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O2 Academy Brixton will remain closed until January following the death of two young people at an Asake concert.
Lambeth City Council have ordered that the venue stays shut until the new year, when a decision will be made regarding reopening.
The venue had already been temporarily closed following the tragic death of two people at Nigerian singer Asake’s concert on Thursday 15 December.
It was originally reported that the concert was stopped early after a surge of people without tickets had tried to enter the venue.
However, new reports have emerged that suggest the fatal incidents happened when a clash of people leaving and entering had occurred.
“Given the severity of events of the 15th December 2022, the risks to public safety as a consequence of serious disorder arising from a lack of crowd control at the front doors of the venue remain high if the venue was able to operate as before,” said chair of the council’s licensing committee, Fred Cowell, reports MyLondon.
A decision regarding whether the venue will be allowed to reopen will be made on 16 January at the next licensing meeting.
Stephen Walsh, of Academy Music Group Limited, who holds the licence for the Brixton venue, was also present at the meeting.
“There is a real danger at this really early stage of the investigation that there may be a perception of pre-judgement before any of the issues have been properly set out, “ Walsh said (via MyLondon).
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“Of course, serious incidents must be taken seriously and of course, they must be marked. The licence holder of the O2 Academy Brixton has taken the responsible view to close its premises pending the hearing of the full review,” he added.
The two people fatally injured were 23-year-old Gaby Hutchinson, who was working as a security member at the venue, and 33-year-old Rebecca Ikumelo.
A 21-year-old woman remains in critical condition in hospital.
Asake posted on his social media to say how “devastated” and “overwhelmed with grief” he was after the news of the death at his concert.
“I am overwhelmed with grief and could never have imagined anything like this happening,” wrote Asake.
“My team and I are still awaiting the full debrief back from the venue management and the police to determine what exactly led to all the disruption caused and ultimately to Rebecca’s passing.
“If you have any relevant information relating to this please do reach out to the Metropolitan Police,” he added.
… rapper who released his maiden album 'The Villain I Never … just support. They love my music, they love my message and … concert.
Meanwhile, some Ghanaians raised concerns about the high rate of tickets …
WINTERTON, N.L. — On a Sunday morning last spring, Courtney Wicks — while still in her nightdress and making pancakes for her two young children — decided to go with a friend’s suggestion to submit a demo song for possible recording at Trinity Hall in Winterton, the town where she grew up.
She set up her phone on the kitchen counter and sang while her two children fussed nearby waiting for breakfast.
Trinity Hall is the former Anglican Church in the town that Grammy Award-winning record producer and songwriter Greg Wells purchased.
On that Sunday morning, however, Wicks didn’t know who Wells was. All she knew was that the church — where she once sang at weddings and concerts — had been purchased by someone with a musical background.
A month after she sent in the recording, Ryan Gates, who is also from Winterton and was the local contact screening the responses for Wells, called her.
He told her Wells had chosen her to record an album.
“I kid you not, I got off the phone with Ryan and it was a Sunday afternoon, it was the most beautiful day, and I Googled Greg Wells and I was ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’,” Wicks said.
“I could die a thousand deaths realizing I sent in a recording of me there with screaming children in the background. But I guess he must have heard something in the recording to ask me to do the album. I was in shock.
“Ever since, it’s just been a whirlwind. I’m actually speechless, for the first time in my life.”
Wicks’ debut album of traditional Newfoundland songs is titled “Love, Me” and scheduled for release in early 2023 on an independent label Wells set up called Scilly Cove Records. Scilly Cove is the former name of the town of Winterton.
The first single, “The Water Is Wide,” was recently released and has more than 6,500 views on YouTube.
Any profit from the sale of the album is split 50 per cent between the artist and local causes identified by the volunteer board of directors of Trinity Hall.
The album was recorded at Trinity Hall on Oct. 4 and Oct. 5. Oct. 4 happed to be Wicks’ 29th birthday.
“No birthday will ever compare,” Wicks said. “Greg actually played ‘Happy Birthday’ on the old organ that was there. We all sat around the table and we had a birthday cake.
