Craft Recordings releases a Holiday album with a diverse representation.
Various Artists – Holidays Rule – Hear Music/Concord Music Group/2012/Craft Recordings CR00341 translucent red stereo double vinyl, 59:41 ****1/2:
(Featuring The Shins; fun; Rufus Wainwright & Sharon Van Etten; Paul McCartney; Black Prairie with Sallie Ford; The Civil Wars; Calexico; AgesandAges; Holly Golightly; Irma Thompson with Preservation Hall Jazz Band; Heartless Bastards; Eleanor Friedberger; Fruit Bats; Y La Bamba; Punch Brothers; The Head And The Heart; Andrew Bird)
Perhaps the most enduring aspect to the Holidays is the diversity. While the genre was rooted in classical and folk-inspired traditional structures, Holiday music has become a staple of contemporary popular music. Whether it’s Bing Crosby “crooning” “White Christmas” or “Sleigh Ride” by the Ronettes, there is usually something for everyone. Artist’s like John Lennon, Frank Sinatra, Mariah Carey, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen and even The Chipmunks have contributed to this cultural phenomenon. Different styles, including pop, classical, folk, country, jazz and blues embrace this accessible “feel good” tradition.
Craft Recordings has released a re-mastered translucent red double vinyl of a unique 2012 compilation, Holidays Rule. Utilizing rock, pop, jazz and especially indie arrangements, this album has a different vibe. Produced by acclaimed film musical director Sara Matarazzo and Decembrist veteran Chris Funk, the album interprets this seasonal music with a decidedly modern vision. Side A opens with the perennial classic, “Sleigh Ride”. This is an interesting arrangement by Andrew Dost, performed by fun. It is amenable and festive with plenty of strings and a techno-drum. None other than indie icon The Shins take on Paul McCartney’s genial pop ditty, “Wonderful Christmas”. Sleigh bells, layered vocals and steady percussion frame a relaxed jaunty tempo capturing the innate appeal of the composition. One of the highlights of Holiday Rules is the duet (Rufus Wainwright & Sharon Van Ette) on “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. It’s very traditional and jazzy, consistent with earlier covers. Both singers have stellar voices and distill the sexy context combining in perfect musical dialogue. Andy Burton’s piano is captivating. McCartney channels pop balladry on his version of “The Christmas Song’. He is backed by an all-star quartet that includes Diana Krall and John Pizzarelli. Their accompaniment provides jazzy aesthetics.
Producer Funk joins Black Prairie (Side B) for a musically alternative translation of the early 1950’s hit, “(Everybody’s Waiting For) The Man With The Bag”. Accordion, banjo and horns give a spirited backdrop to Sallie Ford’s incandescent vocals. The Civil Wars selected a traditional song from 1863 (based on a Longfellow poem). With exquisite two-part harmony (Joy Williams/John Paul White), it has a bluegrass resonance with a haunting plaintive melody. In another folk-infused translation, Calexico embraces traditional (England) and Mexican genres with subtle touches including a rootsy trumpet chorus. In keeping with the fresh song reinvention, AgesandAges seem to look to The Beach Boys for inspiration in the layered vocals on this obscure song from the Broadway show, Mame. Side C kicks off with Holly Golightly dreamy, swaying take on the romantic, “That’s What I Want For Christmas”. Irma Thomas and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band swing on “May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas”. Thomas’ soulful delivery is compelling and the instrumentation is sophisticated. Heartless Bastards distills the loping country heartache of the Elvis Presley hit, “Blue Christmas”. Picking up the pace, Eleanor Friedberger injects vitality and attitude into the rock and roll (Elvis again) opus. “Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me”. The spooky coda (with vibraphone) adds another texture. A country twanged performance of “It’s Beginning To Look A lot Like Christmas” rounds out this side.
Y La Bamba breathe Mexican life into the pop standard, “Señor Santa (Mister Santa)”. With classical acoustic guitar, ukulele and accordion adding to a subtle tapestry, an emotional vocal (Luz Elena Mendoza) seals the deal. The end of the song has some familiar backup vocals. Punch Brothers offer a straightforward hymnal interpretation (“ O Come, O Come Emmanuel”) , framed by Chris Thile’s skilled mandolin and pure tenor voice. Transitioning to the next holiday, the final two cuts (“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve”/“Auld Lang Syne”) alternate 3/4-time whimsy on the former and unadulterated bluegrass swing on the latter.
With so many holiday-themed albums out, it is refreshing to experience something different with Holidays Rule. The re-mastered sound is excellent with great stereo separation. This vinyl is available in two different colored vinyl formats.
Side A: Sleigh Ride; Wonderful Christmastime; Baby It’s Cold Outside; The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
Side B: (Everybody’s Waiting’ For) The Man With The Bag; I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day; Green Grows The Holly; We Need A Little Christmas
Side C: That’s What I Want For Christmas; May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas; Blue Christmas; Santa, Bring My Baby Back To Me; It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas
Side D: Senor Santa (Mister Santa); O Come, O Come Emmanuel; What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?; Auld Land Syne.
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