I noticed that pretty much everybody picked up the story about wrestling's Mick Foley recording a Christmas album with Country singer Shooter Jennings. But it doesn't look as though anybody followed up on the movie. "I Am Santa Claus" is a Morgan Spurlock documentary following the lives of four Santas (five, if you count Mick) the rest of the year. You can pre-order the DVD (due out November 11) on Amazon. It's no "Jingle Bell Rocks!", but it looks like fun.
Get it? Get Kat. Kit Kat. Oh, for crying out loud, just listen to the song.
I was waiting for the hard copy CDs to be available before bringing your attention back around to my personal most anticipated release of the holiday season. Kat Tingey's "Ring Out, Wild Bells" was available as a digital download as of October 6. Hard copy CDs arrived about a week later. Combining beautiful originals with fresh arrangements of holiday favorites, the album should have broad appeal.
Easy standouts include the title track and the Bluesy "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch". Maybe my favorite "Grinch" since the original. "Sleep Now, Little Baby" is another personal favorite. "Breath of Heaven" is gorgeous. I love the arrangement on "Angels We Have Heard On High", which takes the song to a new place without losing familiarity or impact. Even a song like "Jolly Old St. Nicholas," which I don't generally care for, is done up sweet and fun, with an old timey ragtime feel, aided greatly by Ryan Tilby's banjo and Aaron Ashton's fiddle. Kat waltzes easily throughout the record from smile inducing fun to uplifting and heart touching spirituality.
You can preview the entire album at Kat's web site. Digital downloads are available from iTunes and Amazon (and from Kat, of course) and you'll find hard copy CDs on sale on Kat's web site and through CD Baby.
If you like your rock and roll old school, say hello to Annie Marie Lewis. Annie Marie, billed as the Princess of Rock N Roll, is the niece of the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis. When Annie Marie released her debut solo album, "Heart To Heart", in 2009, she was using her given name--Annie Marie Dolan. Prior to that, she'd sung and toured with her mother (Jerry Lee's brother) Linda Gail Lewis as one of the Lewis 3. I guess when you reach a certain age in the family, you get to use the Lewis name because that's what Annie Marie is doing, now. She has another studio set expected to drop in 2015 and a Christmas album due out December 2 on Cleopatra. For both albums, she's working with Rockabilly guitar great Danny B. Harvey. The Christmas set is titled "A Rock N Roll Christmas In The USA". No song samples, yet, but, if her first solo effort is any guide, she really does capture that old school Rockabilly/Country Rock sound perfectly, though she doesn't quite have the power (IMHO) of a Wanda Jackson. Me, personally, though...I can't resist new old school that sounds that authentic. It's like sitting in at Sun Studios back in the day.
1. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
2. Santa Baby
3. Rock n' Roll Christmas
4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
5. Santa Claus is Back In Town
6. Frosty The Snowman
7. Deck The Halls
8. Hush Lil' Baby (Merry Christmas)
9. O Come All Ye Faithful
10. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
11. The First Noel
12. Blue Christmas
13. Little Drummer Boy
14. Merry Christmas Baby
Speaking of authentic old school sounds, fans of traditional Jazz vocals have two new entrants in the crowd funded marketplace to consider.
Thisbe Vos was born in the Netherlands but, these days, calls L.A. home (Patterson, New Jersey? Sorry. Couldn't resist the old Abbott and Costello joke). If you're up on your Greek mythology, Thisbe was one of a pair of ill-fated lovers (a more recent adaptation of the story would be Romeo and Juliet). The name suits her, given the passion and drama (and just the right amount of heartbreak) in her vocal performances. Thisbe began her musical career at a very young age, but started moving towards traditional Jazz during her tenure with the neo-swing band The Jive Aces. In her late teens at the time, Thisbe began writing original Jazz music, inspired by the likes of Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter (the best of the best).
Thisbe moved to America in 2008, looking for the musicians who would best complement her vocals. She's since released two albums on her own label, "Sophistication" and last year's "Under Your Spell". For whatever my opinion is worth, "Sophistication" is very good but "Under Your Spell" is bloody brilliant. Drop the virtual needle on that sucker and you'll be instantly transported back to the days when the classics were first written and sung.
Thisbe is currently raising money to fund a Christmas album. She's been "advised" NOT to do a Christmas album at this stage of her career, but she was also "advised" to give up Jazz for Pop music (and, clearly, "the experts" were wrong about that). The album will contain both traditional songs such as "Let It Snow" and "The Christmas Song" as well as some self-written songs that Thisbe promises sound like they could have been written in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. The finished set will be shipped December 1. And here's an interesting twist: Only contributors will be able to get the album this year; the rest of the world will have to wait until next year.
If this sounds like something you want to hear and add to your holiday library, you've got until October 26 to be a part of it. As is usually the case with crowd funded efforts, Thisbe Vos has a variety of levels of support available along with accompanying incentives (your name in the credits, Santa hats, Christmas cards and ornaments, chocolates, private event, etc.). Head to Thisbe's web site to help make some old school Christmas magic and visit her on Facebook for more information.
Take a moment to listen to Thisbe sing "My Favorite Things" from her debut album "Sophistication".
Our second crowd funded Christmas Jazz chantreuse is New York based Lizzie Thomas. And I have to say, I'm impressed with her fan base. Lizzie lauched her Kickstarter project late last week and, within 48 hours, she was fully funded. Like Thisbe, Lizzie's got two CDs in circulation, "More Than You Know" and "Easy To Love". Inspired by Billie Holiday, I hear a little bit of Phoebe Snow in Lizzie's voice (as always, no disrespect intended to either vocalist and your mileage may vary). "One Note Samba" reminds me a bit of Flora Purim (again, no disrespect; I consider these compliments). And, to my ears, her style is a bit more seventies and eighties Jazz (which means, among other things, a lot more improvisation), though it still evokes that classic sound. As a working title, I'm going with "Just In Time For Christmas" and Lizzie says the album will include all your favorites--"Santa Baby", "Sleigh Ride", "Let It Snow", "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" and more. Even though Lizzie reached her funding target, there's still time to get on the bandwagon and pre-order her Christmas album through Kickstarter. The campaign officially ends November 15.