“It’s almost like a dream, you know, that someone with all this incredible experience and all the people he’s worked with, like how he came to Winterton and he wants to see this new-found Trinity Hall succeed and he just wants to give back to people in the community. I think it’s so wonderful what he is doing.”
Wicks said she chose the 12 songs for the album, songs that had meaning for her. And while the overall experience was incredible, there was one moment that stands out.
“I asked him on one song if he would play piano for ‘Nancy’s Spain’. He never knew the song and we just played the song and sang it from start to finish, and looked at each other and said ‘That was pretty good’,” Wicks said. “That was a magical, incredible experience of a lifetime. I can’t describe the feeling I had when we finished ‘Nancy’s Spain’. I sang my whole life for that moment.”
Wells — whose songs have been recorded by Celine Dion, Taylor Swift and Aerosmith, among many others — said recording the album fits in with his vision for Trinity Hall. He wants to showcase local talent and the sound of the building.
“We had beautiful microphones 15 feet up in the air recording the sound of Courtney’s voice bouncing off the ceiling. Because acoustically, it’s a really beautiful building. It was really important to me to capture that,” Wells said.
“It is something really beautiful about the way these songs come through Courtney. Courtney is a young mom and she just stands there and plays the guitar and sings, and it’s live. There’s no studio trickery. It’s just her standing there and we’ve got mics on her and she does her thing. And it just sounds really fresh and unfettered.”
Wells lives and works in Los Angeles, but Newfoundland and Labrador — and Winterton in particular — has always been in the back of his mind. His mother Judy, and grandfather Bert Green, are from Winterton, and Wells often visited the town as a child.
Wells inherited his love of music from his grandmother, Signe (Mills) Green, who was from the resettled community of Thoroughfare.
Wicks, he said, was the perfect fit for the first album recorded at Trinity Hall.
“A beautiful first usage of this very special building, and Courtney grew up in the church, had sang in the church many times as a kid and it was very meaningful for her, as well, to be making her debut recording in that building,” Wells said.
Gates holds the title of A&R (artists and repertoire) with Scilly Cove Records. In his day job, Gates works in search and rescue with the Canadian Coast Guard.
After he heard Wells had purchased the church, he became a member of the Trinity Hall board of directors.
“Greg and I talked a lot about music and about his vision and how I thought I could support that vision,” Gates said.
“While I’m not a pro musician, I do have a lot of background in it. So, the more we talked, the more he liked what I had to say, and he said, ‘Why don’t you be the head of A&R on the record label I want to start.’ And I said, ‘I’ll have to Google A&R first.’”
Gates said there were “quite a few” responses to the request for demo tracks.
“Greg asked me to screen them. I knew Courtney since she was born. She’s eight years younger than me and I remember seeing her singing in Christmas concerts and such and I know her family. They are just good people,” he said. “She sent in a demo, her just singing into her phone. She was mortified when she found out who Greg was. We joke about it now.
“I said to Greg, ‘This person can play and sing, and she’s from Winterton, grew up a stone’s throw from Trinity Hall.’ And he thought that was perfect.”
Gates said people in Winterton and the surrounding area are so happy with Trinity Hall and Wells’ interest in the community.
“What we’ve got is something very, very special. This is unique,” Gates said. “The building is owned by someone and we are a not-for-profit put together to support programs.
“Greg is an artist through and through, one of the greatest in the world. He’s a team player and is so good working with others. And it’s easy to see why he’s so successful. He came in with an initial vision and that model is evolving, and I think it is nothing short of amazing.”
Wells said he’s glad he followed the gut feeling he had to purchase the church, adding that he can’t imagine his life now without it and the people that’s become a part of it.
“This feels like a thing that’s been going on for years and even just the people I’m working with directly helping me to get Trinity Hall off the ground, I didn’t meet until this past July. I feel like I’ve known them for a long time,” he said.
