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Archive for December, 2014

barbariabnsSOUNDTRACK: ULTRA LOUNGE: CHRISTMAS COCKTAILS Part Three: Yule Tide Cheer Through the Year (2005).

xmastails3The final part of the Ultra Lounge Christmas set certainly sees them running out of steam.  There’s far fewer songs and the total running time is nearly 20 minutes shorter.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great tracks here.

CARMEN McRAE-“Baby It’s Cold Outside” a fun opening with some talking before the song between Carmen and Sammy Davis Jr.  Davis is really silly through the song (and she seems to be laughing him).  BING CROSBY-“Frosty The Snowman” wonderful.  LENA HORNE-“Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” a trippy opening in which Horne was “in the milky way.” Then the song kicks in—a fun version overall. Strangely she switches “bad or good” into “good or bad.”  JOHNNY MERCER-“Jingle Bells” a fun hopping version with plenty of swing.  There’s even extra lines (“there’s nothing new about jingle bells”).

WAYNE NEWTON-“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” Female vocalists again (I thought Newton was a singer?), but nevertheless, it’s a fun version.  NANCY WILSON-“That’s What I Want For Christmas” a pretty song, that I didn’t know before.  I really dig Nancy Wilson.  DEAN MARTIN-“Winter Wonderland” delightful, I do love the Deano.  BILLY MAY-“Do You Believe In Santa Claus?” – Billy May’s deep dark rather scary voice presents this weird song.  It’s funny and a little spooky what  with the crazy way it ends.

PEGGY LEE-“White Christmas” this version is too for me.  AL MARTINO-“Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” this is a nice version, though.  RAY ANTHONY-“A Marshmallow World” a lovely version of this fun song.  LOU RAWLS-“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” Rawls has finally won me over.  I like this song by him.  JULIE LONDON-“I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” slow and jazzy but too slow for me.  NAT KING COLE-“Buon Natale (Means Merry Christmas To You)” a fun song quaint and cute and one you don’t hear very often.  JUNE CHRISTY-“Sorry To See You Go” I don’t know this song, it’s more of a New Year’s song. Swet and bouncy. Although not my favorite ending to the discs.

So that’s the Ultra Lounge mixes, easily my favorite way to spend a holly day.

[READ: December 24, 2014] The Barbarians

This was the final Baricco book I planned to read this year and it’s a good way to end the year–reflecting on the past but planning to move forward.

It’s nonfiction so I didn’t really know what to expect.  But I certainly didn’t expect the story in the beginning of the book.  Baricco explains that he really wanted this book to be translated into English (especially for the American market where he felt it would be particularly on target) but he couldn’t find anyone to publish it.  And he didn’t want to go self publishing.  He ultimately found a friend in New York, owner of Eataly who agreed to foot the cost.  They did the work and then Random House distributed it.

So Stephen Sartarelli translated it.  The book is a fun and interesting look at the barbarians who are ruining our culture and destroying our soul.  But Baricco is very careful to point out that just because they are ruining things, it doesn’t mean that they are making things worse or doing it maliciously.  He uses several specific instances in which the barbarians have changed something held sacred and made it, if not better, then different and often more enjoyable.

This book was originally written as a series of newspaper articles in 2006 (not sure exactly when).  He says it was fun to see feedback as he was writing each installment (each “chapter” is about four pages). (more…)

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locke5 SOUNDTRACKULTRA LOUNGE: CHRISTMAS COCKTAILS Part Two: Another Sound of Cool Holiday Spirits (1997).

xmastails2I enjoyed Christmas Cocktails so much, it seemed foolish to pass on Part Two.  It could never be as good as Part One (that’s where all the best stuff went), but it’s still pretty solid with some great renditions of old songs and new (to me) songs.  And yes, one or two that are even better than disc one.

CAIOLA & ORTALANI/JIMMY McGRIFF-“Sleigh Ride/Jingle Bells” A cool easy listening version with guitars swinging and then switching two smooth violins/organ solo Hammond.  LENA HORNE-“Jingle All The Way” I like that the bass is playing the “I like the sleigh ride” without it being sung.  It’s a fun version (also on Pier 1 Imports).  LOU RAWLS-“Merry Christmas Baby” I don’t typically like Lou Rawls, and I don’t really like this song, but this version fits in good with the rest of the disc.  JULIE LONDON-“Warm December” I don’t know this song, it’s pretty and sweet.  London must be the sweetheart of the Capitol Records stable.