Country superstar Sara Evans has announced a ten track Christmas album. "At Christmas" will bow November 17. Sara says she got a call from her label, not very long ago, saying they wanted a Christmas record and they wanted it yesterday. Sara briefly panicked--you kind of like to have a year to plan such a thing--but she completed the project in a matter of weeks. She says she wanted the record to sound like a Sara Evans record and, judging from the title track, she succeeded. She also wanted the album to be infused with the spirit of the season and, to her, that meant family. So she recruited her daughters to join her on the recording. Early indications are this may just be a digital release initially, but we've listed it as a CD on our List until we hear more.
1. At Christmas
2. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
3. Twelve Days Of Christmas
4. Silent Night
5. Winter Wonderland
6. O Holy Night
7. Run Rudolph Run
8. I'll Be Home For Christmas
9. Go Tell It On The Mountain
10. O Come All Ye Faithful
UPDATE: Sara Evans Christmas album CD is a Wal-Mart exclusive. Other outlets may have the digital release.
A couple of quick notes. Lord save us, there's more holiday vinyl on the way. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm about vinyl'd out. Of the titles most likely to be of interest to Stubby's readers, there's the first ever vinyl pressing of The Flaming Lips "secret Christmas album", 2007's "Atlas Eets Christmas". That one will be part of the Black Friday Record Store Day festivities November 28. The full listing of Record Store Day items is due this week, so I'll leave that lay for now. Another title that peaks my interest is "Christmas A-Come" from Reggae legends Eek-A-Mouse. The song is one most of us are familiar with but the listing on Barnes & Noble is for an LP. I'm curious to get the full story on that December release--full album or twelve inch single re-issue, old material or new material. I just have too many questions and not enough answers right now.
We continue to periodically add items to our Previews and Free pages. Its probably going to take me until next year to get up to full speed again. While I was posting infrequently, the front page, here, became the default drop point for nearly everything. But I like the organization and easy recall of the Previews page and I want to get back to that. I do want to call your attention to our post on the new set from the Claire Lynch Band, which sounds really good and about which we spoke very little on this front page.
And I'm sure I'll have more to say about it later, but its time to add "Jingle Bell Rocks!" to your Christmas list. Retail release of the brilliant documentary about Christmas music collecting people like you and me--you know, crazy people--is drawing nigh. Its currently scheduled for December 9 and you can pre-order through Amazon. Not that I want to discourage you from taking in a screening, if there's one near you. But you know you'll need to own a copy, if only to help your family understand our mutual obsession. Nice write up on this one over at Merry & Bright, btw.
The deadline is fast approaching on this project from Samson Trinh and The Upper East Side Big Band. Let's see if we can bring this Kickstarter campaign home. Remember, Christmas is coming and a little extra good karma is never a bad thing. Plus, this record sounds pretty awesome.
It's SINGLES DAY!!!!
I don't know how many singles posts we'll have this year, for a whole bunch of reasons. But I was waiting for at least one super exciting single to put the first one together. And, thanks to our friends at Christmas Underground, we've got one. And, thanks to my own relentless digging, we've got another.
First up, the one I was hipped to by my pals at Christmas Underground.
I have not seen a lot of holiday wax advertised, as yet, for this year's Black Friday Record Store Day (all the lists I've seen, so far, are last year's; the complete list for this year is expected next week). But we are getting a tasty slice of Vinyl Single Heaven from Ben Kweller, the Indie Folk Rock artist, formerly of Radish. The singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is promising lots of fuzz and distorted guitar on "It Ain't Christmas Yet", Kweller's first ever Christmas single. "It Ain't Christmas Yet" is a Kweller original, the message of which is, basically, waiting sucks.
The 45rpm record comes in 43 gram red translucent vinyl and is limited to 1000. 200 of the thousand will come in green and pink splatter vinyl and those are completely random in distribution throughout the thousand. The sleeve is 300gms card stock with green metallic foil stamping. The records will be at all the cool local record shops November 28. Ben did hold aside 200 of the singles for folks overseas and those who may not live near a record store cool enough to have gotten the 45s and those are being pre-sold through his web site.
Because the purpose of this single and others like it is to introduce you to real vinyl at your real brick and mortar local record stores, there is no download card with the 45 and it will not be released to iTunes or Spotify. Just sayin'.
BTW, the flip is promised to be a raucous cover of "Here Comes Santa Claus" featuring fellow former Radish John David Kent on the drums.
And what did my own personal digging uncover? A new Christmas single from Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings! Some of the finest--if not THE finest--R&B being produced today is coming from the Daptone record label and that shines through even brighter on their Christmas releases. "Stone Soul Christmas" from Binky Griptite, Charles Bradley's "Every Day Is Christmas", last year's Sha La Das single, and Sharon Jones' own "Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects". I'd say they don't make records like that anymore, but Daptone does.
Sharon's new holiday entry is "Just Another Christmas Song" and it's slated for release on November 18 and should be available in both vinyl and digital formats. The B-side is last year's Google Play exclusive free download, "Big Bulbs". "Big Bulbs" was kind of fun, but wasn't Daptones' best--but as a B-side on vinyl, it'll be nice to have.
This one intrigues the crap out of me.
