Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Neil Sedaka - The Miracle of Christmas

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.

My mom's gonna freak when I play this for her when I see her for Christmas dinner! And as I type these words with Neil Sedaka's first ever Christmas album playing in the background, I'm starting to freak.

A little background first: Sedaka first broke into the music business as a songwriter, penning many of his hits alongside Carole King in the Brill Building in New York City.

Singing many of his own compositions (including back-up vocals), Neil had a string of hits between 1960 and 1962 such as "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen", "Calendar Girl", and "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do". His popularity took a direct British invasion hit and by 1967, he was without a label.

Sedaka went overseas and toured extensively in the UK and Australia, winning over many fans. This included Elton John, who signed Neil to his Rocket Records label.

Surprise! Neil had another string of hits that included "Laughter In The Rain", "Bad Blood", a re-working of "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do", and wrote the Captain & Tennille's biggest hit "Love Will Keep Us Together" before falling out of favor again thanks to disco music.

Throughout the 80s, 90s, and right up until today, Sedaka continued to appear in Vegas, tour the world, and keep writing songs that newer generations have covered. Ben Folds is a huge Sedaka fan; after learning Neil had a song published by the age of 13, Folds set and met the same goal.

To quote from the booklet of his Christmas album:

"This is for all the fans who have been asking me to do a Christmas CD over the fifty years I've been recording. I do hope you, the listener, will feel the same emotions that I felt when I was singing them."

Sedaka still has a great voice - it was so cool to hear it again on the first song "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow". It still sounded great on the second song "Silent Night", especially with his double tracked voice.

Then I noticed something by song three (when I began to freak above). I can hear Sedaka playing piano (again) and a scant trace of synthesized strings. Where's the drums, the brass, the jingle bells?

I stopped looking around song six. Who was responsible for this? I looked at the inside cover: Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Piano: Neil Sedaka. Producer: Neil Sedaka.

By song eight I was getting numb. What a letdown. Christmas truly deserves better than this. We deserve better than this. This is an album for the faithful (and I mean FAITHFUL) Neil Sedaka fan on your list.

Which is why my mom is gonna freak. As a rule, I never re-gift. After listening to all ten tracks, I have a feeling this opened CD just might find a home in her stocking at Christmas.



Jeff at AM, Then FM said...

Bummer. I'd hoped ...

Great job as always. Enjoying the posts.

Following is a link to an exhaustive review of new Xmas records by a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. You may know him.


Jeff in Green Bay
AM, Then FM

CaptainOT said...

Jeff - It's cue piano, then Neil, then synth strings, maybe a double-tracked voice of Neil, end of song x 10.

Haven't heard of the gentlemen but his article was a good read... more CDs for the wish list!