EDDIE DUNSTEDTER-“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!/Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” An ice-rink keyboard version of the songs—cheesey and awesome!  JUNE CHRISTY-“The Merriest”  I didn’t know this song.  It’s a fun unusual song that I like quite a bit, the words are unexpected and full of wordplay.  NAT KING COLE TRIO-“All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)” Also on the Pier 1 disc, I didn’t notice the backing vocalists as much on the other version—they almost drown out Nat on this one.

NANCY WILSON “ The Christmas Waltz” I feel like Ive only become aware of this song this year. I like this version a lot. With strings and Wilson’s lovely voice.  LES BROWN AND HIS BAND OF RENOWN-/FRANK DEVOL WITH THE STARLIGHTERS-“I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm/Jing-A-Ling, Jing-A-Ling” This is a fun instrumental, big band version until the second half when the Starlighters sing–in great 40s era style–Jing-A Ling which I’ve never heard before.  JIMMY McGRIFF-“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”  I don’t especially love this song, but this crazy Hammond organ version is awesome (is it different from the one on the first disc?)?

DEAN MARTIN-“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” A fast version of this with what sounds like a chorus of women responding to Deano.  GEORGE SHEARING/BILLY MAY-“Snowfall / Snowfall Cha-Cha” A pretty, string filled chill-out song that I’m unfamiliar with.   WAYNE NEWTON-“ Jingle Bell Rock” I don’t really like this song in general.  And this is a woman singing so I don’t quite get the Newton connection, but I am amused at how much this song does not rock.  THE VENTURES-“Frosty The Snowman” a fun surf version.  THE DINNING SISTERS & BOB ATCHER-“Christmas Island” I love this song and this version.  It’s always a treat to hear this at Christmastime.

MARTIN DENNY-“Exotic Night” I love Martin Denny and his weird “exotic” tracks. This is a wonderful version of “What Child is This” as done on vibes and possibly glasses? With a pretty piano.  PEGGY LEE-“Happy Holidays” Classic big band fun.  FERRANTE & TEICHER/LES BAXTER-“Sleigh Ride/Santa Claus’ Party”  Les Baxter is another great exotic music fan.  This is the great instrumental version with sleigh bells and cloppy sounds and all. The second half is a vocal rendition of a song I’ve never heard before (“a mountain of ice cream where everyone has his share!”).  Someday I’ll have to make a disc of “old” Christmas songs that are not part of the typical rounds

GUY LOMBARDO & HIS ROYAL CANADIANS-“ Auld Lang Syne” standard Auld Lang Syne fare, although a little slow.  STAN KENTON-“ What Is Santa Claus?” A sweet story about Santa Claus. It’s spoken word with the set up that children are always asking him what Santa Claus is.  Set over a backing chorus of “Silent Night,” it’s very sweet, although he says Santa has 7 reindeer—that’s odd.

[READ: December 22, 2014] Locke & Key 5

I’m trying so hard to pace myself with these stories, but I am so hooked.  I knew I would finish the series by the end of the year, even if I couldn’t post about them until January

This penultimate book opens with a flashback.  A very long ago flashback with a bunch of people who look a lot like the Locke family.  And indeed they are the Locke’s from 1776, when the parents of the family were killed by British soldiers for supporting the local militia.  The children watch the hanging and are told to go to the caves (where the militia is waiting).  When they get to the caves, they learn that the men hiding there have found a door.  The door is marked 11 and has all kinds of designs on it.  The men reveal that the children’s brother was killed fighting off whatever was in that door (so they lost three family members that day).

Behind the door is the creepy spirit dimension that Scout is trying to control.  After a staggering amount of bloodshed, we learn that if the spirits are incapable of taking over a body, they turn into a weird kind of metal.  Which the boy forges into the Omega key.  And, mind-blowingly, Ty and Kinsey are there as ghosts to watch the whole thing.  (And I have to laugh that during all the horror, the goat is just eating people’s hats and whatnot). (more…)

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peach13SOUNDTRACK: ULTRA LOUNGE: CHRISTMAS COCKTAILS Hi-Fi Holiday Cheer from Santa’s Pad (1996).

xmastails1Because I am a total hipster, I love these Ultra Lounge collections.  Actually, I don’t think we were called hipsters when these collections first started coming out, but I have loved all of them.  And I especially love these Christmas ones.  Indeed, this may be my favorite Christmas album of all.