Dirt Box Disco is a British band. I'm not entirely sure what their schtick is (and I don't at all mean that in a negative way), but their sound is real Old School Hardcore Punk. I love 'em already. They remind me a bit of the Dead Kennedys (not saying they're on a level with the Dead Kennedys, who I consider one of the greatest bands ever). I'm told their live shows are beyond awesome and their music is not only Hardcore, but anthemic.
Dirt Box Disco's Christmas single is "I Don't Want Anything For Christmas" and one reviewer says it's "as catchy as chlamydia at an office party". Its scheduled for a November 17th release and, if you want the CD single, you'll apparently have to order from the band. But the digital version will be at all the usual online spots, including CD Baby. I, for one, will most definitely be looking for it.
"But, Stubby," I hear you say. "I don't want to wait to open all my presents. What about something I can buy and listen to right now?"
If you're a long time Christmas music collector, you probably have a copy of Atomic Magazine's 2000 Neo-Swing CD "Sleigh Me". (If not, read up on it over at the Yuleblog and then go get it.) Proud to say I bought mine the year it came out. Well, we've got a pair of singles for fans of the Neo-Swing movement--both from artists who appeared on that very same compilation.
Ray Gelato, known in England as "The Godfather of Swing", contributed a cover of "Winter Wonderland" to the Atomic set. But his new Christmas single is an original, "Is Santa Claus Real?" It's got a real nice Louis Prima vibe to it. And the sax is killer. I could have lived without the kids singing in the chorus, but what are you gonna do? Overall, I dug it a lot. And you can never have too much Neo-Swing Christmas music.
"Is Santa Claus Real?" is a charity single, too, with proceeds going to the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan appeal, helping out the people of the Philippines. CD copies (highly limited) are only available from Ray and are pretty much reserved for UK orders. But, if you're not in the UK, you can email to see if he has any copies available and what he might charge you for them. The download of "Is Santa Claus Real?", thankfully, is available wherever fine Christmas downloads are sold, including Amazon MP3.
George Gee, keeping Big Band Swing alive since the late 70s, believe it or not, did up a killer version of "Run Rudolph Run" on "Sleigh Me". This year, the cat's gone all smooth and silky with "Baby It's Cold Outside" featuring the vocals of John Dokes and Hilary Gardner. You can find that one at Amazon MP3 and CD Baby. Or, if you'd prefer hard copy, "Baby It's Cold Outside" is slated to be a bonus track on the upcoming CD "Swing Makes You Happy".
Ah, finally some audio. Now for something....completely different.
Biscuithead & the Biscuit Badgers are, ostensibly, a Kids music group. Well, they're kind of a Kids music group the way Bugs Bunny was a kids cartoon. Which is to say there's a level at which kids will delight at the music they make and a level adults will delight at which is probably going to go right over the kids' heads. Hmm. Let's try this again. The music is fun and bouncy and catchy and the words are actually about things. At the same time, the music is eclectic, surreal, and psychedelic and the words are actually about things and very very trippy (and probably subversive).
"Snow!" is the group's holiday single and just gives you a small taste of the delights waiting to be had on such albums as "The Greatest Show On Toast" and "Dinosaurs Ate My Caravan". Depending on your needs or desires, the single version of "Snow!" is about half as long as the full-length version, which you can pick up a la carte. No doubt, "Snow!" will sparkle up many a mixtape and, by New Year's, we'll all be "friends of the Badgers", hopelessly addicted to their music. And cheese. You'll find "Snow!" laying roundabout all winter long. Certainly at Amazon and CD Baby.
Let's see. Let me dig into Cliff's Notes, here. We already told you about the singles from Magnum, Rakasta Joulua, and Marilyn Scott. "Hey Santa" from Daniel Mark Baird, which we also told you about, is also available now. I'm sure you already know about LeAnn Rimes' single, "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" (the less said about that one, the better).
There's a Christmas Rap single [Explicit Language] that kind of tickles me, though conservatives will hate it and I doubt it's truly mixtape material [Explicit Language]. But it tickles me, so I'll give it a mention. It's "The War On The War On Christmas" from Macarone. There's a bit of preaching about hypocrisy and I love how they mock Fox News. Check it out or don't. But don't be hatin'.
Folks who dig the parodies and Christmas re-workings of hit tunes may like "Merry, Merry Christmas" by Chris Commander--a holiday reworking of "We Will Rock You". I didn't. Like it, that is.
People who like the straight novelty records may enjoy "Mom's Pickle Aluminum Christmas Tree" from Joseph M. Strauss. Not my bag, personally, but don't let me stop you.
My guess is Johnny Searfoss knows that I can't resist a title like "All I Want For Christmas Is A Kitten". That's out there.
The great actor Idris Elba says he recorded a Christmas single with comedian Noel Fielding and musician Serge Pizzorna that should be coming out this year. According to Elba, the pair called him in 2012, asking if he'd like to lay down a Rap break in a Christmas song. Idris was up for it. He described the track as a "funky seventies sort of slow disco groove". Idris said he caught up with the pair not long ago and asked what was going on with the Christmas song which seemed to jar their memories. Fielding & Pizzorna assured Elba the song would come out this year. And Idris says, "I'm telling you, man, this song is a hit." Only he's got that cool British accent, so it sounds better when he says it.
There's a lot of time delayed Christmas music, this year. Anthony Hamilton started working on his Christmas record in 2012. B.J. Thomas was promising new Christmas music back in 2011. Well, lo and behold, here comes B.J.'s promised Christmas record. "O Holy Night" is a six song EP--traditional Christmas songs all newly recorded--and it will reach the store shelves November 18. Maybe there's still hope for Pat Benatar and Meatloaf afterall. Eventually. The promo material says B.J.'s CD is "Limited Edition", but it doesn't say what that means. And, presumably, the actual cover will be in color. But, anyway, here are the tracks.
