Tuesday, December 16, 2008
With eight days left before Christmas, I wanted to spend today looking at several new Christmas albums on the shelves this season - perhaps a last minute gift guide for those who love Christmas music.
This is my third review this morning and thanks to my friends at First Presbyterian Theater, I never would have known who Kristin Chenoweth was.
A veteran of many Broadway musicals including "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" and "Wicked", TV series, Old Navy commericials, and one miserable Christmas movie called "Deck The Halls" (what were you thinking?), Kristin stands barely 4' 11" but has an incredible voice that booms from her small frame.
That voice and Christmas music were destined to meet. "A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas" indeed!
Kristin's voice is so versatile - she can sing a lovely ballad like "I'll Be Home For Christmas" or "The Christmas Waltz", have some giddy fun with "Christmas Island", and give solemn carols like "What Child Is This?" majesty and solemnity.
This alone would give you a good Christmas CD but Kristin throws in some surprises. Her duet with John Pizzarelli on "Sleigh Ride / Marshmallow World" is brilliant, her cover of Peabo Bryson's "Born On Christmas Day" is remarkable, and "Come On Ring Those Bells" is a surprisingly good country Christmas delight.
Two songs of special mention: I grew up with "Sesame Street" and was introduced to The Carpenters' through the Joe Raposo song "Sing". It was great to hear again but it's not a Christmas song.
The other song is "Sleep Well Little Children / What A Wonderful World" - yep, someone's trying to take Louis Armstrong's great song and transform it into Christmas.
Memo to Sony Records (who aren't sharing their YouTube videos for this album): no matter how many lush strings you throw at us, no matter what extra song you tack on at the beginning, or even getting someone as talented as Kristin to sing it for you, you are not turning "What A Wonderful World" into a Christmas song. Brutal.
Despite that, this is a great Christmas album in large part to Chenoweth's take on the material - her refreshing voice and style is so good even Sony can't screw it up (much).
With that in mind, here's a video of Kristin at this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade singing "The Christmas Waltz" to a bunch of ice-skating Care Bears (another Sony masterstroke):
Shout-out to all the theater people at FPT - they're in the middle of their annual run of "It's A Wonderful Life" right now. See some of you at the wrap party!