First up..."Motown Christmas". No, this is not a collection or repackaging of the vintage Motown Christmas performances we all know and love, nor is it a compilation of more recent material from the label's current roster. No, this is the label's leap back into Christmas music with their first collection of new holiday arrangements of Christmas favorites in.... Well, the PR says 46 years, but I dispute that. I think they're ignoring the 1989 release "Christmas Cheers From Motown" (which flopped at the time and has been underrated ever since). So, OK, I can give them 25 years, but not 46. Its been a long freakin' time, OK?
For this set, due September 16, Motown united their gospel roster with their pop/soul roster. And they're definitely targeting the gospel market with much of their planned promotion. And Motown isn't what it once was. But...it is still Motown. That name has a lot of cache and their brand has a serious reputation to protect. So I still expect them to bring on the soul. And, yes, we old school types can get our Motown Christmas on the old fashioned way...on VINYL!
Though neither the track list nor artist line-up have been completely finalized, "Motown Christmas" is expected to include contributions from Toni Braxton, Babyface, Ne-Yo, India.Arie, Gene Moore, Tasha Cobbs, and, yes, Smokey Robinson. Songs planned range from "Go Tell It On The Mountain" to the nearly obligatory "This Christmas". Smokey's planned contribution (along with Kevin Ross) is listed as "It's Christmas Time", which might be the old Curtis Mayfield song or something completely new (details are all a bit sketchy just yet). It's Motown, so its definitely one to watch for this year.
Ironing Board Sam Moore was born in South Carolina in 1939. He learned to play piano and organ and was gigging locally by age 14. In the 50s, he moved to Florida and, later, Memphis, setting up his legless keyboard on an ironing board. That earned him the "Ironing Board" moniker of which, initially, he wasn't exactly thrilled. Sam invented the "button keyboard" which was actually two keyboards. The keys on his main board were guitar strings fed through a wah-wah peddle, which allowed him to make his keyboard sound like an organ, a piano, or a guitar--or all three together--as the need arose. Sam did much of his playing on the streets where his natural showmanship came in handy.
Sam recorded a handful of singles in the late 60s and early 70s, none of which broke through, and eventually settled in New Orleans. The Blues revival of the 90s took Sam to Europe and, having generated a little buzz, an album of demos he'd cut for Orleans Records in 1991 was finally released as "Human Touch" in 1996. When Sam's button keyboard was broken and lost, the buzz died down and he retired from music. Then came the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, forcing Sam back to South Carolina where he began playing locally again to make ends meet. The Music Maker Relief Foundation found Sam in 2010. Music Maker is a charitable organization that helps southern roots musicians get back on their feet, recording and releasing music so that they will be heard and appreciated, their musical gifts preserved.
Sam recorded a solo piano album, "Going Up", for Music Maker in 2011. Music Maker then released an album Sam had cut in the early 70s that had never been commercially available, "Ninth Wonder". Last year came Sam's most ambitious release to date, "Double Bang". Sam then crowd sourced a documentary via Kickstarter. In December, it was reported that Sam was recording a Christmas album.
Music Maker doesn't have a release schedule like major labels, so there's no telling whether Ironing Board Sam's Christmas record will be released this year or next or even further down the road. But I'll certainly be looking for it and I'll let you know. In the meantime, feel free to grab "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", which Music Maker has posted as a free download on Sam's page at their site.
"Repossession: A Christmas Album" is a 2-CD set of Metal renderings of holiday favorites and newer and slightly twisted takes on the season (such as "Grandma Got Half Eaten By A Zombie") from the folks at Metal Blessing Radio, a web site, podcast, and resource center for Christian Metal artists and fans. 100% of the profits from sales of this collection will go to buy toys for children who are neglected or victims of abuse (via the Tulsa Court Appointed Special Advocates for children).
I'm not a metalhead, myself--I just like music of all sorts--but even I recognize some of the bands on this set...Theocracy, Frost Like Ashes, Royal Anguish, to name names And I haven't done any kind of cross-checking to see how much of this material has been previously issued--I know, without checking, at least a few of the tracks were on "A Brutal Christmas" (now out of print)--though the Product Info promises both new and old. But the cause is worthy, the price is a bargain (2 CDs for $13, plus postage), and, hey, Christmas music in July!