The First Noel
O Holy Night
What Child Is This
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
Go Tell It In The Mountain
I don't think any single this year will claim to be more time "delayed" than Scottland's "Credit Card Christmas". According to the write-up, this song was a big local radio hit in New Jersey in 1988 (and #1 in Guam). There's usually at least one Christmas single every year claiming to be decades old and I never know whether the stories are true or not. As it happens, I was living in New Jersey in 1988 and I don't remember hearing it on the radio. But, in fairness, I was on the other side of the state. And the Princeton and Jersey Shore music scenes didn't overlap a whole lot. (And how would you check what was #1 in Guam in any given week in 1988 anyway?) The story is certainly plausible in that "Credit Card Christmas" sounds like something you would have heard on the radio in New Jersey in 1988. Scottland, by the way, is Scott Evans and it says he produced a number of Jersey bands, including The Shades. Them I remember. You can grab "Credit Card Christmas" from Amazon or CD Baby.
The annual Pearl Jam Ten Club Christmas single has been released (the digital version anyway). Of course, they don't call 'em Christmas singles anymore since they rarely have anything to do with Christmas and they frequently arrive well after the holidays. It's not a Christmas song. Again. But this one might be considered "Christmas adjacent". Certainly, if "What A Wonderful World" and even "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" are elbowing their way into the holiday canon, John Lennon's "Imagine" is a far sight more appropriate for the season, don't you think?
Eddie Vedder performed "Imagine" earlier this year in Portugal on what would have been the slain Beatle's 74th birthday. And it was wonderful, a truly touching tribute. The analog (vinyl) singles aren't ready to go out just yet--and we've heard nothing official about the B-side--but Vedder's "Imagine" is available to purchase by everybody (everybody who isn't me, at least) via iTunes (curse you, iTunes!). And its all over YouTube, if you want to hear it first. Proceeds benefit Heartbeat.fm.
I try to go through everybody's listings, just so I don't miss something. I don't do iTunes anymore because, for some crazy reason, it's no longer compatible with my Apple computer (Steve Jobs is spinning in his grave). But, believe me, I wade through a lot of drek so you don't have to. I found exactly ONE really cool single on CD Baby that is not also available on Amazon. I'm going to consider this one my repayment to the folks at Christmas Underground for the Ben Kweller tip because, while I could be completely off the mark, it sounds to me like the sort of thing they'd dig over there. Anyway, I dig it and maybe you will, too.
Powerkompany are a Cinematic Dream Pop duo from Athens, Georgia. A lot of good music has come out of Athens. The "recommended" artists on CD Baby lists Kate Bush and Lana Del Ray, which sounds about right to me if, you know, we're talking "Born To Die" Lana. Powerkompany is still growing, experimenting, exploring, but last year's album "I Am More Than This" was a huge critical success for them.
"I'm Sorry About Last Christmas" is simultaneously dark and light. Exactly how I like my Christmas music. And highly accessible. Don't know what the critics will say, but I love it. The B-side, "Holiday", is pretty good in its own right. A little heavy on the electronica for my taste. But it's growing on me. As noted, you can find it at CD Baby, right now. And, yes, there will be hard copy (the band got them in yesterday and they'll be setting up to take orders shortly). Keep your eye on Facebook for developments on that front and, uh, give 'em a "Like", OK?
You know who else is from Athens, Georgia? The B-52s. No, we don't have a new Christmas single from the B-52s. What we do have, and not much time to tell you about, is a new Halloween vinyl single--both sides written by B-52s frontman Fred Schneider. Sure, its a bit of a week segue, but I gotta get there somehow. The single comes from Jack White's Third Man Records and it features Elvira, Mistress of The Dark.
The A-side is "2 Big Pumpkins" (you can see where we're going with this already, can't you?) and the flip is "13 Nights of Halloween". And they're written by Fred, so you know they got that beat. And, yeah, yeah, the double entendres are pretty obvious. But its campy Halloween fun, you know?
The single is pressed on "pugnacious purple" vinyl and the sleeve is printed with heat reactive ink (the picture to the left is what the cover looks like AFTER the ink is activated--though she looks to have more color in the demo) so, as the festivities heat up, so can you. Third Man Records. Don't miss out.
Got a new addition to our International page. "Christmas With My Friends IV" is the latest in a series of Christmas records from Nils Landgren, a Jazz trombone player and singer from Sweden. On our List, I have it under November 10, which is the UK release date. Release in Germany and Sweden should actually be October 31 or thereabouts. And speaking of Sweden.....
I love finding new old stuff. Christmas music that was put out there into the universe like a message in a bottle, just waiting for someone to come along and listen. Keep In Mind is a Swedish pop group. They've been together for a long, long time (1979, I think). "Det doftar jul" ("It Smells Like Christmas") was released in 2011. This video was posted to YouTube in 2012 and, since that time, its only been viewed a little over 200 times. That's a shame. So we, here, will do our part and call it to your attention. The Keep In Mind web site is here, their Facebook page is here. Of course its all in Swedish. Just sayin'.
In our last post, we told y'all about the coming release of Symphonic Heavy Metal Christmas music from Rakasta Joulua, a group inspired by the likes of Trans Siberian Orchestra (or at least pursuing a similar musical concept).
I got an email from someone associated with the project who wanted to correct me on a key point. The group is from Finland, not Norway as I inexplicably typed in the earlier post. All my sources had said it was a Finnish project and, as I mentioned, this supergroup includes Marco Hietala of Nightwish, which I know is a Finnish band. So I have no excuse, other than the fact that I tend to do these posts at an ungodly hour, long after I shoud have been in bed. Still...very sloppy on my part and I apologize.
