Searching for the New Christmas Classics...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009| by Will Chen

With Christmas right around the corner, there’s no question a local radio station (or three) are running round the clock Christmas songs. Yes, the same old tunes and arrangements you’ve probably heard a million times along with some newer very conservative takes on those classic. Enough already! I mean, the classics are great and all but I want something fresh, something new.  So I set out on a search for some fresher and more fun Christmas albums and I found three well worth checking out.

Brian Setzer Orchestra The Best of Collection – Christmas Rocks! – This 2008 release contains the best selections from the three previously released Christmas themed albums Setzer has released. The album features all the classic Christmas tracks arranged in Setzer’s lively style with great guitar work and excellent performances from the big band.  The first track, a rocked up version of Jingle Bells, alone is well worth the cost of the album. Other highlights include a great swinging version of the classic duet Baby, It’s Cold Outside with Ann Margaret, Winter Wonderland, and a big band arrangement of the Nutcracker Suite

Tori Amos Midwinter Graces – This is an absolutely great album of predominately original material inspired by various Christmas and seasonal classics. If you’ve never given her a listen before, this is actually a very good introduction to her unique vocal rhythmic piano style. There isn’t much guitar at all on the album, but the arrangements are dense featuring lush orchestrations and interesting melodic twists which might keep you listening far past the Christmas season. Highlights include Star of Wonder, A Silent Night With you, and the surprisingly good jazz ballad Pink And Glitter which really showcases Tori’s versatility as a songwriter and performer.

Happy Christmas: A Tooth and Nail Christmas – Tooth and Nail is a Christian Power Rock label featuring some of the top acts in that genre.  And let’s face it, who’s gonna celebrate Christ’s birth harder than Christian metal bands? Actually, this compilation covers a fairly wide variety of styles and is full of unique arrangements of classics and a few originals. Highlights include the techno house meets surf rock version of Christmas Time is Here by Starflyer 59, The Almost’s pop punk Yule Be Sorry, and Emery’s new wave meets rock on (Ho Ho Hey) A Way For Santa's Sleigh.  However the best song on the album and a must not miss track which has actually become a holiday favorite of mine is Mae’s jazz rock version of Carol Of The Bells which is cool beyond reproach.

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