Thank you, Dr. Poinsett, for bringing the “Flor de Noche Buena” back to the US from Central America 80 years ago. We now identify it with wonderful Christmas times with loved ones. eight decades ago. As the Hispanic demographic in this country expands, we will see, hear and incorporate a corresponding expansion Latin American Christmas traditions. This holiday anthology on the Putumayo label is a good start.
More than half the songs will be familiar to Anglo ears, but the bossa nova and rumba rhythms and light percussion overlays differentiate them from our old holiday favorites, now sadly more identified with our shopping malls than our homes. World Christmas music such as this collection can become a unique part of your own family memory and tradition. It is refreshing and a pleasure to hear what the tension of Spanish guitar, the strong rhythm of precise horn sections and musical pocket-filling percussion and clear, poignant vocals add to the songs we’ve been humming all our lives, and to add to a holiday music catalog that may have become stale through a lifetime of overplay.
In the hands of these artists from climes much more distant from Santa’s North Pole than ours, the musical imagery becomes more magical. Somehow, the Magis’ journey seems longer and thoughts of a “White Christmas” more fantastic. Hearing an instrumental foundation from less affluent lands, one pictures the joy and merriment of the season coming from time with loved ones rather than with competitive, material gifts. In short, this release is a sure enhancement of the yuletide.
Perhaps you’ve just ventured to the darkest part of the attic or basement, plucked out those dusty boxes from under the bags of horded, hideous sweaters, checked the boxes for holiday-hating raccoons and hauled the whole lot to the living room. Or perhaps you’ve gathered all your holiday stash from their secret hiding places, found the one roll of tape that doesn’t have cat hair stuck to it and piled the new rolls of wrapping paper along with the remnants from years past onto the dining table. Or maybe you’re just biding your time in between trips to the oven as Christmas cookies bake. What you really need now is some music. Well, maybe you need a little bourbon too, but what you really need some holiday music to build up your morale. Good thing we here at World Music Central have got you covered with our annual Christmas music guide. So, brush the cobwebs from your hair, get someone to grab the “good” scissors, pop a few chocolate chips and let’s get you some holiday tunes.
You know how just about every musician and singer puts out at least one Christmas album? Yeah, well, this year Neil Diamond has put out Acoustic Christmas (ASIN: B01MAZIGZQ ), Jimmy Buffett has ‘Tis the SeaSon available and Frankie Valli has put out his own tribute to Christmas this year with ‘Tis the Seasons (ASIN: B01LYUABCJ) . Unless you are a big fan of Diamond, Buffett or Valli, I think it’s safe to take a pass on these offerings because none really are all that likely to wrap you in holiday warmth. I’d be interested in having a list of popular artists who haven’t done a Christmas song or album.
Of course, if you’d like to experience a diabetic coma you might want to download a copy of Friendship Is Magic: It’s a Pony Kind of Christmas by My Little Pony (ASIN: B01LQC4UPG). My advice? Run, run away quickly because there’s not enough bourbon, vodka or a round of ayahuasca with an Amazonian shaman and an out of body experience that’s ever going to erase this from your mind once you’ve heard it. I guess you could give it to folks who have kids, but you’d really have to hate them or desire to completely cut ties with these people. I don’t think the International Criminal Court has heard this particular recording, but I’m fairly certain it should be classified as a crime against humanity.
If you are feeling particularly nostalgic and miss those ole time classics, there’s A Melody Ranch Christmas Party by Gene Autry with standards “Jingle Bells,” “Here Comes Santa Claus & Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Medley” and “Cowboy Santa Claus” to round out this tribute to the cowboy crooner. This offering means that you can put the 2013 Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas from Captain Kangaroo by Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans and give the track “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” a rest this year.
Warner Brothers/Buskin has on tap this year Merry Christmas from Andra Day with “Someday at Christmas” with Stevie Wonder, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Winter Wonderland.” Holiday Soul on the Prestige label by the jazz pianist and composer Bobby Timmons is all cool Christmas with goodies like “Deck the Halls,” “White Christmas” and “You’re All I Want for Christmas.” Okeh/Sony Masterworks kicks the holiday humdrum with The Beautiful Day with goodies like “Star of Wonder,” “The Michigan Farm (Cradle Song, Op. 41/1)” and “Little Drummer Boy.”
Those hoping to burrow into a little country Christmas have plenty to choose from with offerings like Sarah McLachlan’s Wonderland with tracks “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manger” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain” or Trisha Yearwood’s Icon Christmas on the MCA Nashville label or Jennifer Nettles’s sassy To Celebrate Christmas with her own version of “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” with Andra Day and “Little Drummer Boy” with Idina Menzel. Atlantic Nashville has this year Brett Eldredge’s Glow with a big band backing the singer. Rascal Flatts has put out The Greatest Gift of All, while Mercury Nashville has on offer A Very Kacey Christmas by Kacey Musgraves with tracks like “Let It Snow” with the Quebe Sisters, “Christmas Don’t Be Late” and “Present Without a Bow” with Leon Bridges.
