Listening to some of this year’s holiday CD offerings, I can heartily recommend two so far.
“Cool Yule,” Bette Midler (Columbia)Divinity and Christmas are, of course, related, so it’s no wonder that the Divine Miss M. finally checks in with a Christmas album. The results are so good you have wonder, what took so long? Nevermind that this nice Jewish lady from Hawaii has recorded a Christmas album (Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond have recorded four Christmas albums between them). Midler brings her customary sass and humor to “Merry Christmas” and “Cool Yule” but lends her dramatic heft to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Don’t miss her “Mele Kalikimaka,” and though it sounds cheesy, her re-hash of “From a Distance (Christmas Version)” actually reveals that the heavy ballad was always meant to be a Christmas song. I know it sounds crazy, but the sap-happy “Distance” really works as a carol. No, really. It does.
For more Ms. M or to sample her Christmas fare, visit her Web site.
“Broadway’s Greatest Gifts: Carols for a Cure, Vol. 8,” Various Artists (Rock-It Science)
The casts from Broadway musicals — mostly the crop currently on the boards _ jazz up the holiday soundscape with a wildly varied and highly entertaining two-disc collection of tunes both new and old to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The ensemble from The Color Purple does gorgeous things with a medley of “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella,” “Joy to the World” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” while more comic tunes come from The Wedding Singer (Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukah Song”), Avenue Q (“The Holi-daze”) and Altar Boyz (“Joseph’s Dilemma”).
My personal favorites are from the ever-bizarre Kiki and Herb warbling through “Like a Snowman” and the Rent cast doing “Angels We Have Heard on High” with Jonathan Larson’s melody for “Santa Fe” worked on. I also thoroughly enjoyed the gross, funny and sweet Christmas story from the [title of show] cast and the Spamalot holiday tale involving Brian, the man who isn’t Jesus from Monty Python‘s The Life of Brian.
You can purchase “Broadway’s Greatest Gift” and other fundraising items from BC/EFA here.
If you discover any not-to-be-missed holiday music, please let me and the other Theater Dogs know.