The holidays may be over but who doesn't want the holiday spirit to linger? I know I wish I could bottle up the essence of sharing, loving and good cheer. So, when I was invited to review Yo-Yo Ma's Songs of Joy & Peace, I thought this was one way I could make my wish come true.
As you all know from previous reviews, I adore classical music and Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most revered instrumental virtuosos of our generation. The multiple Grammy-winning master cellist and composer is incredibly versatile, covering traditional classical repertoire and anything from American bluegrass to Asian melodies to South American tangos. His smooth, rich tone and unique, contemporary arrangements have made for pleasant, easy listening for decades. Songs of Joy & Peace is a collection of songs inspired by the holiday season, featuring talented artists from across the globe.
Currently celebrating his 30th anniversary with Sony Classical and Sony BMG Masterworks, Yo-Yo Ma conceived of Songs of Joy & Peace as a universal holiday house party of music "uniting different forms of joy" with the idea of combining familiar material with songs that would offer the listener the gift of discovery performed by old friends and new.Track Listing:
1. Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace)
2. You Couldn't Be Cuter - Diana Krall, John Clayton*
3. Joy to the World - Dave Brubeck, Matt Brubeck, Paquito D'Rivera
4. Here Comes the Sun - James Taylor
5. Improvisation on Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace) - Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile
6. The Wassail Song/All Through the Night - Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile
7. A Christmas Jig/Mouth of the Tobique Reel - Natalie Macmaster
8. The Wexford Carol - Alison Krauss*
9. Panxolina: A Galician Carol - Cristina Pato
10. Improvisation on Dona Nobis Pacem (Give us Peace) - Sergio Assad, Odair Assad
11. Vassourinhas - Sergio Assad, Odair Assad
12. Improvisation on Dona Nobis Pacem (Give us Peace) - Paquito D'Rivera, Alon Yavnai
13. Invitacion al Danzon - Paquito D'Rivera, Alon Yavnai*
14. My One and Only Love - Joshua Redman*
15. Familia - Assad Family
16. Concordia - Dave Brubeck, Matt Brubeck
17. My Favorite Things - Chris Botti*
18.Touch the Hand of Love - Renee Fleming, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile
19. Kuai Le - Wu Tong, The Silk Road Ensemble
20. This Little Light of Mine - Amelia Zirin-Brown
21. Happy Xmas (War is Over) - Jake Shimabukuro*
22. Dona Nobis Pacem (Give us Peace)/Auld Lang Syne - Chris Botti
This CD lives up to its title, as it is nothing short of uplifting and peaceful. The album contained much more than interpretations of holiday classics. It was also chock full of splendid songs that just make you smile, like the gospel anthem, "This Little Light of Mine" and the Beatles' Abbey Road hit, "Here Comes the Sun". Just try not to grin when you hear those lyrics. I dare you. No, I double dog dare you.
For those of you on the fence when it comes to classical, take heart: this is not your parents' or grandparents' music. These arrangements are fresh and modern, and you don't have to be a classical music lover to appreciate them. I was unfamiliar with several of the songs and artists but after listening to the album in its entirety, I had to go and check them out in their own right. Take for example Cuban saxophonist and clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera or ukulele prodigy Jake Shimabukuro. Simply amazing and relatively unknown - until now. Yo-Yo Ma has chosen some truly gifted vocalists and instrumentalists with whom to collaborate. My favorite tracks have to be the bubbly, "You Couldn't Be Cuter" with jazz great Diana Krall, the romantic "My One & Only Love" with saxophonist Joshua Redman, Sound of Music's beloved "My Favorite Things" with trumpeter Chris Botti and the soft reinterpretation of John Lennon's timeless "Happy Xmas (War is Over)". But in all fairness, all 22 tracks are exquisite.
Bottom line: I would highly recommend Yo-Yo Ma's Songs of Joy & Peace - for comfort and warmth not only around the holidays but year-round. Relax by the fire or in a soothing bubble bath and feel any post-holiday blues melt away.
BUY IT: You can find Yo-Yo Ma's Songs of Joy & Peace at most major music retailers or online at iTunes or Amazon.com (ARV $12.99).
WIN IT: Sony Music is generously providing one lucky winner with a copy of this album!
MAIN COURSE (MANDATORY ENTRY): Listen to the sample tracks on Yo-Yo Ma's website and tell me which one is your favorite. Remember to please leave your email address in your comment if it isn't visible on your profile to prevent disqualification!
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Giveaway will end on January 25, 2010 at 11:59pm EST. Open to U.S. only. Winners will be chosen via Random.org and will have 48 hours to respond to congratulatory email or prize will be forfeited and another winner will be chosen.
Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of this album from Andrew at Sony Music to facilitate my candid review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post. The thoughts and opinions expressed in my review are purely my own, and your experience may differ.