Friday, December 10, 2010

Various Artists - Stockings By the Fire (2007)

Front cover
It's been a few years since Starbucks scaled back their entertainment division although their caf├ęs continue to carry CDs that are appealing to upscale pop music fans. What is missing today are the discs the coffee giant packaged themselves, most of them compilations. Stockings By The Fire is one of their past Christmas collections and the people at Starbucks Entertainment did a very nice job assembling these sixteen songs for your 2007 holiday listening pleasure.

Even though the recordings on Stockings By The Fire cover a period of over fifty years it should fulfill listeners of all ages. Timeless icons such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, and Ella Fitzgerald are represented but so are more current singers such as Rufus Wainwright, Jack Johnson, Aimee Mann, Corrine Bailey Rae, and The Bird and The Bee (featuring the late Lowell George's daughter, Inara). Two artists most of us have never heard of, Hem and A Fine Frenzy, are also included.

Click on the image for track listing
John Legend (born John Stephens) and the gospel loving, fifteen member Stephens Family sing "It Don't Have to Change." It's the only song on the compilation you may not have heard before. Most of the rest are well known seasonal classics in versions that should be new to most of you. Wainwright sings "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" and Sarah McLaughlin offers "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day." The suddenly overused and abused Joni Mitchell song, "River," gets a nice treatment from Rae and Herbie Hancock while The Bird and The Bee remake "Carol Of the Bells." Singer-Songwriter Alison Sudol, who uses the moniker A Fine Frenzy, covers "Let It Snow" and the album opens with Ray Charles and Betty Carter pairing up for "Baby, It's Cold Outside."  While it is always a great idea to include a Cole song it would have been nice if Starbucks gave us one that doesn't have the word "chestnuts" in it.  Cole's is the only track on the disc that gets beaten to death every December but I shouldn't quibble because it's still an outstanding entry.

A CD spanning the musical generations never felt quite so homogeneous before and the flow is never disrupted by something that doesn't fit the mood. Overall, Stockings is a nice set for someone who is looking for both the traditional and the new.

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