LISTEN: Soundclips from Lady Gaga’s holiday EP

If you haven’t decided yet on purchasing Lady Gaga’s A Very Gaga Holiday EP, why not take a quick preview here. She released four tracks yesterday which perfectly coincides with Thursday’s airing of A Very Gaga Thanksgiving on ABC. For Gaga, it was a rather quiet release.

These here are just snippets of the tracks but she’s sounding pretty good on the Christmas tunes “White Christmas” and “Orange Colored Sky.” The release also includes live versions of “You and I” and “The Edge of Glory.”

Lady Gaga – A Very Gaga Holiday by Interscope Records

—  Rich Lopez

B’way at Bass boasts familiar line-up

Everything old isn’t always new again — sometimes it’s just old.

That seems to be the case with the upcoming 2011-12 Broadway at the Bass Series, which takes place at Bass Hall in Fort Worth. The selection of splashy musicals probably looks familiar, because most of these tours have already been to North Texas — some quite recently.

The season kicks off on Nov. 8 with Shrek the Musical (last year’s State Fair musical). That’s followed by Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (opening Nov. 29), Monty Python’s Spamalot (currently playing at Fair Park Music Hall; opens Feb. 7), Marry Poppins (the State Fair Musical two years ago, opens March 27), and ending with Blue Man Group, which bored me to tears at the Winspear earlier this season (June 26).

In addition, three “add-on” shows — not part of the season subscription — will play: The Wizard of Oz (Sept. 30), The Midtown Men (Oct. 26 only) and Young Frankenstein (March 14 and 15; is played at the Winspear earlier this season).

To me, that looks like a pretty safe line-up; then again, if you missed any of these when they came through the first time, this is your chance to catch them finally.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktails and Christmas

Pink Martini serves up deliciousness with their holiday album ‘Joy to the World’

RICH LOPEZ  | lopez@dallasvoice.com

music-2-1
PINK CHRISTMAS | Pink Martini delivers an unexpected but welcome Christmas gift by giving holiday songs that classic movie feel.

4.5 Stars
JOY TO THE WORLD

Pink Martini
Heinz Records

This season, you may find yourself dreaming of a pink Christmas more than a white one, thanks to eclectic jazz band Pink Martini. They bring their classic sound to a handful of carols in Joy to the World — and boy is it. Martini will make you feel like you’re stepping into the world of any classic Christmas movie, and you may not want to leave.

The CD is a hefty 14 tracks, mostly of familiar carols and songs. Pink Martini doesn’t stray too much out of the box, but when they do, it’s dreamy. They start as classic as you can get. In the two-part opener of “White Christmas,” they set the mood with lush arrangements. Saori Yuki sings on part 2 and adds a delightful delicacy. Gay frontman Thomas Lauderdale leads the band with such patience, that the languid feeling is akin to the comfort of a Snuggie.

“Shchedryk (Ukranian Bell Carol)” translates into the more popularly named “Carol of the Bells.” The layering of voices and crescendo to a breathtaking high in this third track finish off a trio of beautiful opening carols.

People may get me on this, but Madonna’s “Santa Baby” sticks out as the best version, though China Forbes gives her heavy competition without relying on quirk. She sings it straight and lets the music do the bibbity-bopping. Forbes still winks, but you listen closer to what she wants more than brushing it off as a cute seasonal song.

While nothing is overly wrong with the next few songs, the approach gets slightly weaker on “Little Drummer Boy” and “We Three Kings.” They stick with the original compositions and add their flairs, but “Drummer” is a little too slow even with its underlying “Bolero” beat. The song never takes off with the pride that’s behind the lyrics.

“Kings” is rendered beautifully, but Forbes and Lauderdale keep the same patience as before with it and it loses some of its epic flavor. The punctuating trumpet almost turns it into something darker. The guitar keeps it afloat but when the song trails off, it ends up a bit weak.

music-2-2Martini goes original with “A Snow Globe Christmas,” which is one of the best attempts in a long time. Most artists try too hard to create that new Christmas song. Without the pressures of mainstream play, Lauderdale and company nailed it. They composed a throwback that could fit into any MGM musical. Every instrument creates the aura of innocent Technicolor romance and Forbes is the ideal leading lady looking out her frosted window onto the snow. Pink Martini is that good in creating an ambience in this album.

The one staple everyone looks for is “Silent Night” and Pink Martini includes it here. As they do with other tracks, they mix languages through the verses. Here, “Night” is sung in German, Arabic and English. This might put off some who need a good old-fashioned version of it, but the lullaby is just as delightful. Initially, we hear Forbes’ voice, but the final English verse is the one we all know and is sung by the Pacific Youth Choir, giving the end nice sweetness.

Pin Martini finishes off with a samba-esque “Auld Lang Syne” featuring the percussion of the Lions of Batucada. It is sung in English, Arabic and French (clearly, their thing), and I challenge you not to smile during this rendition. The fun energy is your best option for ringing in the New Year, if not just to put you in a good mood.

Pink Martini may have released the least expected Christmas album, but they might have also released the best one.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Christmas music by Jews … you're welcome

Streisand

These Christmas songs were all written by Jewish composers and lyricists:

“The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) (1945) by Mel Tormé (1925-1999) and Bob Wells (born 1922)

“White Christmas” by Irving Berlin

“Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” (1945) by Sammy Cahn (1913-1993) and Jule Styne (1905-1994)

“Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” by Johnny Marks (1909-1985)

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Johnny Marks (1909-1985)

“Holly Jolly Christmas” by Johnny Marks (1909-1985)

“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” by George Wyle (born Bernard Weissman) (1917-2003)

“Silver Bells” by Jay Livingston (music) and Ray Evans (lyrics)

“We Need a Little Christmas” by Jerry Herman

And then there’s these where one half of the team was Jewish:

“Winter Wonderland” Felix Bernard (1897-1944) (co-composer)

“There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays” Al Stillman (1906-c.1986) (lyrics)

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” J. Fred Coots (1897-1985) (co-composer)

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” Walter Kent (music) born (Walter Maurice Kaufman)

“Do They Know It’s Christmas” Bob Geldof

And this one where the composer was of Jewish ancestry (but not raised Jewish):

“Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

And some top-selling Christmas albums:

The # 1 best-selling Christmas album from 1991-2008: “Miracles:  The Holiday Album” by Kenny G. (7,195,000 copies)

He also comes in at #10 with “Faith: A Holiday Album” Kenny G. (2,735,000 copies)

Kenny Gorelick is Jewish.

Other big sellers have been:

Barbra Streisand’s “A Christmas Album” from 1967 – one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all times (see pic above)

and these:

torme Diamond

Midler Bare Naked

Two of three Bare Naked Ladies are Jewish and nothing says holiday like a Bare Naked Christmas.

So with all these Jews writing and recording all this Christmas music, why do we still only have ONE Hannukah song? Oh well.

Merry Christmas.

—  David Taffet