Are you listening?
The benefit CD A Christmas Cornucopia (Decca), from Annie Lennox, features one of the most powerful voices in music today. It covers holiday music from many eras and parts of the world, along with one original song. Some songs are recorded sparsely, others with an orchestra, or with the support of the African Children’s Choir. Another great vocalist (and songwriter), Shelby Lynne, has just released her first holiday album, Merry Christmas!, on her own Everso Records, which features classic holiday fare and two originals. One of the most imaginative holiday CD’s I’ve heard in a long time is Joy To The World from Pink Martini on Heinz Records. Mixing retro jazz, exotica, world touches and impeccable sound, the group somehow manages to make a truly original holiday album. Christmas With The Puppini Sisters (Verve) features an all-girl trio (who are not sisters), putting a 40’s swing spin on mostly holiday classics. What makes this more than a retro outing, however, is how the group gives the swing treatment to such modern holiday faves as “Step Into Christmas” (Elton John) and “Last Christmas” (George Michael). The Christmas Jug Band has just released its fifth holiday CD, On The Holiday Highway (Globe). The brainchild of Dan Hicks, this new disc includes guests Country Joe and the late Norton Buffalo. On its first album in seven years, Wilson-Philips reunites for a holiday album Christmas in Harmony (Sony Masterworks), which features holiday favorites and “Christmastime” co-written by Chynna Philips and producer Glen Ballard. The Indigo Girls’ Holly Happy Days (Vanguard), features original and classic holiday songs in a beautiful gift package. The duo has also released Staring Down The Brilliant Dream (Vanguard), a 2-CD live collection from 2006-2009, that is also beautifully packaged. The Brian Setzer Orchestra has released its sixth holiday CD, Christmas Comes Alive (Surfdog). Massapequa native Setzer puts a great deal of zip into a genre that sometimes sounds like it’s been entombed in mothballs in an attic since last January. The BSO also has a two-CD live set out: Don’t Mess With A Big Band Live! (Surfdog). Three holiday reissues worth checking out are Christmas From The Rat Pack (Capitol) featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. and two unique DVD’s. The Yule Log series are DVDs that features various seasonal scenes accompanied by a classic holiday album from Legacy. Two installments in the series for this year feature two of the all-time greatest holiday rock albums of all time: A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector and Elvis Christmas album from Elvis Presley. Finally on DVD, look for This Christmas Live In Chicago, from Michael McDonald (Eagle).
Christmas in England Continued
John, Paul, Ringo, the Beatles and Apple
To mark the year of John Lennon’s 70th birthday and the tragic 40th anniversary of his passing, Apple has undertaken a massive Lennon reissue project. Along with the 11-CD Signature Box and the four-CD Gimmie Some Truth, Apple has reissued nearly all of the music Lennon recorded as a solo artist, and the works on which he collaborated with Yoko Ono. Lennon’s main solo studio albums that primarily featured original compositions are Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Mind Games and Walls & Bridges. Also reissued are the double-disc, studio and live collaboration with Ono, Elephant’s Memory and others entitled Some Time In New York City, the Phil Spector-produced oldies covers album Rock ‘n’ Roll, Lennon and Ono’s Double Fantasy, and the posthumous Milk & Honey, Lennon and Ono’s followup to Double Fantasy. Also in the reissue series is the CD/DVD Power to the People: The Hits, which features a 15-song DVD. The main solo studio albums of original material and Rock ‘N’ Roll benefit from superior sound and beautiful packaging, but previous reissues of these albums included bonus tracks. Some Time In New York City is a real improvement over the previous reissue, as it preserves the second disc of live recordings. Diehards will also want to check out additional, albeit remixed, music from these shows on Frank Zappa’s Playground Psychotics. Double Fantasy includes an entire bonus disc of the album in a “Stripped Down” version. The 15-song DVD on the Power To The People DVD contains only one video not found on the Lennon Legend DVD, which also featured 20 videos and included seven additional special features.
Apple has also just reissued the Beatles’ Red and Blue, double-CD sets with beautiful packaging.