I’d say in part it’s because I great up listening to big band and I can totally imagine my parents being into this back in the day.

BILLY MAY-“Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” opens with a crazy yelling of all of the reindeer names.  Then a funny, almost drunken, sounding horn version of the song with weirdly shouted phrases throughout. It really sets the mood.  PEGGY LEE-“Winter Wonderland” is a more familiar and traditional version of the song—it’s delightful although it’s hard to reconcile with that earlier piece.  RAY ANTHONY-“Christmas Trumpets / We Wish You A Very Merry Christmas” is a wonderful sorta cheesey version of “Jingle Bells” and other songs on trumpets.  LOU RAWLS-“Christmas Is” Rawls’ voice, which I don’t love in general works well for this song.  I like the big horns in the middle.  JIMMY McGRIFF-“Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town / White Christmas” this is some fun, easy listening Hammond organ instrumental.  It is 6 minutes of ice rink spectacular.

JULIE LONDON-“I’d Like You For Christmas”  The backing vocalists singing the tune of “Jingle Bells” (but slowly) and then Julie sings a slow romantic song that I’m unfamiliar with. Not my fave—too slow and I don’t care for the backing responders.  AL CAIOLA- “Holiday On Skis” but this is a zippy and fun instrumental on guitar.  KAY STARR-“(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag” is a fun silly song and I like this version.  HOLLYRIDGE STRINGS- “Jingle Bells / Jingle Bell Rock” I love this swinging string version that is fun and a little off with the musical runs.  I would like more by the Hollyridge Strings who are known for their easy listening renditions of classic songs.

DEAN MARTN-“I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” I love this classic version.  EDDIE DUNSTEDTER-“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus/Jingle Bells Bossa Nova” a wonderful ice rink version with a bossanova flair–the best way to hear the first of these two songs (instrumentally).  RAY ANTHONY AND HIS BOOKENDS “Christmas Kisses” wonderfully cheesey and fun song about kisses for Christmas.  I didn’t know this song before this version.  JACKIE GLEASON-“I’ll Be Home For Christmas / Baby, It’s Cold Outside”  The first bit is a somber, pretty instrumental version of the song, it is strangely mingled with a wild whistling version of the second song.  Gleason is wonderfully campy.  NANCY WILSON-“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” Sweet version. I think I like Nancy Wilson a lot more than I realized.  CAPITOL STUDIO ORCHESTRA-“Cha-Cha All The Way”  The best Christmas song ever.

NAT KING COLE-“The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)” I love this song very much and Nat’s version is the best. I’m not exactly sure it belongs on this compilation, but I never don’t want to hear it.  LES BROWN AND HIS BAND OF RENOWN-“The Nutcracker Suite” I love this whole version of various Nutcracker pieces (it’s clear that Brian Setzer used this as the basis for his swinging version). I love the Nutcracker in general but this is so much fun.  FRED WARING-“Ring Those Christmas Bells” This opens with various songs thrown together by a jolly group of carolers. Then a jolly version of “Ring those Christmas Bells” another song I don’t know but which I like a lot.  THE CONTINENTAL-“Violets For Your Furs”  This is a strange “bonus” track in which over soap opera music an accented Lothario comes on to a woman with violets for her furs.  Weird. PEGGY LEE/NAT KING COLE./NANCY WILSON-“Toys For Tots”  weird “toys for tots” refrain, but nice vocals from the trio asking for help with the program (who knew it was that old?).  The final track is JOHNNY MERCER-“Jingle Bells” which is a fun Christmas Card from Capitol Records–I wonder who received this?

[READ: December 26, 2014] “Christmas Story”

After reading enough Lucky Peaches I have learned that chefs are bad-tempered, foul-mouthed individuals, who relish good living and big eating (and drinking).  So it should come as no surprise that Bourdain as a fiction writer lives up to that essence in his stories (vulgarities abound and there’s lots of good food).

This is the story of Ricky, a chef whom the narrator learned from.  Ricky was a lifer in the business, having worked first in the army and then as a line cook and for the past two decades as head chef for a club.

Ricky had a sixth sense–he could look at a crowd and determine what they were going to order before they even knew it.  He would be able to determine that they needed more shrimp or if the crowd was just a simple pigs in blankets bunch just by the way they walked in.

Ricky liked the narrator and so gave him Christmas off this one year–a rarity in any chef job.  The narrator was psyched until his wife said that they should cook and serve Christmas dinner, real traditional-like, to their families.  The narrator said he could do a room of 200 easily but a dinner for 12 freaked him out.

