CHRISTMAS BOUNTY FROM NORAH JONES
In my humble opinion, there are some artists who can never go or should I say do wrong. That’s the mark of their artistic integrity. I count Norah Jones as one of those artists. From the riches occasioned by her album cycle of PICK ME UP OFF THE FLOOR last year to her gift of live performances and now her latest bouquet in the form of I DREAM OF CHRISTMAS, she is prolific and consistent.
Whether she’s performing the wonderful title track I DREAM OF CHRISTMAS in an official video form or from the top floor of Empire State Building or giving us the peppy rendition of RUN RUDOLPH RUN, she’s an effortless vocalist. I particularly love the harmonies employed in both tracks which enhance the communal feeling of tis’ season.
For other purposes of upliftment, watch her inspirational video, relaying the bond of amity between a young girl and a yeti in an enchanting children’s book form, for what I reckon to be a new Christmas classic in CHRISTMAS CALLING( JOLLY JONES). I shed a tear at the end of this animated gem. It’s marvelous how emotions conveyed through anthropomorphic forms, in animated colours and execution, always tug at our heartstrings.
Today it’s Christmas Day and as I rang it in with my family, her songbook became our soundtrack as we reveled in her magic touch and sheer simplicity in the evening. That is a gift indeed.
30 by ADELE
This album was such a hotly anticipated entity. I wouldn’t say I love atleast six songs from it. But the other six are so heartwarming and relatable that one will be cruel to look the other way as such raw, honest to earth beauty reaches our ears and in turn affects our minds, hearts and souls. EASY ON ME is the leader of the pack, of course.
But TO BE LOVED is a veritable powerhouse, so earth- shatteringly provocative with its direct engagement with our emotional state that Adele’s notes hit us hard as they take their upper ascent towards a stage of confronting truths about oneself. That point of confession and accountability is further stripped from any trace of sugercoating on MY LITTLE LOVE, a reclamation of her personal narrative as a mother first and foremost. The use of her conversations with her son, her nakedly emotional espousal of experiencing the lows of loneliness make it intense and yet never morose. She is brave to design a song that takes words to be a literal form of therapy. I love it because she confesses to still learning the ropes of adulthood. HOLD ON carries forward her trajectory of learning and relearning from her past and current state with dignity and grace to spare while LOVE IS A GAME is on a faster tempo, reminiscent of Motown R&B hits of yore, compelling and easily identifiable in terms of its urgent concerns, a sense of reeling from the person one is now.
A classic, brooding quality pervades on STRANGERS BY NATURE then and engulfs one by Adele’s use of her bassy vocal tones. It’s actually the first track to the album and begins it on a gorgeously contemplative, understated note. There’s a discursive nature to each song and with it a tryst with healing and recovery. The other tracks may be forgettable and never up to the mark but these six make up the heart and soul of 30, the album.
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (COVER) by EVANESCENCE
Only Amy Lee is capable of giving us this slice of heaven with a Beatles cover so serene and inspiring in its sheer beauty. Once again, her loyal companion is the piano that keeps her tuned to her own distinctive individuality.
NOTHING COMPARES TO YOU (LIVE) by TONI CORNELL
Chris Cornell is gone from earthly realm but his legacy continues to be nurtured by his daughter Toni. This live performance of NOTHING COMPARES TO YOU, a song already made immortal by Sinead O’Connor, proves that music runs in her veins. It’s a humbling testament of carrying forward our genes with dignity and pride.
NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AND OUT (COVER) by ERIC CLAPTON
The Guitar God makes this Bessie Smith classic on the practical realities of life and especially fame his own. His beloved instrument and smooth vocals per usual take it to a level only he can create with his live output. This is a perfect tribute.
RIVER ( FIRST EVER OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO) by JONI MITCHELL
To have this inverted Christmas classic by Joni Mitchell receive a visual treatment for the first time ever is a gift in itself. Needless to say, I love the visuals especially how it literally interprets the central lyrics of the song so beautifully. Hushed, unobtrusive as the vocals are, we have all visualised an image of Ms. Joni skating on a river of her own making, a metaphor of freedom and idyllic creativity. This video gives it all to us.
The ‘they’re cutting down trees’ lyric, particularly, still haunts me owing to its emphasis on an impaired environmental consciousness.
BOTH SIDES NOW( LIVE) by BRITTANY HOWARD
It also is a blessed coincidence that another great vocalist of our era honours Mitchell’s Kennedy Center distinction with this song of songs, a lyrical journey that conflates childhood innocence with the reality of adult awakening, a sense of mortal awakening more so. With Herbie Hancock on the piano, it’s a tribute of the highest order, bringing this writer to a full circle moment as I had discovered BOTH SIDES NOW few years ago vis a vis Sara Bareilles’ live rendition at the Oscars, in its IN MEMORIAM section.
BITE ME( ACOUSTIC VERSION) by AVRIL LAVIGNE
Avril is in peak form on a track that fits hand in glove with her best of yore and this acoustic version showcases her crystal clear vocals and inimitable attitude with equal aplomb.
HEART OF A CHILD by ERIC CLAPTON
How lucky I am to receive Mr. Clapton’s genius in double doses. This time around, it’s his latest track and I have to say, the man can never go wrong. Period.
I close off this essay by imploring you all to discover two of this year’s best soundtracks in the form of SPENCER and THE POWER OF THE DOG. Both come from the hands of Radiohead member and musical savant Jonny Greenwood.
From the former, look out for the title theme and THE PEARLS most importantly while from the latter, DETUNED MECHANICAL PIANO, REQUIEM FOR PHIL and 25 YEARS, its running theme music, are priceless. They embody not only the two cinematic works’ aura but build inner worlds with intricate care to details when paired with the visual treatment.
Last but not the least is the soundtrack to THE PIANO by Michael Nyman. The standout being THE HEART ASKS PLEASURE FIRST that uses the titular instrument to uncover a whole sensual world like none other. But A BED OF FERNS, THE SACRIFICE and TO THE EDGE OF THE EARTH are equally memorable.