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Final Gravity

Title - 'New Cool Yule Christmas CDs'
Artist - Various

Chris Botti - 'December': Chris Botti's sound is nothing short of amazing. His pure and warm tone produces a delectably soothing feeling. Yes, I know that this CD is basically just a remake of his last Christmas album but they have added two fantastic pieces of music to this album. They are Schubert's "Ave Maria" and "I Really Don't Want Much for Christmas (featuring Eric Benét)". First, "Ave Maria" is performed with a wonderful arrangement. You know how during Christmas you go into cathedrals or traditional churches and you hear the choir singing beautiful hymns, which are so touching and heartfelt? Well, this is what this arrangement is like. Chris Botti is backed up by a wonderful choir (St. Jon's Choir) and the London Session Orchestra. Truly, the feeling is transcendent as the choir sings warmly in the background and the trumpet voice just soars in the graceful melodic lines (by soar, I mean a beautiful melody coming out, not blasting high notes). This performance is simply gorgeous. "I Really Don't Want Much for Christmas" is another beautiful tune. The vocals are a nice addition and Chris just seems to be able to play so well with another musician. This is a very gentle song and draws out the feelings in my heart. All the other tracks are amazing and Chris Botti produces a splendid and lush atmosphere with his moving playing. There is variety in the style as there are faster, lighthearted arrangements alongside slow, lush arrangements. Personally, I am a classical lover and I love the glory that brass instruments attain during Christmas with playing in the brilliant high register. Amazingly, Chris Botti still moves me without having to play such brilliant, high notes. His beautiful tone is already more than enough.

Mary Mary - ‘A Mary Mary Christmase’: Just one year after their third studio album, the Campbell sisters, Tina and Erica, better known as Mary Mary, are back with a collection of Christmas classics and contemporary holiday songs. Mary Mary's signature powerhouse voices go full throttle for this holiday outing; but sometimes, less is more. If you are the kind of person who likes the classic Christmas songs sung the traditional way, you may be disappointed as Mary Mary take liberties with "Merry Little Christmas" (I'm surprised it's not spelled "Mary"), "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and "Carol of the Bells." Let me break it down. "Merry Little Christmas," a melancholy but lovely standard, starts out soft and pleasant but is greatly oversung at the end. This song does not need to be sung in full voice, even if Tina and Erica are more than capable. The arrangement of "O Come All Ye Faithful" takes a departure into African tribal territory reminiscent of The Lion King, while "Hark!" experiments with some unusual melodies. "Carol of the Bells," loved for its succinct phrasing and exquisite harmony, sounds quite underwhelming set to a laid back groove. If Mary Mary could have over song anything, "Carol" should have been the one. Mary Mary fans will definitely enjoy this new addition to the duo's catalogue.

Bette Midler - ‘Cool Yule’: This is one incredible Christmas CD from Bette Midler. Bette's first Christmas album is full of great renditions of the standards of this time of year including "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas;" "Ill Be Home For Christmas;" "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?;" "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "White Christmas." Bette throws in a lot of her own pizzazz and wonderful eggnog with a new song "Cool Yule" and she does a wonderful duet with Johnny Mathis as they perform "Winter Wonderland/Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" Terrific! The CD opens strong with "Merry Christmas." This song boasts a great musical arrangement and Bette's voice is in excellent form--as it is throughout this album! Then the CD shifts gears and revs up the motors a little bit with "Cool Yule." This song, written by Steve Allen with additional lyrics by Eric Kornfeld, is a lot of fun and you'll be eager to listen to it again and again! Another fun song on this CD is "Mele Kalikimaka." This is how to say "Merry Christmas" in Hawaiian; this adds a very personal touch to the CD because Bette was born in the state of Hawaii. It offers a great musical composition that starts off with a brief romantic flavor and then twists into a very catchy tune! Could this be a new classic in the making?

James Taylor - ‘James Taylor at Christmas': James Taylor's voice is in excellent form on his Christmas CD entitled James Taylor At Christmas. The CD boasts an excellent collage of traditional and somewhat formal holiday hymns interspersed with more playful, upbeat pop numbers. The ultimate effect is sheer delight to almost anyone's ears; and just one listen to this CD will prove it. The CD starts off beautifully with a playful and heartfelt rendition of "Winter Wonderland." Chris Botti plays the trumpet on this song, too. This secular music is quickly followed by the more religious "Go Tell It On The Mountain." Some other songs celebrating the joy of the holiday season include a pleasing and laid-back duet for James Taylor and Natalie Cole on "Baby, It's Cold Outside;" "Jingle Bells" onto which James Taylor puts his own stamp using a unique arrangement; "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)" written by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells. Toots Theilemans does a great job on harmonica for "The Christmas Song," too. The liner notes are beautiful. There are two great photos of James Taylor and the song credits are there, too. www.SonyMusic.com





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