Good news is Amazon finally has a listing for "Ragnarok Juletide", as does iTunes. As we told you, the album went live overseas this week. The domestic release is set for November 11.
I'm informed that the lead single is "We Celebrate at Christmastime" , a medley of "Joy to the World". "Me Käymme Joulun Viettohon" and "O Come All Ye Faithful", sung by about 13 of Finland's premiere metal vocalists. And you CAN buy that single NOW on iTunes and at Amazon MP3. And let me just say, they may have been inspired by TSO, but Rakasta Joulua rocks a whole lot harder. Great stuff! See the post below for the full track list.
Marilyn Scott is well known in Smooth Jazz circles. Her cover of Burt Bachrach's "The Look Of Love" earned a Grammy nomination for producer George Duke. You may have also heard her at the movies as she's highly in demand for soundtracks. In Torch Song Trilogy, for example, she did a perfect turn on "Skylark" and Twins featured her re-imagining of "I Only Have Eyes For You". She's written songs with and sung with some of the best contemporary Jazz artists around, including The Yellowjackets and Bobby Caldwell.
But Marilyn's earliest influences include the likes of Etta James, Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin. And it appears she's going to mine those influences a good deal for her upcoming Christmas album, "Get Christmas Started". While the album opens with a faithful rendition of "Christmas Time Is Here," it also includes the R&B of "This Christmas", the Blues of Leon Russell's "Slippin' Into Christmas" and his lesser known even bluesier "Christmas In Chicago", and the classic Motown sound of Stevie Wonder's "What Christmas Means To Me". And she closes out the party with a jamming "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer".
As of yet, we don't have a release date for "Get Christmas Started", but the lead single, "Christmas Time Is Here" is available at iTunes. And, if you're in the mood, you can pick up a pair of free holiday downloads (which I believe were released in 2009) from Marilyn's web site. Neither "Winter Wonderland" nor "Silver Bells" are on the coming album and they're FREE. So what are you waiting for?
We're forever carrying on about former contestants on American Idol or The Voice. What about Star Search, hmmm? Remember that show? Don't make me feel ancient, now.
Vanessa Campagna was a contestant on Star Search, picked out of some 24,000 kids when she was 10 years old. These days, Vanessa is making music in a Country Pop vein. I actually like how straight forward her approach is (thanks to Idol, there's far too much needless vibrato out there these days and, sometimes, the backing tracks are way too busy).
"Home For The Holidays" is Vanessa's third holiday set and will be released October 11. Expect to find it on CD Baby. In the meantime, you can stream a full version of "Little Drummer Boy" on Vanessa's web site, which I dig quite a bit, actually.
Count me in for the Christmas album by Reverend Chris & The High Rollers. The Philly based outfit originated in New Orleans but relocated following Hurricane Katrina. They specialize in the sound of Jazz and Blues from the Viper era, generously sprinkled with Zatarain's. You can get a good feel for that by checking the song samples of their debut disc, "Viper Mad", or by streaming the tracks at their Reverb Nation spot.
Reverend Chris has been busy working up some new arrangements of some old and unusual Christmas songs as the band expects to release "The Man With The Bag" later this year (expect it around Thanksgiving time). It's too early to say what you're going to find in this wild holiday casserole, but the Rev is promising the tunes will be "not your average Christmas songs". Obviously, based on the title, "The Man With The Bag" should make the cut and we're also expecting the seldom covered Miles Davis/Bob Dorough track "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)". That's all I need to know. That's exactly the sort of thing we root for at Stubbys. To stay up to date on this one, we recommend you follow on Facebook.
As I've mentioned before, I like pretty much every kind of music...except Opera. I just can't connect with Opera at all. Well, we may have a breakthrough on that front. Because I'm a sucker for harmonies.
Eden is a British group consisting of Libby Johnstone and Lucy Campbell. They're a Classical Crossover duo and there's no denying that their voices are classically trained and their delivery is operatic. But, oh, those harmonies. Eden got nowhere on Britain's Got Talent, beaten out by a dancing dog, but Eden has a international career, today, and I'm guessing the dog doesn't.
Libby and Lucy write all their own arrangements and they embrace modern music. They're as apt to cover Metallica and Heart as they are to perform the Classical classics. Pretty awesome, right? Eden released their debut album, "Wicked Game" earlier this year, but it hasn't turned up on Amazon US yet (or iTunes US, as far as I can tell). You can stream the title track at Reverb Nation. And, yes, its a cover of the Chris Isaak's hit and it's so perfectly done, I get chills listening to it. The ladies have also been recording a three song Christmas EP, "Stardust". As it happens, if you live in the states, the easiest way--possibly the only way--to pick up either is by visiting Eden's Pledge Music page.
Eden has yet to reveal the track list for "Stardust" but, yes, I pre-ordered the Christmas CD myself. And for me to lay down my money for anything more operatic than "Bohemian Rhapsody" means that I'm either crazy or hella impressed. Probably both.
Final note. A while back, we told you about "Forever Christmas", an album featuring David Lanz and Kristin Amarie. "Forever Christmas" features some 14 tracks--a mix of instrumental and vocal--eleven of which are all-new originals written by the couple during last year's very snowy winter.
The album has been recorded, but the expenses of mastering, manufacturing, etc., etc., remain. So David and Kristin have launched a Kickstarter campaign to get the project across the finish line. A reminder: if the funding drive falls short of its goal, they get nothing. As David points out, the record labels he used to record for don't even exist anymore and the independent labels that do exist don't have money for publicity and touring and the like.