“Life is crazy. I’ve never had a thing happen like that before. I’ve had a few huge gut feelings that I’ve acted on. One of them was to move to Los Angeles for music and I’m totally glad I listened to that, and I’m a fan of listening to my gut feeling. But this one was really kind of almost like outer space, because I’ve lived in California for 30 years and Newfoundland is not around the corner. It is in my mind, but geographically it is not.
“And my entire team, management, accountants, lawyers were like, ‘Really? Why?’ And even my wife for a day or two was like ‘Are you sure? Is it practical?’ And I said I have to do this and she got supportive really early on. And then here we are, and we are just starting to get warmed up. I feel like I’m being pulled toward this.”
In Kingston upon Thames last week, a group of teenage girls lay on the floor in sleeping bags and swathed in blankets in sub-zero temperatures. To the average passer-by, they might have appeared homeless. But those who saw the music venue a few yards away would have realised they were camping for a gig.
They were braving the cold to get to the front row of one of three sold-out, intimate gigs by former One Direction member Louis Tomlinson. But the group made headlines after the local record shop Banquet Records, the show’s promoter, sent them to the back of the queue the next morning, having warned that queuing overnight in freezing weather would not be allowed.
While some saw this as “punishing” passionate fans seeking a space at the front, others praised the shop for tackling “extreme” queueing behaviour. Camping out to secure your spot on the front row is traditional fan behaviour, but post-pandemic, queues are becoming longer as young music lovers hanker to make the most of in-person experiences.
Banquet’s actions, as well as stories about TikTok perpetuating “toxic” queueing culture and “stan” Twitter making shows less safe – in addition to heightened awareness of security around live music following the Astroworld disaster and loss of life at Asake’s recent London show – have raised questions about whether camping at gigs should continue.
“It wasn’t against camping culture – it was specifically against camping culture in minus four degrees,” says Jon Tolley, who runs Banquet. “We put on 300 gigs a year and some are big names who attract people who camp. I’ve seen the camaraderie and I see how fun it is, but there have to be repercussions. Safeguarding is critical.
“We are a brand and if people can’t trust us, they’ll go somewhere else. That’s not only customers, it’s also artists.”
These measures seem logical – yet few venues and promoters enforce rules around queueing overnight, or sometimes for days. Angelo Franklin, operations director at London-based Triangle Security, says managing queues is “very much venue-dependent”.
“It’s not really possible to enforce any [rules] early on because we have no authority. The people queueing sometimes do not have tickets yet, so they can claim they are just hanging around.” To ensure safety, Franklin and his team research an event online in advance to gauge queue sizes.
Keeping an “orderly queueing system” is a challenge, he adds – although many fans tend to manage this themselves – in addition to “ensuring there are no queue jumpers or fans harassed by ticket touts.”
With so much at stake – dangerous conditions, extreme weather, competition from others – is “operation barrier”, as the mission to make the front row is known, really worth it? “You form a bond with people around you, you sing songs and play games and it hypes you up for the gig,” says Manuela Biondi from Rome, who arrived at 8am to see Louis Tomlinson in Kingston.
One Tomlinson fan, Jaz David, spent nine days queueing for his show in Spain this year. “I do it primarily for the view but camping for the show can be just as fun, if not more so, than the show itself. That’s where I’ve met most of my friends.”
The connections that form when queueing are an undeniable draw for fans. As Hannah Ewens observes of the community among strangers in one such queue in her book Fangirls: Scenes from Modern Music Culture: “The waiting connects the public and private parts of fandom.”
The proximity to artists is also enticing. “The only thing between you and the artist is the barricade,” says Michelle Evangelista, a New York City-based fan who spent her teenage years queueing to see One Direction.
Yumie Regatieri from Milton Keynes once spent 12 hours in line to see Lorde: “When you are first row the chance of interacting with the artists is bigger and totally worth the queuing.”
But camping can be cumbersome to security and venue staff who often work irregular hours to monitor queues or pick up after fans who leave behind litter and discarded camping gear. It also creates inequality among gig-goers, Biondi admits: “If you queue really early, you are taking away the chance for someone else to be at the front who has school or work and cannot simply lose a number of days queueing.”
