphonic arrangements of stellar sonic seasonal songs by the number one selling Christmas ensemble of all time. Chip Davis has made music history by combining renaissance instruments with rock 'n' roll beats resulting in the sales of 35 million Christmas albums since 1984.
6. Glee Cast, "The Christmas Album-Volume 2," Columbia Records. Nothing promotes the spirit of Christmas like a Glee Club singing, swinging and working in harmony. Don't be fooled by the "Volume 2" title. These are not afterthoughts or leftovers. This is a feast of festival music set up and served at the grownup table.
7. She & Him, "A Very She & Him Christmas," Merge Records. Indie recording artists Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward keep their street credibility with this minimalistic and seductively charming Christmas album. Zooey is the star of Fox TV's sitcom "New Girl." It would appear that the Fox network kept its corporate corrupting fingers out of fine tuning this fine figgy Christmas pudding. It's really cool Yule.
8. Jersey Boys, "Seasons Greetings: A Jersey Boys Christmas," Rhino. Cast members from the Broadway, London, Australian, Las Vegas and National Touring troop of "Jersey Boys" recorded the first ever Holiday Album from a Broadway Show. Not to be confused with Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi, these Jersey Boys are based on the Four Seasons pop group and have nothing to do with Antonio Vivaldi's swell musical composition that is also named "Four Seasons." You know, this is the group that was fronted by Frankie Valli who sang hit songs like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like A Man," (ironically sung in the falsetto voice of a girl.) Being produced by the Four Season's original producer Bob Gaudi seamlessly welds the hit cast with the signature sound that challenged the Beatles. Just like the Jersey Mafia, these Jersey Boys have another hit on their hands.
9. Strange Tones, "Crime-A-Billy Christmas," Meteor Sonic Records. "Guitar Julie" Strange and husband bassist Andy rock traditional Christmas tunes with their Northwest roots rock-a-billy surf blues home brew. They are the best at what they do because they are the only ones that do what they do. Andy's parents and grandparents were long time residents of Walla Walla. His father, Dr. William Strange, taught a popular music course on Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix at the University of Oregon.
10. Chicago, "O Christmas Three." Christmas gets Chicagocized by America's best selling "rock band with horns." Dolly Parton, America, Steve Cropper (from Booker T & the MGs and The Blues Brothers Band) and Bebe Winans join the legendary band that Billboard magazine has called "the top American rock group of all time." This is their 33rd record and third Christmas album leading to the title "O Christmas Three." 25 of their 32 albums have been certified platinum status in sales. Chicago is the first American rock band to chart top 40 albums in 5 decades. "O Christmas Three" just might be their sleigh ride into a record breaking sixth decade.
11. Ellis Marsalis, "A New Orleans Christmas Carol," ELM Records. Elder monarch of the Marsalis music dynasty, 75 year old Ellis has gifted us with a Christmas jazz gumbo that is as smooth, soothing, sweet and satisfying as a New Orleans hurricane (rum ringing drink not the numb stinging storm.)
12. Libera, "The Christmas Album," EMI. Five perfect princes of harmony celebrate Christmas like celestial cherub chiropractors spinning the universe back in to perfect alignment.
Jim McGuinn owns and operates Hot Poop Music and Stereo Shop at 210 E. Main St., Walla Walla. For more information, call 509-525-9080, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online see www.hotpoop.com/ .