Il Divo: Wicked GAME [SYCO]
This is album number five from the international pop-classical foursome Il Divo that features an American, a Swiss, a Frenchman and a Spaniard.
All of their previous albums hit either number one or two on our national sales charts and this new disc promises to do the same.
There are more pop songs on Wicked Game than in the past, with crossover versions of Chris Isaak’s title track which many mistake for the wrong title, I Wanna Fall In Love, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatrical smash Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.
The most interesting song here from a pop-classical point of view is the take of Roy Orbison’s Crying because, for decades, people have been enjoying Orbison for his sometimes overly dramatic take on pop originals that became more or less mini-operas.
These three songs open this new album making this a front loaded disc while the committed fan might want to search out the Deluxe CD and DVD version where the video includes 11 songs recorded last August at The London Coliseum.
Heavenly Christmas [Columbia]
Glee, The Music: The Christmas Album Volume 2 [Columbia]
I have lumped these two new Christmas albums together not just because they are seasonal releases from the same label, but because both are unexpectedly underperforming on the national sales charts.
While Evancho and Glee albums have sold platinum in the past it must be disconcerting to Columbia that the former has made its debut in the charts at the lowly No. 59 spot, while the latter performed even worse, coming in at the No. 66 position.
Believe it or not, Just Bieber has the number one selling album in Canada right now with his mostly all original Christmas CD that he co-wrote for fat royalty earnings with a wide variety of helpers (and from the reviews I have read it is a real turd of an album) while Michael Buble’s far superior Yuletide release is at number two.
So, the Evancho and Glee albums are maybe not selling so well because buyers have opted for the above two for seasonal fare. But maybe young Jackie Evancho is also a little too overexposed with this, her third release in a year, while the audience for the TV show Glee is fading just like all television series eventually do.
Music-wise, the Evancho album is actually fairly decent with warm family fare and pleasant, not overbearing orchestrations.
My only quibble is the pre-teen doesn’t seem like she is having very much youthful fun on solemn tunes like The First Noel, Away In A Manger and What Child Is This (indeed?).
The only out and out jovial song, Ding Dong Merrily On High, is as close as Evancho gets to rockin’ around the Christmas tree—so let her be a kid the next time out!
The Glee album is subtitled Volume 2 and maybe fans had enough from Vol.1 as this is similar with a couple of new originals and fare that is all too familiar including a closing version of the benefit song Do They Know It’s Christmas which always made me ask: I don’t know but are they even Christians?.
C+ & C
Country Heat 2012: [Sony]
The Country Heat franchise has proven to be a popular one around this time of year as a fine stocking stuffer for the big country fan.
Often these compilations sound like you’re turning on hot country radio as the albums are generally maxed out on big contemporary hits, and the 2012 edition is no different.
This is a generous offering at 15 tracks, but unlike last year’s release which had more up-tempo songs than usual, 2012 is loaded with ballads of all three types. There are power ballads like Ryan Laird’s I’m Your Man, sensitive country fare like Johnny Reid’s You Gave My Heart A Home and weepers like Kenny Chesney’s You and Tequila.
The only full-on party songs here include Terri Clark’s wonderful makeover of Trooper’s evergreen We’re Here For A Good Time and Aaron Pritchett’s backwoods swampy Light It Up.
A solid collection for fans of new country.
Billy Joel: The Piano Man [Columbia Legacy]
Sony Corp. continues its Legacy releases with this two-CD set of Billy Joel’s second album and breakthrough release, Piano Man.
The title song became Joel’s first hit and became a staple in his lengthy canon of well known songs, whereas Joel would take almost four more years until his second hit with Just The Way You Are (1978).
Were it not for Piano Man the undersized Joel might, for better or for worse (depending on whether you are a fan or not), have packed it in.
The studio album has been remastered for this re-issue but the real gem for fans here is the second CD that features the long bootlegged radio broadcast he did with WMMR Philadelphia way back in 1972 before Joel was anywhere near being a household name. In the early ’70s FM radio was totally free-form where the DJs chose all the music and did their own programming so that a total unknown like Joel could catch the ear of a local jock and get booked to do a late night gig with no restrictions.
Joel got to play his controversial (for its time) song Captain Jack that became an underground hit, while Joel’s mercurial piano playing on these bare-boned recordings is something of a revelation.
A minor complaint is that Sony has cleaned up a couple of the mistakes and miscues from the original bootleg but the live broadcast is definitely something big Billy Joel fans will want to check out.