Even for those who do it, camping is admittedly “stressful and exhausting”, says Carolina Cuellar, who once travelled from Mexico City for a32-hour wait to see Muse in London. “You get cold, you sleep uncomfortably and by the time the gig starts you’re so tired.”
Though music fans remain divided about camping culture, most welcome better and more consistent regulation of queues to ensure a fair fan experience. “I would love it if all venues had a wristband system that allows you to leave and come back when the doors open with your number,” says Cuellar. “I liked what Banquet did: it was a great way to show that people must follow the rules.”
A POPULAR music festival, which gives all profits to children’s cancer research, has announced a stellar line-up including platinum selling artists and 90s legends for 2023.
More than 100 artists will perform at next year’s Teddy Rocks Festival which organisers say is set to be their “the biggest year yet”.
Headliners for the tenth edition of the non-profit festival include indie rock favourites Feeder, popular singer songwriter Jake Bugg, Reading rockers The Amazons, Dutch stars Vengaboys, successful boy band East 17 and hip-hop group Goldie Lookin Chain among others.
The festival will continue to raise money for children’s cancer charities when held from April 28 to 30 at Charisworth Farm in Blandford.
Teddy Rocks Festival 2022 in Dorset
Founded by Tom Newton in 2011 after he lost his 10 year old brother Ted to a rare bone cancer, the Teddy Rocks Festival has raised more than £460,000 since its inception.
Starting as a gig in a pub, the family friendly festival is now a three-day outdoor camping event with six stages, a funfair, shops and stalls, and a selection of gourmet food traders.
Ahead of the tenth hosting of the festival, Tom Newton said: “It has been an absolute rollercoaster taking this festival from the back room of a pub to where it is today. There have been some big lows and some unbelievable highs throughout.
“We have built an incredible team of volunteers who all share the same passion and vision to do good, so to be here launching our tenth Teddy Rocks is amazing. I’m really excited to see the event take on the next chapter and provide critical support for children and their families battling cancer.”
Teddy Rocks Festival founder Tom Newton. Picture: Charlie Raven
Last year’s event was the first time the festival had been held since 2019 due to the pandemic.
Close to 8,000 people are estimated to have attended the festival, including NHS staff who were accommodated for free.
£60,000 was raised for charity last year, and organisers want to breach the £100,000 mark for 2023’s event – having last done so in 2019 when £107,000 was raised.
Dancehall star Popcaan released a video in which he dissed fellow frontline entertainer Shaggy and accused music insider Sharon Burke, a principal of Solid Agency, of attempting to sabotage his performance at the Burna Boy concert at the National Stadium on Sunday.
“I am taking this opportunity to send a message to Sharon Burke and the not so solid agency. Ahhmm, mi know exactly what oonu duh the other night at the stadium when oonu try to sabotage mi performance because of personal feelings,” said Popcaan.
“We all know seh oonu hate mi, but oonu caan control mi. What oonu don’t have shares or percentage inna, oonu feel like oonu can control the industry and put who oonu want at number one, and put who oonu want put international,” he said.
Popcaan’s set during the Burna Boy concert was plagued with sound and other technical difficulties. At one point, he walked off the stage and pleaded with the organisers that, “dem seh dem nah hear, fix up the (expletive deleted) mike; don’t try ramp wid mi, fix up the ting man.”
In the video, Popcaan boasted that “Unruly Boss break dem spell deh long time and show oonu seh mi no need oonu fi do s—t.
“It late fi oonu; oonu caan stop Unruly again; mi know how oonu roll; oonu waan be industry gatekeepers, waan control who guh international and who stay; oonu know oonu caan control mi already.
“And Shaggy, you is a b*tch, yuh hear; Mi seh dat Shaggy, yuh is a little b*tch,” Popcaan said, with no reason given for the latter statement.
Importantly, YouTube will be conducting workshop sessions to African creatives at the Africa Music Business Summit (one of the events at 8th AFRIMA) to educate on visibility across the global creative ecosystem on a digital platform.
