First of all, let me say thank you to all of you for reading another year's worth of music reviews. It has been fun for me and I hope we have introduced you to some new music for you and your family to enjoy.
I was raised in a Christian home, so the music of Christmas was the only "holiday" music I was exposed to for many years. In school we would sing a few traditional Hanukkah songs and an assortment of holiday songs from around the world, but even then, the songs revolved around the celebration of Christmas.
Today we live in a much more open and diverse world. It is a community rich with a wide variety of ethnic and cultural traditions of the season, which are all cradled in the music and songs of our heritage.
During the holiday season a storm of new holiday CD releases is unleashed. In an effort to help you make choices, here are a few CDs I am sure you will enjoy.
New and original
"… and a Happy New Year," by Danny Adlerman, Yosi and Kevin Kammeraad, Kids at Our House Music, $15.95, www.dannyandkim.com; ages 4-12.
I highly recommend this collaboration of three very talented and creative children's music artists. This project has already received a "10 Best Audio/Video Products for 2009" award from Dr. Toy and is included in the list of "100 Best Products for 2009" also from Dr. Toy.
"… and a Happy New Year" consists of mostly original songs around the themes of Christmas ("Christmas on the Block"), Hanukkah (an original version of "I Have a Little Dreidel") and the winter season ("Wintertime is Here").
There are a few traditional and popular holiday songs included. You have probably never heard "Frosty the Snowman" treated as a punk-rock song, but it works-and it rocks! My 13-year-old shouted from down the hall, "Play it again!" as soon as the track ended.
"A Pickle for My Christmas Tree" is a take-off of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and is quite fun. And the trio's version of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," gives the song a rock edge that scores. I laughed with delight as I heard the tale of "I'm Spending Hanukkah In Santa Monica" with all of the wonderful word play.
"… and a Happy New Year" is as fanciful as the first winter's snow, as rockin' as a fun-filled holiday party and as welcoming as a fresh batch of warm homemade holiday cookies.
"A Family Christmas" by Various Artists, Putumayo World Music, $14.98, www.putumayo.com; all ages.
This brand new release from Putumayo will get a lot of play this holiday season in our house. Putumayo always gathers fabulous musical artists and produces outstanding compilation CDs. Unlike most of their CD compilations, where they search the world for unique and outstanding musical selections, this time the emphasis is on artists from the United States.
Some of my favorites already include Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's performance of "Is Zat You Santa Claus?," Deana Carter's wistful "Winter Wonderland," Brave Combo's instrumental romp with "Jolly Old St. Nick" and "Sleigh Ride" performed by mandolin master, Sam Bush.
A classic not to be overlooked
"Christmas Around The World," by Various Artists, Putumayo World Music, $14.98, www.putumayo.com; all ages.
This has been a family favorite since its release in 2003. It is an absolutely fabulous collection of familiar Christmas songs that features outstanding artists from all over the globe.
From a steel band rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" to "White Christmas" performed in the flamenco style, "Christmas Around The World" offers a diverse set of Christmas music. My personal favorite might be "Venid Fieles Todos (Adeste Fidelis)" by Cuban artist, Liuba Maria Hevia.
Happy holidays to all!
Fred Koch writes about music every month for Chicago Parent.
See more of Fred's stories here.