So drop by their Kickstarter page and watch the video (you'll get a few song samples therein). It kinda sounds like Kickstarter is going to be the only place to get hard copy CDs...at least for this year. And, if they don't reach their goal, there may not be any hard copy at all. So keep that in mind, as well.
The worst thing about Christmas music blogging at this time of year is that, as soon as you go live with one post, you know a bunch more stuff is going to turn up. Sure enough, within an hour or two of our last post, the cover art and track list for Earth Wind & Fire's "Holiday" were released. A few hours later, the track list for Heart's set turned up. And THEN, most embarrassingly, NBC renews "The Sing Off" after I had just pronounced it cancelled. We'll get to Heart and EWF later in this post. But, in true Stubby's fashion, I want to start with a pending release that, likely, no one else is going to tell you about.
It may be to my discredit that I mostly "discover" artists through Christmas music. Truthfully, you miss a lot that way. On the other hand, every Christmas season is exciting because you don't know what you've been missing until you do (Thank you, Captain Obvious). So EVERY Christmas is a season of discovery for me (why, its almost like Christmas).
Largely a creature of YouTube, I'd not encountered Postmodern Jukebox before. Out of the loop last year, I even missed their one Christmas single, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". Just as well. The single is a nice slice of Swing, but Postmodern Jukebox has made their name by reconstructing current Pop hits into genres of the past. Imagine "Fancy" as a 20s flapper tune or "Blurred Lines" done Hoedown style. Among their most recent covers is Ariana Grande's "Break Free" as a 70s styled Soul number. I've basically spent half my day today (probably more) watching the delicious videos of Postmodern Jukebox. They're quite addictive.
Postmodern Jukebox is the brainchild of Scott Bradlee, a Jazz pianist who used to look down on current Pop music, favoring the timeless standards. Though I can't fault him for favoring the standards, Scott realized (at some point) that there might be more to the popular music of today than he was allowing. So he started by rearranging some of the songs into styles he was more in tune with. And what he discovered is that a good melody is a good melody and a good song is a good song. Now, sure, sometimes the process can expose a pretender, and the results are a mere novelty. But much more often, Postmodern Jukebox brings underlying beauty to the surface, such as on the Doo-Wop rendition of Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop". And, if you haven't heard Puddles The Clown sing Lorde's "Royals", you're really missing out.
Of course, this only works if you're respecting the original and bringing real talent to the table. And the musicians and vocalists Scott Bradlee brings to the table are all top notch. Robyn Adele Anderson is amazing. So is Morgan James. And Puddles? I love Puddles.
Postmodern Jukebox is raising money for their Christmas album via Pledge Music. As a reminder, unlike Kickstarter, they don't have to reach goal to get the money pledged; just think of it as pre-ordering the album. In this case, though, I don't think they're going to have trouble reaching goal. They're at nearly 20% already in the first day and there's two months to go. I have no idea what songs will be on the album and what styles they'll be in and neither do they. I wouldn't be surprised, though, to see something like a vintage Soul or Ragtime rendition of "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer". I'd expect a December release but, to make sure it doesn't slip by you, just put in your order now (maybe even suggest a song or two). And, to get you in the proper mood (and much as I really want to post Puddles singing "Royals"), here's last year's Christmas single, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (FYI, it was free at Bandcamp last year but isn't at present).
Unbeknownst to many, Trans-Siberian Orchestra inspired a world of progressive rock holiday projects. I mean, literally, a world. Personally, I think we owe the world an apology for that. Be that as it may, one of the most successful of these is Norway's Rakasta Joulua. They've been at this holiday thing for ten years, now. One of their albums, the eponymous "Rakasta Joulua", even found it's way to Amazon mp3. This year, the Heavy Metal holiday collective (which includes Marco Hietala of Nightwish) has a new album due and, this time, it's in English. Some of the songs you know well but some of the more Norwegian fare has never before been sung in English (or so they tell me).
"Ragnarok Juletide" is going to be released in the states (yes, here) on November 11. Barnes & Noble already has a pre-order listing for it. The release date in Norway, btw, is October 6. But never mind that. You won't have to be banging your head trying to buy this headbanging set from overseas merchants. Here's what you can expect to be on it.
We briefly mentioned The Roys in an earlier post. The sibling duo are doing well in the Bluegrass world and have now set their sights on Christmas. The album "Bluegrass Kinda Christmas" is due November 18. The title track is a Roy original. Here's the rest of the lineup.
1. Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy
2. Santa Train
3. With Bells On
4. If We Make It Through December
5. Christmas Time's A-Comin'
6. Bluegrass Kinda Christmas
7. There's A New Kid In Town
8. Winter Wonderland
9. O Holy Night
10. Santa And The Kids
Not a big fan of the TV show "Nashville" (to be fair, I've never watched it), but other folks are (or, as some might call it, Glee for grownups). And those folks, no doubt, would love a holiday album from their favorite faux Country stars. And, heck, even I would want to check out a Christmas song from the lovely Hayden Panettiere (loved her when she was an immortal cheerleader). "Christmas With Nashville" arrives on CD November 11 (expect much of the music herein to be featured on a Christmas episode later this year).
As we've previously mentioned, Earth Wind & Fire will release their first full-length Christmas album this year. "Holiday" is the first new studio album from the group since 2005 and features both Maurice White and Philip Bailey. In addition to funky renditions of well known carols and a traditional Japanese Christmas song, "Snow", the album features a re-working of the hit "September" ("December"). A lot of people seem troubled by that, but not me. I've been singing it as "December" for years, anyway. And have we forgotten how great Randy Bachman's "Takin' Care Of Christmas" was? Have we? Hmmm?
