Sting, Sugarland & Seasonal Soul - Four New Holiday CDs Reviewedsting

by Chris Narloch

Holiday CDs have become big business, with some artists (like Amy Grant) carving out a second career in seasonal music. To be honest, Santa Claus brought some dismal discs this year, from artists as diverse as Bob Dylan and David Archuleta.
I did, however, manage to scrape together four fabulous new holiday CDs that are essential listening for fans of out-of-the-ordinary Christmastime music.

Sting

If on a Winter’s Night…
Universal Music
I would expect nothing less than the classiest Christmas CD of the year from the ex-Police-man Sting, and he mostly delivers with If on a Winter’s Night …, a collection of tunes inspired by winter, the singer’s favorite season.
Featuring music spanning over five centuries, including traditional carols and lullabies from the British Isles and two of Sting’s own songs, If on a Winter’s Night … does contain a couple mushy vocals. When the CD is good, however, as on “Soul Cake” and “Gabriel’s Message,” it’s really good.

Sugarlandsugarland

Gold and Green
Mercury Records
Country fans have one required purchase this holiday season, and this is it. The hottest new duo in Nashville recently released their first foray into the Christmas market, which consists of five seasonal standards and five original songs co-written by Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush.
Nettles smoothes out her trademark twang for part of Gold and Green, a nice change of pace which results in some of her loveliest recorded vocals to date (“City of Silver Dreams” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”). Fans of the twang need not worry – the singer unleashes it on “Nuttin’ For Christmas,” a very funny track about what bad children get.

Various Artists

In the Christmas Groove
Strut Records
This is a real find for fans of old-school soul music (like me). The first yuletide compilation from the Strut label, In the Christmas Groove brings together rare soul, funk and blues cuts rediscovered from holidays past.
The titles alone are a hoot: “Santa’s Got a Bag of Soul,” “Christmas Present Blues,” “Funky, Funky Christmas” and “Getting Down for Xmas.” Retro R&B lovers will go wild for these obscure gems from long-forgotten acts such as Zebra, The Black on White Affair, Electric Jungle, Funk Machine, Milly and Silly and the Soul Saints Orchestra.

Kathy Griffin

Suckin’ It for the Holidayskathy
Music with a Twist
Leave it to Kathy Griffin to release a holiday CD that has nothing (and I mean ‘nothing’) to do with the holidays. Our favorite fag-hag comedienne mentions Christmas and Kwanzaa only in passing at the start of the disc. The rest of the CD is Griffin’s usual raunchy dish about celebrities, her mother, and “my gays.”
I’m not complaining (exactly). Griffin is funny here, as always, particularly when taking on sacred-cow celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou. So I can cut her some slack for not skewering Santa Claus, especially since both she and her mother are such good friends of the gay community.


 

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