New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 19, 1996, New Braunfels, Texas
Herald-Zeitung g Thursday, December 19,1996 g 7
AttractionsWorld of Music: Christmas Offerings
By John Godfrey Copley News Service
It’s hard to put a new spin on the Christmas carols we’ve been listening to since our manger days, but that doesn’t seem to discourage anyone from trying. Whether it’s with synthesizers, vibraphones, mandolins or steel guitars, musicians everywhere are convinced we haven’t heard “Do You Hear What I Hear?” until we’ve heard their version.
If you don’t get your fill of holiday music from department store tape loops, check out this year’s yuletide offerings - there’s a jingle for everyone on your shopping list.
IRREVERENT, IRONIC, INTENTIONALLY IDIOTIC
The shining star of the season is Juan Garcia Esquivel's “Merry Xmas From the Space-Age Bachelor Pad” (Bar/None), a collection of holiday favorites rendered in Esquivel’s inimitable cocktail party exuberance. Complete with oppressive xylophone fills and Space Age scats - “zu-zu-zoom!” - the 12 remastered carols on this album bring a George-Jetson-meets-Kris-Kringle aesthetic to the holidays.
Geffen’s “Just Say Noel” is undoubtedly the hippest Christmas album of the season.
Esquivel’s ovcr-the-top “Frosty the Snowman,’* and whimsically overwrought “White Christmas,” will cheer even the most jaded cynic underneath your mistletoe.
lf your tribe collapses in front of the boob tube during holiday outings, you might try luring them away from the set by blasting “A Classic Cartoon Christmas’’ (Nick at Nite/550 Music). This cheery collection comprises 14 cartoon tunes, including “Welcome Christmas” (from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”); “We’re a Couple of Misfits” (from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”); and “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” (from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”).
With performances by Fred Astaire, Burl Ives and Jimmy D'jrante, “A Classic Cartoon Christmas” won't scare Grandma away, either.
Geffen’s “Just Say Noel” is undoubtedly the hippest Christmas album of the season. With new performances by Beck (“The Little Drum Machine Boy”), the Roots (“Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa”), and Sonic Youth (“Santa Doesn’t Cop Out on Dope”), this alternative-rock compilation features strong work by some of Geffen’s best artists.
This is one Christmas album your slacker teen-ager might actually appreciate receiving from Santa.
The Bobs’ “Too Many Santas” (Rounder) is a noteworthy addition to the Christmas album wars, if only because it manages to avoid the standard yuletide fare. The irreverent all-vocal group delivers a collection of originals (“Yuleman vs. the Anti-Claus,” “Fifty Kilowatt Tree”) and lesser-known holiday songs
with aplomb, panache and, unfortunately, too much self-congratulation.
These guys are in love with themselves, and it shows.
Of the countless Christmas compilations and reissues available this year, Schoolkids Records’ “Blame it on Christmas” stands alone. Probably because nobody else wanted to stand near it. This wacky assortment of low-budget spoofs includes the kind of material that works its way on to morning radio programs. Tacky, tasteless and pretty funny.
As Led Zeppelin pointed out, the song remains the same. And so do the Christmas carols. There seem to be about 25 Christmas “classics” everybody covers every year, ad nauseam, minus originality. Sometimes, though, a new interpretation breathes life into a carol, even those wearing “do not resuscitate” bracelets.
JAZZING IT UP
“World Christmas” (Metro Blue) features an eclectic array of sparkling musicians, and is the album most likely to make Ebenezer Scrooge enjoy Christmas music again.
Kicking off with Papa Wemba and Mino Cinelu’s Frenchified “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and closing with the Gipsy Kings’ rousing “Navidad,” “World Christmas” is heavy on African rhythms and free-flowing improvisation.
The Caribbean Jazz Project’s 7:40 cover of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” actually makes that dopey song sound elegant.
Two jazz albums - “A Vibraphonic Christmas”
(Hollywood), and “Bending Towards the Light: A Jazz Nativity” (Milan Entertainment) -are completely different and thoroughly engrossing. The British acid jazz group Vibraphonic brings a funk-pop bounce to its covers of “Jingle Bells,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and the like - it’s like a shot of espresso dropped in your
“Bending Towards the Light,” on the other hand, is equal parts jazz, blues and gospel. Recorded live in New York City, it features Lionel Hampton, Tito Puente and many others as they build toward a sacramental performance of “Deck the Halls.”
Yet another jazz affair, John Pizzarelli’s “Let’s Share Christmas” (RCA), is a time warp of sorts. His 1940s hipster take on “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are an amalgam of Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme and his nouveau other self, Harry Connick Jr. Lush and evocative, this one is quite a treat.
Three country Christmas recordings demonstrate a remarkable degree of disparity.
Shenandoah’s “Shenandoah Christmas” (Capitol Nashville) is pure retro, pure tradition; but thanks to Marty Raybon’s gritty authenticity, it works. Conversely, Collin Raye’s “Collin Raye Christmas: The Gift” (Epic) features many of the same songs, but almost none of the simple beauty. Raye is country music’s answer to Michael Bolton - a talented blowhard who
chronically over-emotes. Also available: Alabama’s “Christmas Vol. 2” (RCA) digs a little deeper to find yuletide music, including a
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handful of originals.
For an adventurous country Christmas, check out the virtuoso performances on Nashville Mandolin Ensemble’s “Gifts” (Columbia). With a touch of Celtic poetry and Nashville twang, this ensemble breaks with tradition and scores big with “Christmas in County Kerry,” “Dance of the Mirlitons” and others.
Kitaro’s “Peace on Earth” (Domo Recordings) is everything we’ve come to expect from the
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Breuitedt Coffee Haus Is proud to present a musical duo from KLRN’s hit kids TV show “Cat Paws.”
Steve Sellers along with David Pipes will perform holiday tunes as well as favorites from the show. Don't be surprised if some “Cat Paws" friends sneak ini
For a Spec ut I Musical Treat, local artist Becky LaLanne will play from H:OOpn\ until 10:00pm
• 160 Hwy. 46 South @ IH 35 • 629-8033 •
'Due to the anticipated crowd, please arrive early as seating is limited.
Bearded One - majestic, wellmeaning, tinny and cloying. Incorporating the youthful International Peace Choir helps add texture, but not enough.
The Schola Cantorum of St. Peter’s “The Chant of Christmas Midnight” (Imaginary Road) brings a seasonal spin to the whole “chant” craze, lf you went
for the Benedictine monks, you’ll probably go for this, too. But festive, it is not.
Puerto Rican guitar whiz Yomo Toro brings salsa pizazz to December with his “Celebremos Navidad” (Ashe), a bilingual Christmas album designed to get you up and dancing.
(c) Copley News Service 1996
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