So he asked Ricky’s advice.

And the bulk of the end of the story is Ricky’s suggestion for what to cook (it’s like a huge long recipe).  I appreciated the idea that putting stuffing in a turkey is like a breeding ground for bacteria.  But I really liked his idea that you should cook two turkeys, a big one and small one.  The small one is the stunt turkey.  When it is cooked, you bring out the stunt turkey to the table but you have already carved the larger turkey so that moments later you bring in the bird all carved up and everyone oohs.  But more importantly, with two turkeys you know you will always have enough food.

It worked for the narrator, and would probably work for you, too.

(more…)

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stilllife SOUNDTRACK: LOREENA McKENNITT-A Winter Garden (1995).

mckenneitLoreena McKennitt has a beautiful voice.  This EP is a beautiful holiday selection (not really Christmas exactly, so that’s fine).  There’s five songs, one of them is from one of her albums as well.

“Coventry Carol” has an excellent full sound–McKennitt’s beautiful voice fits this olde song quite nicely.  “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” opens with Indian sounding drums and a cool fretless bass.  When the fiddles come in it retains a vaguely middle Eastern sound.  It’s a bit long, but very cool.

“Good King Wenceslas” has flutes and cello and nice percussion.  It’s a lovely version.  “Snow” opens with a pretty flute (that has since been co-opted by Titanic).  It’s a pleasant song if bordering on a wee bit too much.  “Seeds of Love” is a pretty song, but it doesn’t feel very seasonal to me.

Overall this is a nice winter record.  It’s not so much Christmasey as pagan.  It’s very pretty and the traditional instruments sound great.  The fact that it’s only 22 minutes is also nice.

[READ: December 19, 2014] Tune: Still Life

So I didn’t spoil the first book, but I can now safely reveal that Andy Go has signed up to be a human living in an alien zoo. He gets $250,000 for his year of service and he gets to go home for the weekends.  Not bad.  He is bummed that he didn’t get to tell Yumi that he loved her, but he can always go tell her this weekend, right?

In the meantime, he gets to enjoy that everything has been perfectly re-created to his specifications.  In fact, the aliens downloaded his memory and replicated everything exactly as he remembered it–his favorite foods, his favorite TV shows, even the magazines under his bed (wow).  Now he just has to learn to pee in front of gawkers and it will be the best job ever.

It even turns out that his bosses are nice.  Well, the one boss is.  She is young (and, yes, sexy even is she has no facial features) and pleasant to him.  She is also amazed by his art.  Sadly, her father is a mean ballbuster.  He hates his art.  In fact, he hates all art.  Their version of reality has done away with art and has ensured that no one has any creativity of any kind.  They even have news feeds piped into their heads 24 hours a day (or however long their day lasts).

Andy also learns that he has a neighbor–Mo.  He and Mo communicate through the air vents.  Mo is an amusing, teasing guy who gives Andy a hard time.  He also tells Andy two things that change Andy’s perception of his job.  The first is that they will send him a female eventually and the second is that the contract he signed stipulates that he will be in the zoo for life, not for a year.  Thud. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 27, 2014] Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

josephSarah and her mom love Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  So when I saw that it was playing at the State Theatre for $7/ticket (as part of the Plays in the Park program) I decided to get tickets for all five of us (why not subject the kids to musicals as well?).

I knew the music a little from Sarah playing it, but I didn’t know it that well.  I always thought it was very funny that someone made a huge production out of what is a rather short Bible story.  But it’s a good story and one that I remember from my religion classes, so it seemed like a good afternoon of fun.

And it was.  This was the company’s 20th production of the show (who knew?).  And many of the people had been with the show for many many years.  So it was like a well-oiled machine.

The only thing that we all agreed we didn’t like so much was Joseph (Michael Ferlita). Not that he was bad, but that he was a bass.  And Joseph isn’t a bass.  It was weird, and at times hard to understand–it came across as more operatic than musical-y.  The rest of the performers were very good (as was the orchestra).  I was also delighted that the many of the men were kind of chunky–something you don’t often see on stage. (more…)

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 locke4SOUNDTRACK: TORI AMOS-Midwinter Graces (2009).

midwinterI had loved Tori Amos for many years, but I got bored with her mid 2000s works, they were too adult contemporary for my liking.  So I wasn’t that excited to hear this Christmas album.  But Sarah bought it for me that year anyhow, and I have really grown to like it a lot.  At the same time there are a few things about it that drive me insane–particularly the crazy and I’ll say it, stupid way she pronounces words in her songs.