Classic Christmas songs are fine idea for drowning out those political warthogs at your parties and there’s some goodies out there like The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings by Ray Conniff. Two CDs, 31 tracks and freshly remastered, you won’t have to hear about the 2016 election for a good while with classics like “Sleigh Ride,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “My Favorite Things” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” There’s also NOW That’s What I Call Merry Christmas. Ignore the cheesy cover and the Justin Bieber track, because there are some legitimate lovelies on this like “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Frank Sinatra, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” by Johnny Mathis and “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” by Dean Martin.
Whipping a bit of world music mystery this holiday season, fans might want to take a listen to tracks like “White Christmas,” “The Christmas Medley” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” on A Celtic Family Christmas by Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. This year there is also Winter Fantasy by Charlee Brooks and David Arkenstone with goodies like “The First Noel,” “Noel Nouvelet” and “The Darkest Midnight In December.” The Steel Tropics have put out the Caribbean sounding collection Christmas Paradise with offerings like “White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
Some other goodies include Putumayo Presents Latin Christmas with tracks like Bobby Rodriguez’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” Juan Carlos Quintero’s “Jingle Bells” and Nossa Bossa Nova’s “Joy to the World.” Irish folk singer Cara Dillon has a lovely CD out called Upon a Winter’s Night with some yummy tracks like “Upon a Winter’s Night,” “The Holly and the Ivy” and “Rug Muire Mac Do Dhia,”
Please remember to be respectful this holiday season and those of you playing 2012’s A Heavy Metal Christmas (ASIN: B0189CFLWW) with Christopher Lee (yes, that Christopher Lee) or any of the selections from 2015’s Goth Christmas (ASIN: B017BNCXNU) to please try to not scare the native too much.
For a spicy holiday splash check out Asalto Navideño by Willie Colón and Hector Lavoe digitally remastered on the Fania label. This tropical holiday fare offers some of Puerto Rico’s favorite Christmas songs and is sure to warm up any Christmas party.
The Texas-based singer/songwriter Cas Haley’s EP Gifts to Give, out on the Easy Star Records, offers up some festive holiday delights tinged with a little sassy Texas swing. Haley serves up “Let It Snow,” “The Christmas Song,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and an original song for your holiday fun.
Putumayo has collected holiday classic songs from Ireland, Scotland, England, Canada and the United States for its Celtic Christmas release. With The Albion Christmas Band, Charles T. Cozen, DruidStones, Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola and Dougie MacLean offering Celtic-inspired Christmas classics like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Good King Wenceslas,” as well as the Gaelic version of “White Christmas” or “Nollaig Bhan.”
Folk fans might want to check out the DVD version of Peter, Paul and Mary’s famed “Holiday Concert.” With VHS out of print, this DVD release is a welcomed offering of the 1981 New York Choral Society benefit concert with all the familiar trio’s favorites like “Puff, The Magic Dragon,” “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “This Land is Your Land,” as well as a wealth of Christmas and Hanukkah songs and carols.
The Norwegian-Irish duo Secret Garden has put out Winter Poem on the Valley/Hearts of Space Records. Backed by the Czech National Symphony, Secret Garden pulls out all the stops with guest vocalists like Clannad’s Moya Brennan, Fionnuala Gill, Espen Grjotheim and Tracey Campbell for wealth of music that will warm up the winter and any holiday party.
Sweden’s Malou Berg has released her Christmas inspired album Breathe Out. Vocally dipping into English, Swedish and her own Pleiadian language, Ms. Berg’s musical vision of Christmas is all about peace and gentle joy. Fans get some reworked tracks from Hoya, Omine and others wrapped up with a whole host of guitars, strings and harps.
For a little more traditional fare, the men’s vocal ensemble Cantus has just released Christmas with Cantus. Fans get a stunning collection of tracks that include “Nowell!Nowell” This is the Salutacion,” “’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime” and “Ave Maria.” The impossibly rich, warm tapestry of vocals of Cantus make this holiday music release a real treat.
Fiddler Craig Duncan’s Irish Country Christmas on the Green Hill label is all Celtic charmer with a collection of familiar holiday tunes like “Jingle Bells,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.” Sweet and lovely this instrumental recording is all about the bright in this holiday season.
Sing Noel: A European Christmas Revels offers up choral pieces and carols from England, France, the Middle East and Spain. With a whole host of chorus groups from around the world, music fans can get a taste of holiday season with a theatrical flare.
Epic has on A Creole Christmas on tap for music fans. With Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and Aaron Neville offering such hits as “Please Come Home for Christmas,” “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Merry Christmas Baby” music fans get a healthy dose of New Orleans for the holidays and what a treat!
Finally, Navidad de los Andes, with bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi, violoncellist Anja Lechner and clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Felix Saluzzi out on the ECM label, provides a twist to the idea of holiday music. This stunning music is resides in the magical in between land where classical, jazz, tango and chamber music meet. Artful, emotional and poignant, Navidad de los Andes offers listeners a classically inspired look into Argentine and South American music for the long winter.
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