The global streaming service will also be partnering with the All Africa Music Awards on a special incubator programme dubbed, AFRIMA Creative Academy, which aims to empower one million Africans (and in diaspora) in the music and creative industry in the next five years.
The YouTube link for live streaming will be available on AFRIMA’s YouTube page @Youtube.com/AFRIMAAWARDS. Subscribe for free to the channel and catch the African Music Business Summit live on Friday Jan 13, 2023, from 9.00am-4.30pm (WAT); while the AFRIMA Music Village will be live later that day from 6.00pm – Till dawn (WAT). Finally, the 8th AFRIMA main awards ceremony will be streamed live from the Red Carpet- 4.30pm (WAT), while the main awards will start at 7.30pm (WAT).
Speaking on the development, the Head, Culture Division at the African Union Commission (AUC), Angela Martins said, “It is important that we spread our efforts to promote inclusivity and ensure that the world can see the impact of AFRIMA at the global centre stage. It is easier for people to now follow up with the award ceremony via their smartphone or other devices. It is also vital we continue to create more education for creators to help them thrive in their crafts, and we are happy to align with YouTube on achieving this shared vision.”
On his part, AFRIMA’s President and Executive Producer, Mr Mike Dada, lauded the streaming service for their support towards the African creative economy.
He said, “We have all seen the rise in circulation of short form audio-visual content on these services and how they have helped to promote African music and creators on a global scale. We believe that sharing knowledge will be a veritable means to expand the revenue funnel for our creators at home and also boost foreign direct investment. In the spirit of uplifting the African creative ecosystem, we are excited to work with a driven and innovative team like YouTube.”
YouTube’s Head of Music Sub-Saharan Africa, Addy Awofisayo said, “YouTube has been consistent in its support for Africa creatives over the years and has played an essential role in the discovery and development of African music & culture and exporting it to audiences and listeners worldwide, enabling collaborations both locally and globally.
“We are excited for our partnership with AFRIMA and the African Union to deepen our relationship with the music stakeholders on the continent, provide educational support for African creatives, and to help music fans be a part of some of the most iconic music moments as they unfold live on YouTube, wherever they are around the globe.”
As the whole world gears towards the 8th edition of the All Africa Music Awards, AFRIMA, which will be held from January 12 to 15, 2023, African music lovers are encouraged to keep voting intensively for their desired winners, using the voting portal live at AFRIMA Website and take part in the events on social media platforms (IG/TikTok – @afrima.official ; Facebook – Afrimawards; Twitter – @afrimaofficial; LinkedIn – AFRIMA). The voting process that determines winners at AFRIMA is audited by a globally renowned auditing firm, Pricewaterhousecoopers (PWC).
As announced at the conference, the delegates are expected to arrive on January 11 ,2023. The AFRIMA ceremony is scheduled to kick-start fully on Thursday January 12, 2023, with a HostCountry Tour, School visitand gift presentation (as part of AFRIMA’s Corporate Social Responsibility), as well as a Welcome Soiree in the evening, in Dakar.
The 4-day event continues on Friday January 13, 2023, with the Africa Music Business Summit (AMBS) at the Grand Theatre, in Dakar. The AMBS is Africa’s largest gathering of creative professionals in the music industry and it features workshops and panel discussions on issues and opportunities within the African music industry.
The 8th AFRIMA will continue with high momentum at the AFRIMA Music Village at the Grand Theatre, which will be a free-to-enter concert featuring live performances from the biggest music stars across the continent.
On the eve of the awards ceremony, on Saturday January 14, 2023, the events will begin with Main rehearsals, Media engagements and a Courtesy Visit to the Presidentof Senegal. There will also be a live recording booth at the venue for musicians across all five regions of the continent, and in the diaspora, to explore for collaborative recordings. The day’s activities will climax with a Nominees exclusive party.
Finally, the 8th AFRIMA will wrap up on Sunday January 15, 2023, at the 15-000 capacity Dakar Arena, in Dakar, with the live Awards ceremony broadcast by 104 TV Stations to over 84 countries around the world.
