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Music Review: Various Artists – A Winter’s Wish

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It seems to me that there's a very large selection of new Christmas/Holiday related albums released this season — more than usual.  A wide variety as well, from the traditional Johnny Mathis Gold: 50th Anniversary Christmas Celebration to the headbangin' Twisted Christmas by those Long Island, New York Metal Maniacs, Twisted Sister.  You can go to a New Orleans Christmas if you like your carols Cajun style or do it up country with George Strait's Fresh Cut Christmas.  Pick your genre or your fave singer and you are bound to find something that suits your fancy.

Still not sure what to pick up?  Let me help you out.  Airgo Music, an up and coming label out of New York, has put out a compilation Christmas album featuring the talent on their roster, called A Winter's Wish.  And I can give you two reasons why you should add this to your list of holiday music to buy.  It's has a great sound and helps out two great causes at the same time.

First of all, it's a good selection of songs that manages to be upbeat but still kinda mellow – don't pass this by although you have probably not heard of most of the artists involved.  From the first track, a soulful "O Holy Night" by newcomer Mark Millan, which is simple and clean with it's acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment, this collection grabbed my ear.

Coming to this CD from the Broadway musical Rent are two performers that we'll be hearing more of in the days to come, Frenchie Davis and Mark Ford.  Mr. Ford also shows his soulful side on "The Christmas Song" with a jazzy little flavor added.  Ms. Davis' gives up a rockin' version of "Little Drummer Girl".  Like many of the songs on A Winter's Wish, that are normally sung as if they are dirges, this is uptempo and fun!

Ditto for Yassmin Alers' "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and Faces Without Names "Jingle Bell Rock".  Both recordings are bright and sunny and reminds you of why you liked these tunes to begin with.

Craig Wilson's version of "The First Noel" is not like your gramma's either.  It starts with a simple bit of guitar pickin' and tambourine before Craig's voice joins in.  Add in short-but-soaring axe to the mix as well as a lush and luscious backup chorus and you get an imaginative take on a song that tends to be sung as if it were a drone.

Echo that sentiment on the arrangement for "Do You Hear What I Hear" by Maria Christensen.  This arrangement's percussion and backup singers help keep things moving along, as they compliment the rich tones of Ms. Christensen's voice.

A surprise is Amanda Droste's country-tinged "A New York City Christmas."  After all, the two things don't seem to go together… country music and the Big Apple, right?  Tell me that after you give this tune a listen.

"Miss You Most At Christmas" is lovely ballad performed by Karmine Alers.  As with all the songs on A Winter's Wish, the emphasis is on the strong vocal abilities of the players involved.  The music tracks behind the lyrics are balanced to enhance each singer not drown them out.

More traditional arrangements are used for Jai Rodriguez' and Michael Makai's contributions.  Jai is better known as the "Culture Vulture" on Queer Eye – for now.  Pared down with just a piano behind his singing on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", his voice rings clear and true.  And Michael's "Silent Night" is totally stripped bare, a stirring a cappella version of this perennial favorite.

John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" is the closing track and a great ending by Paul Nicholas featuring George Lamond.  It's apt that Mr. Nicholas owns the final track.  Not only is it a wonderful song and sentiment, but one of the reasons that this release can make a difference to many people is because of him.

You see, Airgo Music's founder Jimmy Grecco (a Grammy nominated songwriter/producer in his own right) and Paul Nicholas have known each other for over fifteen years.  About two years ago, Paul was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and has been learning to deal with having this chronic illness without losing himself in the process ever since.  It's a trial that affects so many people, not just the afflicted but their family and friends as well.

Jimmy decided that this year, his company would put out a Christmas CD and offer it for sale by download as well..  Not just any release though.  It would feature all the artists on his label and he would donate All the money to support specific charity work.  Let me quote Mr. Grecco himself:

"This $15 CD order or Album download was created for a special purpose, 90% of the proceeds will go directly to funding research to find a cure for MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and to help find a preventive vaccine against AIDS.

45% of the proceeds will benefit the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and the other 45% of the proceeds will benefit an MS Foundation. 10% of the proceeds covers writer & publishing fees for the music performed. will incur all other costs.

Together we can help change the lives of men, women, & children affected around the world."

The two charities that are slated to receive funding from this project are the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and the  International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.  And you can help!

Buy A Winter's Wish at Airgo Music as either a download or an actual CD (they even take phone orders at 718.631.5031, Monday-Friday 10 A.M. til 6 P.M. EST).  Don't think your music collection has room for one more holiday CD?  Not even for such good causes?  This compilation of songs also makes a wonderful host/hostess gift for that holiday party you're going to, along with a note explaining about the funding that the proceeds will accomplish.  Or even a stocking stuffer.

C'mon.  It's almost Christmas.  Don't go all Scrooge on us, especially when it can help out so many people!!

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