Christmas at Rao's A Celebration of Family, Friends & Holiday Spirit
Now, this here is an interesting collection of Christmas music. Rao's is an Italian restaurant on E. 114th St in New York, putting it in, if my NYC geography is correct, Harlem, On a website there was a reference to "Italian Harlem" as the identity of the neighborhood. Rao's has a couple other locations, and a retail Italian food business. And, they apparently like Christmas music.
"Christmas at Rao's" is a really great collection of Christmas songs including Frank Pellegrino, Louis Prima, Dion, Tony Bennett, and Jerry Vale. It's easy to conjure up an image of a grand ol' Christmas Eve celebration at the restaurant, wine flowing, pasta and meatballs bursting from the kitchen, and the many guest musicians taking their turn on stage as the soiree creeps through evening, night, and into the early morning. What a cast!
I don't know the backstory of this album, but it's curious to me that it almost seems like a private pressing, but commercially available on a Columbia label. Regardless, one of the best and most surprising off-season pickups. $1 (maybe $2) investment, at least $6 ROI.
Rejoyce: Songs of the Season 2001 (Kohl's Cares for Kids annual CD)
Every year Kohl's department releases a holiday CD as an in-store charity fundraiser, and they have a great track record of quality music. There has been a tendency toward the oft-released songs of the classic genre, but that makes sense. A charity CD should have wide appeal, and Kohl's CDs always do.
This 2002 edition, though, is one of the finest. It has a superb track list, with some of the usual standards, but also cuts from Ferrante & Teicher, Lena Horne and The Mills Brothers. Awesome pickup for a buck at the Goodwill Store! I'll give this one an $8 return on the $1 outlay,
Santa Claus Lane - Hilary Duff
Well, if you know who Hilary Duff is from personal televisual experience, then all I have to say is that "Santa Claus Lane" is exactly what you would expect. For the lucky and uninformed, Hilary Duff is a former Disney Channel tween star, of the program "Lizzie McGuire". Now, "Lizzie McGuire" wasn't a bad program (especially compared to what came along later on the Disney Channel), and Hilary Duff was a more-than-capable young actress, quite suitable for a program aimed at 8-12 year old girls. She had a good run on a decent show. and was an engaging and positive young performer. "Santa Claus Lane", released in 2003, is squarely targeted at the same audience. I won't begrudge them that marketing tactic - power to them. That's why I say that this album is exactly what you would expect. Mostly upbeat, poppy, dancey Christmas songs, some standards, some originals. I'm sure it was a hit with the tween crowd. I'll keep my criticisms to a minimum - Hilary has a thin voice, her singing enunciation is weak, and the song arrangements are cranked out and uninspired. On the plus side Hilary does not appear to be auto-tuned, so I'll give her credit for that, and the musicians backing her are quite capable. For being a Disney Channel star that I'm sure had making a Christmas album strongly suggested to her, Hilary Duff does a decent job. But is it good Christmas music? For me, no. But, it's exactly what I expected. $1 investment, heck I'll give it 75 cents ROI.