In partnership with the African Union Commission, AFRIMA is the pinnacle of African music globally.
To entice more players, PUBG Mobile launched a music label called Beat Drop for in-game music.
PUBG Mobile, like other live service games, has prioritised music integration for its customers. The video gaming platform previously organised its inaugural virtual performance with the K-pop girl group Black Pink.
“The new PUBG Mobile music label intends to put a spotlight on fantastic up-and-coming musicians throughout the world, compose industry-defining tunes alongside existing icons, and present players with epic songs to heighten their PUBG Mobile experience,” according to the PUBG Mobile press team.
As of yet, the team has not provided any other information on how the new record label will appear or which musicians will be included on PUBG Mobile.
PUBG Mobile has been a huge hit, with over 1 billion downloads. The establishment of a new music label is expected to help the platform maintain and recruit users.
This year, PUBG Mobile organised its first virtual concert, featuring the K-pop girl group Blackpink. Roblox has staged concerts with musicians such as Royal Blood and Lil Nas X. Fortnite is well-known for its lavish in-game events that include celebrities such as Marshmello and Ariana Grande, and the game even allows you to listen to real-world music when you get in your car and turn on the radio. Music tie-ins in video games involve more than just performances.
Soprano Sumi Jo speaks during a press conference held on Dec. 6 at Koreana Hotel in central Seoul for her new album ″In Love.″ [YONHAP]
Korea’s celebrated soprano Sumi Jo is holding a concert on Friday evening at the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul. Though she’s known for singing beautiful arias in other European languages, all the songs she’ll be singing during the upcoming concert will be in Korean and not in operatic style.
“In Love” is the name of the upcoming concert and Jo’s latest album. It consists of 11 songs of different genres that sing about love, ranging from gagok (original Korean vocal music) to pop.
“I think now is the perfect time to sing about love, and of course the perfect time to love,” Jo said during a press conference held recently in central Seoul for her new album.
“I promised my fans in the summer that I will present them with an album they will love around the time the first snow comes and here I am, keeping that promise,” she said. “Like lovers who are so in love that they don’t want to let go of each others hands, I can confidently say this album will never leave the hands of my fans this winter.”
Jo has released more than 40 albums in a wide array of music genres since her European operatic debut in 1986. But she said it seems like she’s put the most attention on and energy in creating this album, perhaps because the songs are outside her usual comfort zone.
“I released ‘Mother’ in 2019, which is another album that consists of Korean songs and I noticed that my Korean fans enjoy my classical music pieces but really fall in love with the Korean songs. I paid a lot of attention to not singing like a soprano, but use different singing techniques to record different types of songs,” she said.
For the album, she worked with her “friends” who will also join her on stage. Korean bass-baritone Gil Byeong-min worked with Jo for Kim Hyo-geun’s “First Love.” Cellist Hong Jin-ho, violinist Danny Koo, haegeum (Korean zither) player Nari and maestro Choi Young-seon with the Prime Philharmonic Orchestra also collaborated on the album.
“I can never forget about my first love,” said the 59-year-old singer. “It was back in the day when we didn’t have cell phones. My first love and I promised to meet each other in front of Gyeongbok Palace on the first day of the snow on a certain year. But I remember I was studying inside a library that day and I didn’t know it was snowing outside. After realizing the first snow, I remember just running toward the meeting point. Many years have gone by but I can’t forget that day, that first snow and that flutter. I sang all the songs with that emotion in my heart. I want to share that feeling of being in love with my fans this winter.”
Though it was tough trying to create an album with all her energy and heart, Jo says this album is like a “vacation” from her classical career.
“I hope people listen to this album when they want to relax,” said Jo. “It’s like grabbing a cup of coffee or a glass of wine to relax. Grab my album and have a merry Christmas.”
Tickets for Jo’s concert range from 50,000 won ($39.20) to 150,000 won.
