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BWW's Holiday CD Roundup Part 2: The Singers

Hello everyone!'s that time of year to think of gift-giving, as well as cleaning off my own desk! Believe it or not, I love listening to all these recordings and don't take the responsibility of evaluating them lightly. However, that said, and in the current economic situation facing all of us, one must be cautious how we spend our hard earned dollars. If I really had the time, or the energy, I would give you specific song titles and have you run online to iTunes, but that wouldn't be fair to the people who worked so hard on all these recordings.

I also try to keep my sense of humor intact and hope that you do, too.

Happy Holidays and happy listening!

Kristin Chenoweth - A Lovely Way To Spend Christmas

5 discs (out of 5)

This is without a doubt, the best solo recording that Kristin Chenoweth has done to date. Finally, she is singular of voice, without all the trickery and clearly someone has been responsible for A&Ring this holiday treat. The arrangements are clever, the choices are not the ordinary and this album will have a long, long shelf life. The packaging is beautiful, as are the photographs of Ms. Chenoweth. I have way too many favorites to chose a few, but, I was very happy to hear Sesame's Street's "Sing" a particular charmer with a minor-revised lyric, making it special for the holidays. A wonderful addition to your holiday CD collection and a perfect stocking stuffer for the Kristin Chenoweth fan in your life...of which we know there are many (by the way Kristin, sorry Pushing Daisies was cancelled). This recording is beautifully produced by Robbie Buchanan, with Jay Landers (Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, Celine Dion and Josh Groban) as Executive Producer. It should also be noted that Kristin got to record this album at the legendary Capitol Recording Studio, in Los Angeles, where Sinatra, Garland and Nat King Cole all recorded some of their most famous Christmas songs.

Patti LuPone at LES MOUCHES
(no .. NOT Leslie Kritzer!)

Ghostlight Records

5 discs (out of 5) 

They sure knew how to have fun in 1980! PLEASE .. bring on more CDs like this - out of wherever they're hiding. Ellen Greene at RENO SWEENEY, Peter Allen, Formerly The Harlettes, Desmond Child & Rouge - all of ‘em! This is a REAL ACT - listen up children! A "must-have!" Available now and a great Christmas gift. GREAT song selection, great patter and total abandon .. a REAL performer AND she was doing EVITA at the time. She did a midnight show, once a week, over 27 weeks and apparently these tapes have been hanging out in a box somewhere. Kurt Deutsch and Joel Moss culled what is on this CD and it's not even embarassing to hear Patti LuPone gushing and laughing and gushing and laughing and gushing and laughing. The 5 piece band was led by David Lewis, who co-created the show with La LuPone. Buying this is a "no-brainer!" USDA PRIME!

Sarah Brightman, A Winter Symphony 
Manhattan Records on EMI 
 Four discs (out of 5)

This is Sarah Brightman's first holiday album and it's beautifully packaged and recorded. Sarah Brightman has a rabid following of fans and to this day will forever be the finest of all the Christines in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which at the time (during their marriage) was written especially for her. At the height of her vocal prowess, her Christine is simply brilliant and the fact that she has had tremendous success as a breakout performer, in cross-over, and finding a devoted audience is a credit to her record company and to her touring producers. If you're a fan, this album will not disappoint and you'll want to add it to your collection. Ms. Brightman is also currently on tour, click here for the schedule.

Orfeh - What Do You Want From Me
Sh-k-Boom Records 
 Three discs (out of 5)

Orfeh is "an acquired taste." That said, she finally landed in a role that she exceeded in, that of Paulette in the recent audience hit, LEGALLY BLONDE. Her previous recorded releases are 1991's' Or-N-More and 2001's M.Y.O.B. (as a guest for Deborah Gibson). But, finally, she's landed on something that's quite listenable. If Orfeh's your thing, then this disc is a perfect stocking stuffer.




