Sunday, November 9, 2008

On First Listen: New Christmas Albums by Enya & Kristin Chenoweth

Here are my first impressions of the first few new holiday releases I recently picked up. Later on in the year I'll revisit them to see if my initial opinions of them has changed or remained the same. After all, what may seem generic or jarring on first listen can always become a firm favorite after a few more listens and occasionally the most accessible songs can wear out their welcome surprisingly quickly. We'll see how these releases fare...

On First Listen:

Enya: And Winter Came

As the name suggests Enya's latest falls more into the catagory of seasonal album as opposed to being an entirely Christmas themed release. About half the album consists of Christmas songs and they are, like the rest of the album, lovely. Journey of the Angels, white is the inter Night, O Come O Come Emmanuel, One Toy Soldier, The Spirit of Christmas Past and Oíche Chiúin (Chorale) are all perfectly nice, quintessentially Enya. However there is no new ground broken and none of the tracks stand out, at first blush, as potential perrienal favorites for the casual listener. Enya's sound is so distinctive and so perfectly executed that it's on the cusp of becoming generic. One track blends into another without leaving much of a lasting impact. Of course that's also just what many stressed out listeners are looking for this holiday season.

For fans and anyone looking for an elegant, relaxing and undeniably beautiful CD to soundtrack their holiday season Enya's "And Winter Came" is an obvious and excellent choice. If Enya and her particular brand of mainstream celtic/new age sound scape isn't your cup of tea I'm not certain this release will do much to change your mind.

Press Repeat (Early Favorites):
White is the Winter Night, Journey of the Angels, Trains and Winter Rains

Kristin Chenoweth - What A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas

Broadway Baby (and Pushing Daisies scene stealer) Kristin Chenoweth's first holiday album features both her straight cabaret vocal style and the more quirky, playful and personality filled Kristin that has made her a musical comedy stand out (the Sleigh Ride/It's a Marshmallow World mash up featuring guest star John Pizzarelli is a perfect example of Kristin's more whimsical side).

Most of the tracks on A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas are holiday songs with the notable, and charming, exception of Joe Raposo's Sing (best known for the version by The

My early pick for standout track is the moving Home on Christmas Day - a perfect performance augmented by a lovely, tasteful arrangement.

Chenowith fans obviously need to grab this as should anyone looking for a Christmas album in the traditional mold - not tarted up with synthetic pop production nonsense or screeching diva histrionics - will be pleasantly surprised by this sincere, lovely and occasionally fun offering

Press Repeat:
The Christmas Waltz, Do You Hear What I Hear?, Sleighride / It's a Marshmllow World, Sing, Home on Christmas Day, Born on Christmas Day.

Press skip:
Christmas Island, Come On Ring Those Bells