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 review number six today and the second that arrived at my P.O. Box. This one came from someone within the music industry who is a faithful reader and wished to remain anonymous. Thanks for thinking of me.
Verve Records was founded in 1956 by Norman Granz as a jazz label. Over the years it has been the home for jazz legends and young up-and-comers who became legends.
However, by the early 1970s, the label nearly folded completely, reduced to re-releasing older jazz albums and being sold off to one musical conglomerate to the next.
That changed in the mid-1980s when Verve was revived and began reissuing its back catalogue. The "Verve By Request" label began to reissue many original Verve bossa nova titles on CD in the late 1990s, and the Elite series revived many obscure albums which had languished for many years.
In 2002, we were introduced to the "Verve Remixed" compilation discs. Classic tracks by Verve artists are remixed by contemporary electronic music DJs. Seven releases later, they decided to put the "Verve Remixed" treatment to their Christmas catalog.
The end result is a mix of both good and bad. Hearing artists like Ella Fitzgerald made to sound like a pop princess, Louis Armstrong with a thumping bass behind him, and the legendary Billie Holiday to sound like a reggae queen is just plain wrong.
But... I listen nonetheless. I admire the new takes on the old classics. Anything that takes the same songs you've heard 50,000 times and gives it a new spin is worth a listen (although several remixes go on far too long).
Try to get your 10 or 15 year old to listen to the originals and you probably won't get far. Let them listen to this album and they just might get into it. Maybe they'll discover Ella, Louis, and the rest down the road like we did.
If that's what Verve's intentions were with this series, then I applaud them for trying to introduce the younger generations to the past. Then I flip the coin and think Verve is just recycling the catalog to squeeze more money out their cash cow - two years ago this December, they laid off 85% of their staff in a cost-cutting move.
In any case, you might want to listen to see if you want to buy this first. There is not one but two videos at YouTube to give you a feel for this album.