Lea Delaria The Live Smoke Sessions 
Ghostlight - a Trademark of Sh-k-Boom Records 
 Four discs (out of 5)

Featuring Gil Goldstein, Seamus Blake and Ian Shaw  
Lea Delaria is one of our underappreciated talents. She has successfully worked in all mediums, but can't seem to land with great strength in any of them, to define her. This is a good thing and a not so good thing, when you look down the road at a career. The fact that she's out, gay lesbian doesn't begin to define her, but you absolutely cannot question her musical skills. I've seen her live and she never ceases to amaze me or to make me wonder, "Why hasn't anyone done anything with her?" That the girl can sing is obvious and she's attracted to jazz, but some of the intros are just too long and some of the songs are dragged down.  That said, this album produced by Jeanette Mason is most enjoyable and anybody who sings "Love Me or Leave Me" wins my vote for greatness.

Barbara Cook: Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder 
DRG Records 
5 discs (out of 5) 

Any Barbara Cook recording is reason to rejoice and this is no exception. With a particular shout out to "Lucky to be Me", "Old Devil Moon" and a "For All We Know", that brought me to tears. This woman's second act (or third, depending on how you define her) is burnishing brighter than ever, with no end in sight to that glorious instrument...her God-given voice.




Terri Ralston: I've Gotta Get Back to New York 
LML Music  
 Four discs (out of 5) 

Ok kids, listen up! This is "old school" and was recorded live at the Metropolitan Room, here in New York.  Terri Ralston, who has appeared in many a Broadway musical, came back for this limited engagement, to share classic theatre music to the glee of the audience present and to share many funny stories from her career. I enjoyed this CD tremendously and wish that I had seen her live, but this is the way that acts used to be crafted. Though "old school," it did not seem out of style in any way. This is a very welcome addition to any CD collection, with many first hand stories and will show you how to "craft" an act.

Lauren Frost 
Words for the Birds 
Snowgirl Productions

5 discs (out of 5) 

You'll probably remember the name Lauren Frost as the girl who played a young Barbra Streisand in the 2000 Timeless tour or from her Disney series, Even Steven's or from seeing her at's Standing Ovations IV Benefit. This is her first solo recording and it was not at all what I expected, but conceptually tight, with all but two songs written by Ms. Frost and Matt Scutt. The songs are clever, simple and very well produced and this is very definitely worth a listen. Fresh, fresh, fresh and not a showtune in sight.

Kevin Gray: It's My Time to Shine 
Landfill Records 
 3 and 1/2 discs (out of 5)

God! Where is Kevin Gray? This strapping young leading man who was never out of work having appeared in The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, The King and I, The Lion King and others, hasn't been seen on the boards in some time. And, it's a shame, because he's a rock solid performer. This recording is a little bit "homemade" sounding, but nevertheless, it exhibits his dazzling vocal instrument, although the song choices are somewhat curious. That said, you do get "The Music of the Night", you do get "The American Dream", you do get "A Puzzlement" but my personal favorite was "Guido's Song" from Nine, and he also showcases 2 songs written by his wife Dodie Pettit including "Why" and the title track, "It's My Time to Shine." Kevin, come back to Broadway. We miss you.

Andrew Lloyd Webber: 60 
Really Useful Records / Polydor / Fascination  
5 discs (out of 5) 
This triple CD is an import, but can be gotten on It was issued to celebrate his 60
th birthday and offers many different cuts than the Andrew Lloyd Webber: Now & Forever Boxed Set. Isolated examples would be John Barrowman singing "Sunset Boulevard", Andrea Ross "Learn to be Lonely" from the film version of The Phantom of the Opera, (and happily not sung here by Minnie Driver)...Petula Clark singing "The Perfect Year" from Sunset Boulevard, Shirley Bassey singing "The Last Man in My Life", El DeBarge singing "Starlight Express", and many others. Worth checking out and certainly fun to listen to.

The Essential Elaine Paige 
Demon Music Group 
 Two discs (out of 5) 

God, has so much really changed since the '80s? There is no doubt that Elaine Paige is a formidable force in London, the West End and perhaps even Europe. But, it has never really translated to much here in the United States, other than her performance in Sunset Boulevard, as a replacement on Broadway. Nevertheless, she fantastic. The oddest thing about this 2 CD collection is how bland everything sounds and how so much of this made up "radio airplay" in her native England. That could only happen across the pond. Many a West End performer could get a Top Ten hit if they got into a hit show, particularly if written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. In many cases, this turned into a recording career, as for Michael Ball, John Barrowman, Michael Crawford and many others. This is also happening again, with the advent of many of England's reality shows, as they hunt down Josephs, Marias and anything else that they might be looking for! You get the picture. You have to be a real Elaine Paige fan to shell out the dough for this one. Sorry, Elaine.