1. Joy to the World
2. Happy Seasons
3. Oh Come All Ye Faithful
4. Winter Wonderland
5. What Child Is This?
6. Away In a Manger
7. The Little Drummer Boy
8. Every Day Is Like Christmas
9. The First Noel
10. Sleigh Ride
12. Jingle Bell Rock
And here's the Heart track list. The only difference between the CD and DVD play lists is that the CD includes "Even It Up" and the DVD doesn't.
3. Rocking - Shawn Colvin
4. Love Come Down At Christmas
6. All Through The Night (feat. Richard Marx)
7. All We Need Is An Island (feat. Sammy Hagar)
8. Santa's Going South (feat. Sammy Hagar)
9. Please Come Home For Christmas (feat. Pat Monahan)
10. Remember Christmas
12. Even It Up
13. Stairway To Heaven
14. Ring Them Bells
Johnnyswim, the popular L.A. duo who do a fusion of Rock, Soul and Folk which somehow manages to sound like the coolest of rootsy AOR and Pop, have finalized details for their Christmas project. At present, "A Johnnyswim Christmas" is set for a November 11 release in digital format. It's an EP featuring 5 tracks, one of them recorded live.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
O Come All Ye Faithful
I'll Be Home For Christmas
What Are You Doing New Years Eve (Live)
As we get ready to leave you, today, I wanted to note... Well, I know I said I didn't want to bombard you with non-holiday releases, but... Earlier, when I was searching Amazon to see if they'd posted The Roys Christmas record yet, I came across a new one from friend of the blog Roy Forbes. Roy, as I think I've mentioned before, released a Christmas album in 1985 which included the timeless classic "Mince Meat Tart", possibly the best Christmas song you've never heard (but you can stream it here). He also does some awesome radio, including Christmas shows, for CKUA north of the border.
As the title suggests, "Strikin' Matches Live!" is a live album. And I'd really appreciate it if you'd give it a listen (especially the title track) and, if it moves you, pick it up. Roy's a good friend, a good man, and a great talent. More people should know that. You don't have to take my word for it. Reading a review, just now, from Anne Watson of the North Shore News: "Even his cat is a fan, curling up for a nap in the open guitar case while he's rehearsing." Cats are very good judges of character you know. And, just so you know, he didn't ask me to promote the record. He didn't even tell me it was coming out (for which I've already chastised him...mildly).
Gonna leave you with a taste of New Orleans Jazz from Irvin Mayfield from his upcoming "New Orleans Creole Christmas" set (coming November 10). Courtesy of the JazzTimes, here's a Creole "O Christmas Tree" (full track list below).
1. O Tannenbaum - O Christmas Tree
2. Silent Night
3. Winter Wonderland
4. The Christmas Song
5. Christmas Time Is Here
6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
7. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
8. Christmas Time Is Here
Quick note. My web host has been playing with the control panel again. Eventually, they get the kinks worked out, but there's always some unintended consequences at the start. What that means, in the present case, is that the links don't always take the first time. So, if you find some links that go nowhere, don't panic; I'll be back to fix them later. Now, on with the show.
Been waiting on this one for years, now (and, since his last full album release was in 2011, so has everybody else). But here it comes. Anthony Hamilton's "Home For The Holidays" is coming out October 21. Hamilton not only covers "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto" (popular song choice this year) but--BONUS--Chaka Khan lends her voice to "The Christmas Song". How's that for a Christmas present? Hamilton says, “This album is for the people who really love the holidays and what feelings they bring. For the families that get together and love a good time.... I want my fans to be moved by the music and associate each song with a time where no other feeling mattered but love. This album is for people who love good music.” Gavin DeGraw and ZZ Ward also lend a hand, but, c'mon, Chaka Khan (Chaka Chaka Chaka Chaka Khan)! Here's the full track list and cover art.
01. It’s Christmas
02. Spend Christmas With You
03. Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto
04. Little Drummer Boy (Interlude)
05. Little Drummer Boy
06. Home For The Holidays feat. Gavin DeGraw
07. ‘Tis The Season
08. What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas
09. Coming Home
10. Away In A Manger (Interlude)
11. Away In A Manger feat. ZZ Ward
12. Please Come Home For Christmas
13. The Christmas Song feat. Chaka Khan
14. Spirit Of Love
Hey, we're getting hard copy of the new Heart Christmas release after all. In the form of a "Deluxe" CD/DVD set. Other than that, our earlier speculation was right on. It's a live set from last year's televised Christmas performance in Seattle. "Home For The Holidays" (OK, so we'd heard "Home For Christmas", originally) is set for release November 11. There's also a stand-alone Blu-ray version (no CD with that one). Still waiting on the official track list, but there are plenty of YouTube videos, if you're curious as to some likely inclusions. Cover art we got.
It was two Decembers ago, The Henningsens released their debut single, "American Beautiful". That one shot right up the Country charts like a bottle rocket. They followed that with the "American Beautiful" EP last year and a full album was scheduled but hasn't been released as yet. Nonetheless, The Henningsens are promising a Christmas album this holiday season and they've invited Jerrod Niemann to join in.
Like any "overnight success", The Henningsens have been at this music game for awhile. In a way, you could say they've been at it their whole lives, on and off. The Henningsens are a family trio, featuring father Brian, son Aaron, and daughter Clara. Dad had had Nashville dreams in his younger days, but put those aside to raise his family. Of the ten kids (10!), it was Aaron who got the bug. Aaron was playing local gigs, writing songs and meeting with producers in Nashville. Just about then, in 1996, Brian was involved in an accident and Aaron put his dreams on hold to care for his Dad and help out on the family farm. By 2003, Aaron was out playing again and his father was plenty impressed with the music his son was making. The next turn came in 2007 when Brian, Aaron and Clara wrote a song together and decided to try it out at an open mic night in Nashville. Though they had no thoughts of making a career of it then, it wasn't long before The Henningsens were introduced to another up and coming family band--The Band Perry. Some of The Band Perry's biggest hits have been penned by The Henningsens. Performing their own songs seemed the next logical step in this wild and crazy journey they've been on. And so far it seems to be working out for them.