Whoever says the full-length album is a dying art form hasn’t been watching Christmas music. This year brings another sleigh full of full-length albums. Here’s my take on this year’s albums vying for your Christmas music dollars.
Lindsey Stirling: “Snow Waltz” — Stirling brings her unique signature mix of classical, electronica and pop to “Snow Waltz,” crafting this year’s most innovative holiday albums. What also works is the hint of a dark undercurrent Stirling brings to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” and the title track. They play nicely with cheerier tracks (like “Sleigh Ride” and “Joy to the World” and the originals “Crazy For Christmas” and “Magic.”)
Switchfoot: “This Is Our Christmas Album” — The popular alt-rock band tries its hand at Christmas music with mixed results. “Scrappy Little Christmas Tree” sounds like the Sex Pistols meet the Beach Boys and somehow it works, while “New Year’s Day” is a catchy mid-tempo rocker. But a couple of originals fall flat and at times Jon Foreman’s raspy vocals come up a little creaky.
¦ Kelley Hunt: “Winter Solstice” — Hunt has quietly established herself as one of music’s better roots music artists, deftly blending blues, soul and gospel while showcasing her considerable talent as a singer and pianist. Now she’s made this year’s best Christmas album in “Winter Solstice.” Her bluesy and soulful version of “Go Tell It On The Mountain” may be the swingingest take ever on that famous song. Hunt’s reinterpretations of other classics are just as fresh and inspired. There are also three worthy originals, including the rich ballad, “Bright Lights,” which extends the Christmas season’s spirit of harmony into a call for lasting unity and respect that’s fitting in these divisive times.
¦ Alicia Keys: “Santa Baby” — Keys has always made classy music, and “Santa Baby” is no exception, as she gives the songs restrained accompaniment — mainly her piano playing, bass and light percussion. The approach works because Keys’ supple and sweet voice pairs well with songs like “Christmas Time Is Here,” “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and the flirty title song. Keys, though, ups the ante with four original songs, including the stellar ballad “You Don’t Have To Be Alone,” which sounds like it could become a favorite song to cover in the years ahead, while “Old Memories On Xmas” is nearly as good.
¦ Dave Koz & Friends: “ Christmas Ballads” — Saxophonist Koz celebrates the 25th anniversary of his Christmas tour by reuniting on “Christmas Ballads” with the three musicians who helped him launch the tour, keyboardist David Benoit, guitarist Peter White and trumpeter Rick Braun. With a nice mix of Christmas standards and lesser known seasonal songs, this warm effort is firmly in Koz’s smooth jazz wheelhouse.
¦ Joss Stone: “Merry Christmas, Love” — A Christmas album seems like a natural vehicle for Stone, but her soulful, bluesy sound doesn’t often materialize. While she brings the sass to “What Christmas Means To Me,” and to a lesser extent on “Bring On Christmas Day,” for the most part, “Merry Christmas, Love” is a standard-issue Christmas album, complete with orchestration and some heavy-handed choir-like backing vocals — while Stone’s musical personality goes mostly missing in action.
¦ Crowder: “Milk & Cookies: A Merry Crowder Christmas” — One of the best artists in Christian music, Crowder’s first holiday album is made up mostly of original songs, with fun fare like “Elf Song,” “Your Praise Goes On” and “The Ballad of Mrs. C (She’s Sick of the Beard)” fitting Crowder’s familiar blend of folk, country and rock and roll with the occasional touch of hip-hop and a good bit of humor.
¦ Chris Isaak: “Everybody Knows It’s Christmas” — Isaak, given his vocal ability, his songwriting chops and his roots in early rock and roll, surf and soul, seemed capable of making a refreshing Christmas album. But originals (aside from “Almost Christmas” and “Wrapping Presents For Myself ”) are lackluster and he doesn’t bring much originality to the covers.
¦ Pentatonix: “Holidays Around the World” — The one-time a cappella group is now using instruments, making Pentatonix a more typical vocal group, and “Christmas Around the World” a more conventional holiday album. That’s OK as long as the group has songs as fun as the buoyant “Kid On Christmas” (featuring guest Meghan Trainor) and as thoughtful as the ballad “Prayers For This World.”