Carol's for a Cure, Volume 10  
Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS 
5 discs (out of 5) 

You'd have to be a real Scrooge to give this less than 5 discs. This is the tenth edition and in addition to new material, picks highlights from the last ten years for this very special two CD set. These recordings are always welcome and offer a wide array of Broadway artists and unique opportunities for groups like Rosie's Broadway Kids who are featured on this recording singing "Santa Loves Mambo". Other artists include Antonio Banderas, Harvey Fierstein, Idina Menzel, Bernadette Peters, Andréa Burns, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nick Jonas, Constantine Maroulis and Ace Young. This is a "no-brainer." Buy it, and add it to your collection and share these songs with your friends,  who also love Broadway. Also, as you probably can guess, all the money from this double disc goes to BC/EFA, Broadway's unique and ever-generous charity.

Howard Sings Ashman 
PS Classics

5 discs (out of 5) 

Listening to this CD, which is part of the Library of Congress Songwriter Series (along with Jonathan sings Larson), is a "must-have" for anyone who cares about musical theatre and its craft. There is nothing more touching to me than hearing writers sing their own songs. Cases in point - Charles Strouse in his recent television appearances, supporting his new book, "Put On a Happy Face", Jonathan Sings Larson or even Sondheim Sings Volumes 1 and 2. This is a two CD set and includes 15 demos from SMILE, as well as selections from Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater!, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and more. I must admit I burst into tears a few times. Definitely worth owning.

Stephen Sondheim: The Story So Far 
Masterworks Broadway Legacy
 3 and 1/2 discs (out of 5)
I'm  sorry to report that there's not much new here (particularly with the recent fair reception of Road Show at the Public Theater). When I first learned that this new boxed set would be released, I was very excited. But, anybody with a penchant for Sondheim, has most of this stuff although, there are a few isolated demos strewn here throughout. Most of the new stuff is on Disc 4 coming from All That Glitters, Kukla, Fran & Ollie, Saturday Night and a few other titles and some film work including The Enclave, Stavisky, The 7 Percent Solution, Reds, Dick Tracy and Singing Out Loud. The best part of the entire oblong vertical box, sporting a backlit silhouette of Mr. Sondheim is the booklet. The booklet is very generous, with information, photos and wonderful little quotes from big stars and the legendary conductor/musical director Paul Gemignani. It's also a little pricey but can be currently gotten at Amazon for 39.98. List Price is 54.98.

Linda Eder: The Other Side of Me 
 2 and 1/2 discs (out of 5)

This album was a surprise to receive. It was hard to imagine, that so far into her recording career where she's mostly succeeded with showtunes and standards, that someone would try to push her down a country road...and that's just what happened here folks..."Tthey pushed her down a country road!" Linda, of course, is skillful and the album is very well produced, but I just don't know what went on here in the thinking, unless she's going to get country radio airplay and I missed something. For Eder fans, needless to say, they'll be happy to hear Eder sing anything and this recording would certainly be on that list.


Philip Chaffin: When the Wind Blows South
PS Classics
 1 and 1/2 discs (out of 5)

I'm sorry to say that I'd never heard of Philip Chaffin, but quickly learned that he actually works for PS Classics, in the position of A&R Direction. He has two earlier albums "Where Do I Go From You?" and "Warm Spring Night," neither of which I've heard, nor were sent to us for review.

Philip Chaffin's third record is titled "When the Wind Blows South" and is described as "the sounds of the Old South, gently filtered through the music of Broadway." Well, I don't know where to begin. I was so excited with some of the song selections, particularly the first one "Loving You" by Jerry Herman, from the film version of Mame. And from there (and you'll have to forgive me here) this album went so South, so fast, that I couldn't hang on. The music and the arrangements seem totally at odds with each other and as a concept, although I tried desperately to hang on, I just couldn't. In addition, I had to keep adjusting my volume, which makes me think that the mixing and mastering was not so great. And the voice itself...(and this really hurts to say...or write) is quite unremarkable. Sorry, Philip.

To read more reviews, click here!
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