Mitchell: Clarkson a keeper at Christmas

Kelly Clarkson; Wrapped In Red (RCA)

This first Christmas album from Kelly Clarkson was released a couple of days before Halloween and it made its debut at the lofty number four spot on Billboard charts.

Wrapped In Red has not been out of the top 10 for six weeks but, believe it or not, this Yuletide album will battle it out for the best selling seasonal release with the novelty recording Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas CD.

You can hear the broad appeal of Clarkson’s Christmas album fairly early into its first listen. Clarkson (and her producers) dabble in an eclectic array of styles and usually come up sounding right on.

The album opens with Clarkson’s original title track that pays homage to Phil Spector’s Christmas album, especially with the layers of percussion instruments.

The next song, Underneath The Tree, is another original that explores a little retro ’60s girl group vibe while the rocking cover of Chuck Berry’s Run Run Rudolph checks in with some chittlin’ circuit dynamics complete with hyped-up punctuating horns.

Clarkson proves her R&B chops with the soulful cover of Charles Brown’s evergreen Please Come Home For Christmas (Bells Will Be Ringing) while she shines on well known tunes such as Silent Night (with Reba and Trisha Yearwood) and White Christmas.

Elvis’s Blue Christmas gets an interesting country remake.

However, if you ever needed proof that Clarkson can really handle herself check out the version of Baby It’s Cold Outside where Ronnie Dunn sounds so over-matched he ought to maybe think about mixing a little water with his wine.

A solid holiday album with more secular songs than mass ones and fans should note that the Deluxe Edition has a couple more songs.


12 Years A Slave; Soundtrack (Columbia)

This film received universal rave reviews and I even caught a couple that claimed this is the very best movie mankind has ever made.

Watch for this film to get a huge revival boost after the Golden Globe and Academy Awards where it will probably re-open at mall big screens.

Anyway, a film this revered certainly deserves a soundtrack album and this new disc is a hybrid of score music but with a greater emphasis on new songs “inspired by the film.”

Also, this disc has drawn the attention of some of the best blues, R&B and soul singers with John Legend, Alicia Keys, Gary Clark Jr., Alabama Shakes, Laura Mvula and even Chris Cornell ex of Soundgarden fame.

There are a few stylized worker/slave “field songs” with a call and response style highlighted by Legend’s Roll Jordan Roll and Alabama Shakes Driva Man.

Meanwhile, Clark Jr.’s rustic delta blues of (In The Evening) When The Sun Goes Down—credited to Lonnie Donegan—is a superb slice of Americana while Alicia Keys’ Queen Of The Field (Patsy’s Song) is moody and otherworldly reflecting the lyric “born to scream not to dream.”

Finally, Cody Chesnutt closes things out with his contemporary gospel song that asks the film’s main theme question: What Does Freedom Mean (To A Free Man).


Jimi Hendrix; Miami Pop Festival (Sony Legacy)

Lord knows there is no shortage of live in concert Jimi Hendrix albums.

There are dozens of them and perhaps hundreds if you include all the bootlegs—some so popular and readily available that major music magazines used to review them.

But such is the legacy of Hendrix, four and a half decades after his death, that this new and first time officially released (as in it was widely available as a bootleg) Miami Pop Festival made its debut in the top 20 sales charts.

Back in 1968 Hendrix brought along his recording engineer Eddie Kramer to record these concerts and hence the sound is fabulous (and recently remastered by Kramer).

Hendrix played two shows at Miami and this album features songs from the evening show as well as a couple from the earlier afternoon show (all of which are inexplicably not included here).

At the time Hendrix was still performing as The Jimi Hendrix Experience as his rhythm team of Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding had yet to move on, and so Hendrix plays exclusively songs from his first album along with a couple of covers.

This was considered strange at the time as Hendrix had the Axis Bold As Love in the can but performed none of it.

Anyway, there are exhilarating takes here of Purple Haze, Fire, I Don’t Live Today, Foxey Lady his definitive Hey Joe as well as a 12-minute version of Red House.

This set is probably best for hard core fans who will also want to know that a DVD titled Hear My Train A Comin’ has been re-issued and augmented with concert footage from Miami, New York gigs as well as the Peace & Love Festival and Top Of The Pops video.



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