So now we have a Christmas album to look forward to (assuming Sony allows it). No word on release date or title as yet.
It's a big Christmas for NBC's now cancelled The Sing Off. We already knew about the Christmas album (their second) from Pentatonix, the Season Three winners. Now comes word of a holiday set from fourth season winners, Home Free. Unlike a lot of those music competition shows, the talent on The Sing Off seemed to get better with each passing season and Home Free was probably the most popular of the a cappella groups in the show's history. "Full Of Cheer" is set to hit the racks on October 27, but those who pre-order from the band will reportedly get an instant download of "White Christmas". The group also has a "Deluxe" digital version available through their web site featuring three bonus tracks.
OK, I know I'm the cat guy, but I'm having a hard time getting into this whole Grumpy Cat thing. Keyboard Cat? Sure. LOL cats? I'm all for 'em. I can haz cheezburger cat? I love it. But Grumpy Cat? I just don't get it. I appear to be in the minority, though, and, this Christmas, Grumpy Cat will have his own Lifetime movie, "Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever". They tell me its got a plot and everything. And a soundtrack. Did I mention the soundtrack? The soundtrack album will debut November 11, while the movie is set for November 29. Aubrey Plaza of "Parks & Recreation" is providing the voice of Grumpy Cat and the soundtrack features music--much of it new and exclusive to this set--from Chris Mann, The Bird & The Bee, KT Tunstall, and The Brian Setzer Orchestra. So far, they aren't telling us who sings what, but here's yer track list.
1. Its Hard To Be A Cat On Christmas
2. Sleigh Ride
3. Jingle Bells
4. Up On The Housetop
5. Deck The Halls
6. Worst Time Of Year
7. Christmastime Again
8. Carol Of The Bells
9. Holiday Bells
10. Christmas Honey
11. All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
12. White Christmas
13. Grumpcracker Medley
14. A Very Grumpy Christmas
And now for something that's much more my speed. You know I dig the local artist comps. And this one's going to be FREEEEEEEE!!!!!!
Hand Drawn Records is a small label down Texas way (with some facets of the business in Oklahoma). It's a largely DIY label that's focused on artist development. Every so often, as many independent labels do, they release a compilation so that the music loving public can hear the artists on their roster. To facilitate that even further, HDR gives away the downloads of these comps via Soundcloud. Volume 3 is still available for your listening and downloading pleasure, if you feel like checking it out (as are Volume 2 and Volume 1, if you poke around a little bit). For Volume 4 of their compilation series, the label has opted for a Christmas album. You never know what you're going to get from the artists but HDR isn't focusing on original material for this release; they're far more intrigued by what new spin their artists can put on familiar seasonal/holiday classics.
The artists Hand Drawn Records has recruited for "The Holiday Record" range from Roots to Folk to Pop to Rock and they're targeting an early December release. We don't have a track list yet (and, I suspect, neither do they). But here's the artist list and the cover art, if you'd like to investigate a little further. We'll be sure to let you know when the album has been posted so you can run and grab you some free local artist Christmas downloads.
A final note. We now have confirmation via Jason Manns' Twitter feed that Misha Collins (aka Castiel) will be providing some vocals on the upcoming "Christmas With Friends" CD. We're told he sings like an angel.
While I get myself together for the first "singles" post of the season, here's one to warm us both up.
Daniel Mark Baird enjoyed some success with "The Eagle Still Flies". You might have already heard that one and, if you haven't, it's bound to be included in collections of music inspired by 9/11 down the road. In the meantime, Daniel's set his sights on Christmas. "Hey Santa" releases officially in October (which should be rolling around any day now). It's a digital single and Daniel would like to raise enough money via Kickstarter to film a video for the song (the video for "The Eagle Still Flies" was very well done, so we're not talking some homemade iPhone video, here). He's still got quite a ways to go to raise the necessary funds and only a week left in the campaign, so drop a few coins in the pot, if you're so inclined, after watching the Kickstarter video below (you'll hear the song about a minute and a half in).
There's a new collection of all new recordings featuring some of the brightest stars in Contemporary Christian Music on the horizon. "All Is Calm, All Is Bright: Songs Of Christmas" bows on October 21 and features such favorites as Sandi Patty, Jaci Velasquez, and former American Idol contestant Melinda Doolittle. The album will be available through Parable Christian Stores and, through their partnership, retail outlets such as Cracker Barrel, Target and Wal-Mart. The record features 11 new recordings of holiday favorites and two all-new compositions.
1. O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL/ JESU JOY OF MAN'S DESIRING
2. ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH Featuring Cindy Morgan
3. IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER Featuring Ginny Owens & Cindy Morgan
4. BIRDS OF BETHLEHEM
5. IT CAME UPON THE MIDNIGHT CLEAR Featuring Nic Gonzales (of Salvador) & Seth & Nirva
6. AVE MARIA Featuring Sandi Patty & Andrew Greer
7. SING WE NOEL
8. THE FIRST NOEL Featuring Montell Jordan
9. HEARTBEAT OF A BABY Featuring Jaci Velasquez
10. GENTLE MARY LAID HER CHILD
11. CHILD IN THE MANGER Featuring Melinda Doolittle & Ginny Owens
12. O HOLY NIGHT Featuring Andrew Greer
13. SILENT NIGHT
And, yay, Idina Menzel finally shared the track list for "Holiday Wishes", due out October 14.