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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Suggestions for Listening, Gifting and Shopping

The holidays fill us with anxiety. Selecting presents for loved ones almost always fills us with terror. It's rarely obvious what we should buy. Once we finally select our gifts, the idea of meeting the likes of you and your family at the local shopping mall is not what we were counting on for Christmas cheer. And those songs! As we age (quite gracefully, by the way), this holiday thing gets even more difficult. We will now spare you a little of the pain by offering some suggestions to make your yuletide gay, as they say. Music to get you in the mood, gift suggestions and tips for shopping online.

The Christmas CDs
Xmas CDsWe buy pretty much every Christmas CD made by artists we like, hoping one day to make the ultimate mixed tape. After all these years, we should accept that this just isn't going to happen. And that there are only so many variations on the same old songs and really, there are better things to do with our time and money.

Even still, every year there are a few new CDs worth our time and your money. This year, our favorite CD is Cuba L.A.'s Navidad Cubana (Narada Records). Traditional European Christmas Carols played in the Afro-Cuban manner make for a successful outing and we have to wonder why this hadn't been done sooner. Latin-wise, we're also very impressed with Rhino's more vintage Mambo Santa Mambo, a collection of mostly obscure Latin-influenced holiday favorites. This is a real find.

Charles Brown & Friends' Merry Christmas Baby (Fuel 2000) is yet another compilation with yet another version of Charles Brown's classic, Merry Christmas Baby. Also featured are good tracks by Lowell Fulson and other less-known Rythym & Blues folks. We particularly like the Doo Wop version of Sweet Little Jesus Boy. Even better is Etta James' 12 Songs of Christmas on Private Music. Etta is fine on the upbeat secular numbers but she's magnificent on Silent Night and O Holy Night. Anyone doubting the relationship between blues and gospel should check in with Etta James. James has developed into such an effective singer, it's a shame she isn't recording every day.

Finally, we love the George Shearing Quintet's Christmas with George Shearing on the mighty Telarc label. It's quite simply the classic Shearing sound playing Christmas melodies with the benefit of state of the art recording techniques. We like it!

Now that you're in the mood, let's pick some presents for your friends and loved ones...

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