If Tori were not a native English speaker I would forgive her (I love a lot of non native English speakers as singers).  But she was born in the US and now lives in England and none of the weird things she does reflect any “accent” nor do they reflect the way she speaks.  She has a very distinctive way of mispronouncing certain words (which she seems to have developed late in her career) which is maddening and often makes the words unintelligible. Why would one do that?

That aside, the melodies and (most) vocals are really lovely.  For this album Tori takes some bits of traditional carols and tinkers with them. The accompanying DVD has an interview in which she explains her inspiration. But without knowing this, some of these versions can be very upsetting.  The first time I heard the first song I just did not understand what was happening–it’s just so wrong.  And while I’m not saying I “get” it now, but I enjoy it more because it uses the carols as a jumping off point..

“What Child, Nowell” is very disconcerting because the song changes so many different things at once.  It has a string section opening and then lyrics to What Child is This (in a very different melody). When she switches the vocal line in the “this this” part, you know something’s up, and when it jumps to the Nowell section (which is also done differently), well, who knows what’s happening.  It’s an unusual track but lovely. “Star of Wonder” has a very cool middle eastern lick. It opens with the we three kings line, but is immediately changed into something different (lyrics and melodies). I just love the chorus of this which modifies “star of wonder” in a cool way.   “A Silent Night with You” is a romantic song (her voice sounds a little funny) But the melody is very pretty.   “Candle” Coventry Carol” I don’t recognize the melody of the Candle part but the Coventry Carol party has a wonderful Victorian melody (it could do with more olde instruments, I think).

“Holly Ivy an Rose” has a pretty piano melody.  I love the melody even more when the chorus comes in.  But I genuinely don’t like when Tash’s voice kicks in—it feels flat to me. I appreciate her using her daughter (and I feel bad criticizing a nine-year old), but I think Tori’s voice sounds so magical that her daughter’s voice just can’t match.  “Harps of Gold” I didn’t realiy like the musical opening of this (the guitars sound really pale compared to the rest of the disc, but I love the drums –simple but so effective). This song is the one where I really noticed how weird Tori emphasizes words now. I was sure that she she was singing “Napoleon” (Nah ha poh ho lee un) which I know made literally no sense for the song.  In fact she is singing “Gloria” (Gluh hoe hoe Ree uh). That speaks volumes about how weirdly she has been emphasizing words on the last few albums.  Despite that weirdness, I really like this song and I will continue to sing “Napoleon.”

“Snow Angel” is a bit adult contemporary for me, but I find myself singing it a lot, so I must like it.  “Jeanette, Isabella” is a pretty song with a lovely melody but for some reason it’s not very catchy.   “Pink and Glitter” is a big band type swing number.  It comes as quite a shock after the mellow song before it). I love the chorus—Tori’s voice works very well with this style of music.  But again, what’s with the weird emphasis. “honorable mention” is sung strangely:  “men she un.”  And worse yet, the song ends with the word “pink” and yet she sings it without the final k so I was sure she was singing “shower the world with pain.”  What gives?

“Emmanuel” begins with the “O come O come” lines. It’s a little too slow.  This is another song where she mispronounces words on purpose–the way she says Israel is crazy.  But as soon as it switches to her own song, it becomes quite lovely.  “Winter’s Carol” is actually from her musical ‘The Light Princess.”  It reminds me a bit of her song Marianne and it’s really quite nice musically, but again, the way the words are sung is insane: “first song oov the robin, i koh through the land” Its a shame her pronunciation is so awful because the song is quite lovely (and the lyrics are good too).  I love the backing vocals–her niece sings them and she is quite fabulous.  The disc proper ends with “Our New Year,” it is a pretty song with nice string arrangements but a rather sad sentiment and kind of a downer way to end the record.

My copy has two bonus tracks: “Comfort and Joy”  It plays on the lyrics of “let nothing you dismay” and “glad tidings.”  It’s a totally different with a slow angsty ballad.  “Silent Night” is a mostly straight but with some different lyrics in the later verses.  But why does she say “pierce” instead of “peace?”

