Mister D: Nashville shows it has good taste in music!
Holiday Tunes Worth a Listen
Safe Bet on Midler, Subdued Sarah Worth Listenerâ€™s Green
Church Street Freedom Press, Nashville
Photo Montage: Lucy Wilkins
Itâ€™s that time of year again – candy canes, fruitcakes, and yes, there are all those sentimental, if not downright corny Christmas tunes. Though I tend to bristle with ever step I take inside a mall or a department store as the instrumental elevator music turns from endless rounds of â€œTop of the Worldâ€ by The Carpenters to â€œBurl Ives Best Holiday Favorites,â€ I have to admit that I was intrigued by two of this yearâ€™s new holiday music offerings: Bette Midlerâ€™s Cool Yule and Sarah McLachlanâ€™s Wintersong.
When listening to new Christmas music, one thing stands out â€“ originality. Of all the musical genres available to a discerning ear, holiday music tends to be one most saturated with the same old songs. If the artist isnâ€™t bringing something new to the album, itâ€™s easy for all those â€œho, ho, hoâ€™sâ€ to turn into â€œbah humbugsâ€ where the listener is concerned. Both Midler and McLachlan bring originality and unique styles to their albums.
On Divine Miss Mâ€™s Cool Yule, her first holiday music offering of her stellar three decades-plus career, Midler brings the big band sound to Santa. There are standard offerings to please the traditionalist out there, like â€œHave Yourself a Merry Little Christmasâ€ and â€œIâ€™ll Be Home for Christmas,â€ which is the only overlapping song between Midler and McLachlanâ€™s new albums. However, songs like the Hawaiian-themed â€œMele Kalikimakaâ€ and the swinging â€œIâ€™ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warmâ€ will keep listenerâ€™s hitting the play button on their new iPods this year. On â€œWinter Wonderland,â€ Midler is joined by none other than the â€œKing of Christmasâ€ Johnny Mathis. On a sentimental note, Midler has a new â€œChristmas Versionâ€ of â€œFrom A Distance,â€ a Julie Gold penned song she first released on Some Peopleâ€™s Lives about 16 years ago. Though Iâ€™m partial to Nashville transplant, Nanci Griffithâ€™s version, thereâ€™s no doubt that Midlerâ€™s version of a song that poignantly deals with peace and war has earned its greatest commercial acclaim.
The subject of war and peace also appears on McLachlanâ€™s Wintersong. The first track is the John Lennon classic â€œHappy Xmas (War Is Over)â€. Though several artists have covered this song, McLachlan brings her angelic, somewhat haunting vocals to this version â€“ complete with a childrenâ€™s choir to back her up. Though McLachlan, a Halifax native, brings a more contemplative tone to this album, the songs that stand out most are her covers of winter-inspired songs from fellow Canadian powerhouses. Listeners will be sure to enjoy her versions of Gordon Lightfootâ€™s â€œSong For a Winterâ€™s Nightâ€ and Joni Mitchellâ€™s â€œRiver,â€ another poetic masterpiece from Mitchellâ€™s Blue album, from which McLachlan covered the title track on a previous album. The title track, â€œWintersongâ€ is particularly touching, with a very lullaby sort of sound about her Christmas memories of a loved one.
Bette Midlerâ€™s Cool Yule and Sarah McLachlanâ€™s Wintersong can be purchased from your favorite music store or online through iTunes.