The original digipack pressing is limited to 300 hand numbered copies, though that doesn't preclude reprint or digital downloads, I suppose, if "Repossession" proves popular. We'll get the full track list up on our previews page shortly but, in the meantime, you can check it yourself and place your orders at the Metal Blessing Radio web store.
Deniece, if memory serves, was nominated for a Grammy for her rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear" in 1989. She, of course, has won and been nominated for numerous awards for her non-Christmas music.
The coming project is set to include "O Holy Night", "Silent Night", "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "Santa Baby", and 6 others. There's also a Wounded Warriors benefit single which may or may not be on the Christmas album (its a little vague on that point) but is included among the incentive packages...as in your chance to SING with Deniece on it (its big bucks, though, so....never mind).
And, VINYL junkies? There are 1000 copies of the album set to be pressed on vinyl which will ONLY be available through Kickstarter (that's the $75 tier).
The Kickstarter campaign runs through 9:00 pm EDT July 18.
Anyway, back in December, I had the chance to speak with Jillaine via email. And her plans for 2014, at that time, included another Christmas outing--"Jazzy Christmas To You IV". Judging by the way the Christmas music seems to charge her musical batteries, I'm guessing Jillaine would do a Christmas album every year until she ran out of songs, if she had her way. But she does have a very full plate (which also includes an upcoming live Jazz album), so I've just listed the project as "possible" for now. No pressure. The plan for #4 is all Public Domain material, though, which should expedite the possibility.
Jillaine says it wasn't necessarily her plan to do a series of Christmas records, but she found recording the songs very freeing. My own analogy would be that they (the ubiquitous "they") always teach you to color between the lines; it helps "them" to label things easier (Jazz, Blues, Rock, etc.). But Christmas music kind of paints itself...if you let it; it can take you anywhere...even if that means coloring outside the lines. Again, my analogy.
And let me just throw this out there, for the heck of it. All you emerging and established television networks. What would you give to have a franchise? You know, lots of us grew up with the annual Christmas specials of Bing and Perry and Andy. There's been nothing like that in some time. Maybe Buble can pull it off, I don't know. But here is an emerging artist who obviously loves and sings the hell out of Christmas music. And she clearly has the energy and drive and passion and professionalism to pull it off year after year. So how bout it, MeTV or A&E or VH1 or TVLand or FX or Nickleodian or whomever? How bout signing up this woman to do an annual Christmas special for your network and creating that warm nostalgic presence for the next generation? I'm not her agent or anything. For all I know, she has no interest in television (as if she needed any more on her schedule). But I do think television should have an interest in Jillaine. And, let me just add...that woman sure rocks a Santa suit.
When last we left Pat and her husband Neil Giraldo, the Christmas album had gone from being a Pat Benatar project to a Neil Giraldo project, with Pat only set to appear on a couple of tracks. But a storm must have arisen outside the kingdom because, as we join our heroes today, a divorce is brewing. Not a divorce of Pat and Neil, but of their Christmas projects. Let's listen in as Pat explains.
"Mine will be definitely standards and, like, blues versions of things, more like the 'True Love' record. And his, it will be absolutely insane and crazy...I'm only interested in doing, like, standards. I want to do, like, real old Christmas songs that maybe just have a little, not so much a contemporary twist. I want to do, like, big band and that kind of thing. He wants to do all new, y'know, 'This is not gonna be 'Frosty the Snowman'.' I'm like, 'Duh!' He's gonna be doing, like, crazy shit."
Of course, the Christmas album twins are only two of many projects in the works for the couple, who have been touring in honor of the 35th anniversary of Pat's incredible debut, "In the Heat of the Night". Who is to say which projects will actually see release? And when? Tune in again, next year, for another episode of Christmas...Never Comes.
Our friends at The Sounds Of Christmas have alerted us to a coming Christmas album from Broadway star Idina Menzel. Menzel topped the charts for a good chunk of the year beginning last Christmas with "Let It Go" as she was the voice of Elsa in Disney's animated feature Frozen. The coming album will feature at least one new song, "December Prayer".
This won't be the first time Menzel has lent her voice to seasonal songs. Her version of "I Saw Three Ships" appeared on the 2003 edition of "Carols For A Cure", the annual charity collection put out by Broadway Cares.