Other notable releases:
¦ Debbie Gibson: “Winterlicious” — The one-time teen pop star’s first Christmas album is a diverse, largely poppy affair (no surprise there) that favors originals and lesser known covers over the usual classics. Ironically, two of the highlights come on a pair of the album’s less cheery original ballads “The Gift” and “Heartbreak Holiday,” but otherwise “Winterlicious” is the right kind of breezy holiday confection.
¦ Tasha Layton: “This is Christmas” — On one of this season’s better efforts, the Christian music singer goes big and brassy on fun originals like “Diddly Squat” (about not even getting a lump of coal) and “Hang Up Your Stocking,” while also including warmer, more musically restrained tunes like “Giving Christmas Away” and “Make It to Christmastime.”
¦ Jamie O’Neal: “Spirit & Joy” — O’Neal’s country-pop versions of familiar Christmas tunes are straight-forward, but three originals — the shuffling “Christmas You,” the beachy “Gulf of Mexico” and the lovely and emotional “Christmas to Me” — elevate
¦ Jessy J: “ California Christmas, Vol. 2” — On the jazz saxophonist’ s (mostly) instrumental holiday album, she tastefully elaborates on familiar melodies while putting some groove into “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “Oh Holy Night.”
¦ Regina Belle: “My Colorful Christmas” — Belle gets creative with several of the standards, putting a skipping Latin-ish beat on “O Little Town of Bethlehem”/”Gloria in Excelsis Deo” and adding some punch in “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” and is in fine voice throughout this appealing and soulful effort.
¦ Loreena McKennitt: “Under A Winter’s Moon” — This ambitious holiday themed concert is presented over two CDs, with McKennitt’s signature Irish-accented folk sound and ethereal vocals in the spotlight.
¦ Gloria Estefan/Emily Estefan/Sasha Estefan-Coppola: “Estefan Family Christmas” — Estefan and multiple family members bring some Latin spice and originality to this entertaining album.
¦ Chris Ruggiero: “Christmas with Chris Ruggiero” — The PBS star has made his name as a 20-something singing (mostly) vintage pop, rock and soul songs from the 1950s & 1960s. It may be a schtick, but Ruggiero can sing, as “ Christmas with Chris Ruggiero” amply demonstrates.
¦ Louis Armstrong : “Louis Armstrong Wishes You a Cool Yule” — The jazz great holiday singles are for the first time collected here to make for a timeless, cheery holiday album.
¦ Chris Standring: “Silent Night” — The British jazz guitarist brings his chops to this set of Christmas classics, creating a laid back and tasteful instrumental set.
¦ Sarah Partridge: “A Partridge in a Pear Tree” — The former actress (she starred in “Risky Business”) who’s best known for her jazzy interpretations of the Great American Songbook does just fine on this set of holiday standards. But the real star is piano arrangements that nicely embellish the songs.
¦ Axelle Red: “The Christmas Album” — The Belgian songstress brings some twists to this material, putting some swing into “My Favorite Things” and “Sleigh Ride,” and punching up Hot Chocolate’s “Brand New Christmas” on this enjoyable outing.
¦ Girl Named Tom: “One More Christmas” — The 2021 winners of “The Voice” bring their peppy folk-pop sound to the holidays with several fine originals plus a few seasonal favorites that feature some creative vocal arrangements.
¦ Sarah Connor: “Not So Silent Night” — The German pop star puts the party into Christmas with this fine collection of (nearly all) original songs that mixes energetic and catchy tunes with several ballads.
¦ Williamson Branch: “Very Merry Christmas” — The playing shines on the bluegrass/gospel group’s collection of Christmas classics and a few original tunes.
¦ Craig Duncan: “Bluegrass Christmas 2” — The sequel to his 2007 holiday outing finds the veteran artist giving instrumental bluegrass treatments to 14 Christmas standards. The straight-forward arrangements could be more imaginative, but this is a pleasant collection. ¦