Hear Music has reissued arguably Paul McCartney’s best solo album, Band On The Run, in various configurations. The configuration in my possession includes three discs. Disc one is made up of the original album. Disc two includes outtakes including audio from the One Hand Clapping film. Then third disc is a DVD which includes film from One Hand Clapping, videos and footage of Wings recording the album in Lagos in Africa.
In packaging similar to the individual Lennon CDs, EMI has reissued all of the albums that were released by the Beatles’ Apple Records that were not from the Beatles as a group, or as solo artists. While some of these albums have been reissued previously, they all have bonus tracks and beautiful packaging. There are also discs in this new series that have never been released on CD. There are four Badfinger CDs, two Billy Preston CDs and two Mary Hopkin CDs. There are also discs from Jackie Lomax, Doris Troy and The Radha Krsna Temple. Two new reissues each have two albums on one disc: Under The Jasmin Tree and Space are on one disc from The Modern Jazz Quartet and The Whale and Celtic Requiem are on one disc from John Tavener. The most treasured disc of the series is the self-titled debut album from James Taylor. This was the long-out-of-print album that launched Taylor, prior to his commercial breakthrough on Warner Brothers. There is also a single-CD Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records.
From Sofa Entertainment and the Hip-O imprint of Universal comes The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows. This four-hour DVD includes the full Sullivan programs of the four times the Beatles appeared on the show, plus bonus material.
From Hip-O Select is the DVD Ringo Starr & His All Star Band: Live at the Greek Theatre 2008, from the same tour of Ringo’s that came through Long Island that year and from MVD Visual is the DVD John Lennon: Rare and Unseen.
Beatles-related books recently published include Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney (DaCapo) from Howard Sounes, who goes as in depth here with McCartney’s life and career as he did with Bob Dylan. From Omnibus Press comes The Beatles: The Myth and the Music, from two of England’s most well- respected music chroniclers Peter Doggett and Patrick Humphries.
Rolling Reissued, Keef and Woody
Eagle has just issued Ladies & Gentlemen The Rolling Stones from the group’s historic 1972 tour. The DVD includes rehearsal footage, jamming, an interview from the Old Grey Whistle Test and a new interview with Mick Jagger. Fans of the Rolling Stones will not want to miss Life (Little, Brown), Keith Richards’s autobiography written with James Fox. The New Yorker’s editor David Remnick summed it up best when describing the Richards in the book as “a man who knew every pleasure, denied himself nothing, and never paid the price.”
Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood’s new solo CD, I Feel Like Playing (Eagle), again spotlights Woody as a guitarist whose feel, rather than his virtuosity, has made him a legend. With a supporting all-star cast that includes Flea, Slash, Billy Gibbons, and old mate Ian McLagan, among others, Woody has come up with another bloozy, no-frills gem that sounds like the most fun he’s had on a solo record in years.
Thanks to EMI, David Bowie fans can have two full CDs of Bowie’s renowned 1976 show from Nassau Coliseum from his Station to Station tour, along with a third disc that includes a remastered edition of an album that some Bowie fans love and some critics loathe. This Thin White Duke-era Bowie was both brilliant and personally shaky. The album set the stage for Bowie’s Eno-produced trilogy of Low. Heroes and Lodger.
From Universal, an Island Deluxe Edition of Live at Leeds is now available on two CD’s. It is not the Who album, however. Instead, I’m referring to John Martyn’s album of that name, which is now out with a bonus disc of rehearsals and additional songs from the 1975 concert featuring Paul Kossoff from Free on guitar. For those of you who want to hear the BBC in America this holiday season, do not miss Live at the BBC from the Strawbs, from A&M. Volume One, subtitled In Session, was recorded live from 1968 through 1973 from various BBC radio shows on which the Strawbs appeared live. Volume Two, subtitled In Concert, is a two-disc set recorded at the Paris Theatre in London in 1971 and 1973 and at Golders Green Hippodrome in 1974. Like the Martyn set, these are superior-quality packages with discs manufactured in Germany.
Are you watching?
Two music DVDs that would make great gifts are: Going Back Live at Roseland Ballroom, NYC, from Phil Collins, which features rehearsal footage and an interview with Collins and Live (Island), from the Cranberries filmed in London in 1994.