Saturday, November 5, 2011
King of the Holidays?
There's no doubt in my mind that Jews put out the best Christmas albums. Think about it: Mitch Miller! Phil Spector! Bette Midler! Barbra Streisand! Bob Dylan! And, now, here comes Carole King a-caroling.
And while we're on the subject of Jews and Christmas, let's discuss The Sound of Music. This film has little to do with either Jews or Christmas, actually, but has become a holiday-season fave on tv. Don't get me wrong; I love the songs and the film is a guilty pleasure for me. (I always tear up when the Mother Superior (Peggy Wood) sings "Climb Every Mountain.") But does anyone really think Nazis chasing singing Christian families across the Alps was ever a huge problem worthy of this much attention?
Let's get back to Carole and her new album, A Holiday Carole. Damned if the first song isn't "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. It's done to a samba-like arrangement and, along with that iconic voice, it really works. (I don't know how Julie Andrews feels.)
The following number is "Carol of the Bells" with full chorus back-up; quite intense. I liked very much.
Louise Goffin (daughter of Carole and her ex (legendary co-composer from their Brill Building days, Gerry Goffin)) produced this album, with radically varying results. Some of the songs are wonderful; for others -- if played in an elevator (where they'd be well suited), -- I'd press the button to get off on the very next floor to avoid any more torture. The strain, wear and tear on Carole's 69-year-old voice shows in these tracks, and the arrangements and production seem oddly mechanical and shallow. "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," in particular, sounds cold and shabby. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," a song you'd think Carole could do boffo, is sadly undernourished. Don't worry about Judy Garland's and Chrissie Hynde's associations with this number; they remain unchallenged here.
I wanted, so badly, to like Carole's "Chanukah Prayer" (sung in Hebrew), because the only Chanukah song I know is "The Dreidel Song." I personally hate the whole Christmas hegemony over other spiritual belief systems, really. (Dj Buddy B won't be insisting upon overly-romanticized and inaccurate Nativity scenes being displayed, for example.) "Chanukah Prayer," sung with Louise, and Carole's grandson (Louise's son), turns out to be a big, nepotistic yawn.
Yet, there are bright moments from Ms King here,too: the calypso "Christmas Paradise," "Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday," "This Christmas," and "New Year's Day."
It's probably so hard to direct your own mom, but geez, Louise, that's what you needed to do to have a terrific holiday album from a pop diva as part of the holiday music canon. This is a mixed holiday grab-bag and a missed opportunity.
Goyem like Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis run rings around this. Inexcusable.