Australian musician Terry Oldfield is known for his "unique ability to bring the spirit of nature into his compositions," and this Christmas collection is no exception. Ethereal music produced by keyboards and flutes combines with lyrical vocals to capture the peace and serenity of the holiday season. Included are traditional carols such as "Silent Night," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "The First Noel" and "Once in Royal David's City." There's a beautiful version of "The Rocking Carol" and an equally soft and gently "See Amid the Winter Snows."
DAVID TOLK, "Christmas" (Old World Music).
David Tolk's fingers seem to fly across the keyboard, sometimes picking out the melody, sometimes the harmony and background, but always with amazing technique and feeling. Included are traditional carols such as "Holly and the Ivy," "What Child Is This," "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "Savior of the Nations Come." He's joined by local artists Ryan Tilbey on a variety of string instruments, Aaron Ashton on violin, Daron Bradford on the winds and Mackenzie Tolk, with vocals. Together, they create a soft and flowing, multilayered sound that is a joy to listen to. The J. Kirk Richards painting of the album's cover also captures perfectly the spirit the music evokes.
VARIED ARTISTS, "Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album" (Columbia).
Showing off the youthful exuberance and musicality that has made "Glee" a TV phenom, this Christmas collection is lively and bright. Highlighting various cast members of different numbers, with the trademark harmonies of the show, it features traditional carols and songs such as "O Christmas Tree," "O Holy Night" and "Jingle Bells," as well as pop standards such as "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Guest artist k.d. lang appears on a fun version of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."
VARIED ARTISTS, "Yule Log DVD"s (Sony).
If you want to cuddle up by the fire to listen to Christmas music — but don't have a fireplace — here's just the thing: DVDs that provide background music while the screen turns into a realistic fireplace. (You can also choose a "Cozy Cottage" or a "Snowy Cabin" option.) There's music to suit all tastes with separate DVDs featuring Elvis Presley's "Elvis' Christmas Album"; REO Speedwagon's "Not So Silent Night: Christmas With REO Speedwagon"; Phil Spector's "A Christmas Gift For You"; and Barry Manilow's "A Christmas Gift of Love." Each provide Christmas classics, both carols and secular songs, in classic performances by the various artists. (Elvis throws in a few gospel songs, as well.)
VOICE MALE, "Christmas Live" (Voice Male Music).
As they promise on the album cover, this two-disc set offers not only the music, but also "all of the banter, laughs and jollification" of a Voice Male concert. It truly is the next best thing to being there. The a cappella group is comprised of John Luthy, Phil Kesler, Mike Bearden, John Huff, Richard McCalister and Mike Wilson, who have been together since college days at Utah State University. Parts of the album were recorded during several concert seasons, so you get an authentic feel for what they do. But it also serves as a memorial to Kesler, who died of cancer two months after the 2009 Christmas concert season. The collection includes all their standard Christmas songs: "Jamaican Noel," "Let It Snow," "Little Drummer Boy" and more. There are also concert favorites, such as "Rubber Ducky," "It's A Small World" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." It's a treasure for all Voice Male fans, and a good introduction for those new to the group. They have a great time, and so will the listener.
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