[READ: December 23, 2014] Locke & Key 4

This book opens with a tribute to Bill Watterson, in which all of the scenes in Bode’s head resemble Calvin and Hobbes (somewhat).  Bode is ostracized in school because he’s pretty weird.  His mom wants him to have friends, but he doesn’t seem to be able to make any.  But when he finds the animal key (which Scout used to transform into a wolf), Bode transforms into a…sparrow?  He is bummed until he realizes the power of a group.  And when he and his bird friends are able to take on the wolf, that’s pretty awesome (this is, sadly the bloodiest section so far in the book).

Chapter Two introduces us to the color key, in which Kinsley is able to turn into a black girl.  She does this when she realizes that the woman who wrote her name next to her father’s in that underwater cave is in the nearby madhouse.  The woman, Erin Voss, is black.  And racism is rampant in this section of town (and in the asylum).  Of course, when she screams the word white, it’s not because Kinsey is white, but because of something that Scout has done to her.

Chapter Three is set up in an interesting way.  Each day of the month is represented by some event (with very little in the way of context).  So there’s an embarrassing hockey loss for Ty, a breakup between Kinsey and Zack, and on the weekends they fight shadowy evils.  They also find some more keys, one appears to be for a cupboard filled of all kinds of things, another is a Hercules key.  There’s a lot of tears (and bloodshed) in February. (more…)

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books SOUNDTRACK: DANÚ: An Nollaig in Éirinn: Christmas in Ireland Live in Concert (2010).

danu cdWe saw Danú perform a Christmas show last year.  The show was wonderful, so we bought the CD.

The CD is a live show much like the one we saw, so not only is it a Christmas album, but it’s a nice memento of the show.  Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh’s voice is beautiful–a soaring, angelic sound and the performance of the band is amazing.

The disc is a mix of beautiful ballads (Irish specific and those familiar to all) and rollicking instrumentals.  The ballads, most sung by Muireann include “The Wexford Carol” (a traditional song); “Angels We Have Heard on High” (gorgeous–with audience participation); “Le Coinnle na nAingeal” a lovely, slow ballad about putting candles in the window

n Irish and English) and “Le Coinnle na nAingeal.”  She even got the audience to sing along to some of the Irish words in “The Boys of Barr na Sráide” and, of course, we all chimed in on “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

The rollicking numbers include “The Slide Set” (Scartaglen Slide and two reels: “The Hunters Purse” and “The Reconciliation”); “Round the House Set” (some fun dance numbers); and “The Polkas.” “Apples in Winter/The Frost is All Over” is a charming instrumental, the second half of which is all about the button accordion (amazing playing!).

Some other songs include “A Christmas Childhood” is a spoken poem by Patrick Kavanagh set to a piano melody.  “The Boys of Barr na Sráide” is an anthem from Kerry in which boys hunt for a wren on the feast of St Stephen. It is a slow song and the was much audience participation when we saw them.  “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” is a very funny tale about a deadly Christmas Cake–a fun sing along with silly lyrics.

The show and disc end with “Oíche Chiúin/Silent Night” a lovely rendition that segues into an amazing bodrhan solo (Martin O’Neill is fantastic–the sounds he gets out of this one drum are staggering).  It ends with a whooping song called “Contradiction.”  The encore is a beautiful duet called “The Parting Glass” and, since no Irish set should end in a mellow way, “The Christmas Eve Reel” ends with a wonderful stomping song.

The show was fantastic and the CD is great too.  There’s no between-song banter, which is a shame, but which also keeps the set a reasonable length.  It’s a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas, even if there’s not many familiar Christmas songs.

[READ: December 10, 2014] A Christmas Carol

Obviously, I know A Christmas Carol.  Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, the Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future etc.  I have seen the play, I have listened to Patrick Stewart’s reading and I’ve seen nearly every movie and TV version. But I have never actually read it.

I found the story to be really enjoyable.  And for Dickens, the story is pretty compact. There are few moments where he throws in a lot of extra bits and pieces, but the action moves pretty swiftly.

I think one thing that I was surprised by was that Scrooge is moved by the very first spirit that comes along.  In my memory he isn’t that impressed by the first one, but in the story he is ready to give in after his trip to his childhood.  I was also surprised to see that Scrooge’s nephew plays a pretty big role at the end. In my memory (or maybe in condensed versions—or the Grinch, anyhow), Scrooge eats with the Cratchits.  But no, he sends them the goose with no word given (and we never see their reaction) and then has dinner with the nephew who invited him early in the story (Dickens is nothing if not tidy in cleaning up loose ends). (more…)

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