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Christmas

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Merry Christmas II You Is New from Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey is in perfect voice for her second Christmas album release and 2010 follow-up to 1994’s Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas II You opens with a short, fully orchestrated instrumental ode to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” segueing directly into the new “Oh Santa."

Bouncy, bubbly, and bold, the album opener “Oh Santa” tips the hat to Toni Basil’s 1981 cheerleader anthem “Mickey” using a catchy hook to drive the song along.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem/Little Drummer Boy Medley” is a great showcase for the melodramatic phrasing of Ms. Mariah, who hits this song-pairing out of the park.  It’s well arranged, creative, and solidly delivered.

"Christmas Time Is In The Air Again” sparkles as a pop standard slow arrangement that you might expect from a Sarah Vaughan or Carmen McCrae.  A Classy impression from Carey that floats on air.

"Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)/Housetop Celebration,” with the help of a bass line inspired by Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” puts a party face on this happy track.

I was blown away by the operatic interlude in “O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah Chorus” featuring Patricia Carey.

3 New Mariah Carey Christmas songs are included in this release, as are 8 traditional holiday songs.

The contemporary remix of “Auld Lang Syne” rocks ‘house music style.’

Fans young, old, and new will certainly enjoy this classy collection.

Merry Christmas II You is a rare holiday combination of great songs, top notch arrangements, diverse material, and Mariah Carey, who finally displays her gifted sonic range through nuanced maturity rather than reverting to showy vocal gymnastics as used in the past.

When I saw this album was going to be released, I was skeptical.  Now that I’ve heard it, shame on me!

Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas II You is excellent.

  1. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town Intro”
  2. “Oh Santa”
  3. “O Little Town of Bethlehem/Little Drummer Boy Medley”
  4. “Christmas Time Is In The Air Again”
  5. “The First Noel/Born Is the King Interlude”
  6. “When Christmas Comes”
  7. “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)/Housetop Celebration”
  8. “Charlie Brown Christmas”
  9. “O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah Chorus”
  10. “O Holy Night”
  11. “One Child”
  12. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” - Extra Festive
  13. “Auld Lang Syne” - The New Year’s Anthem

Listen to 30 seconds of Mariah Carey’s “Auld Lang Syne” - The New Year’s Anthem.

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Posted by King on 11/04 at 08:00 AM
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

James Brown Christmas

This December 25th marks the 3rd year since the passing of James Brown on Christmas Day, 2006.

The Godfather of Soul believed in the spirit of the holiday.  In 1966, he released the album: James Brown & His Fabulous Flames Sing Christmas Songs.

Another Christmas collection, A Soulful Christmas, was distributed in 1968.

1994 saw the compilation James Brown Christmas.  In 1999, another much weaker collection was released: The Merry Christmas Album.

Without compromise, James Brown stuck to his own style on holiday tunes.  Here is one interesting exception.

Listen to 50 seconds of “The Christmas Song” from James Brown Christmas.  You’ll have a chuckle at the string arrangements which are out of character for Soul Brother #1.

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Posted by King on 12/24 at 01:00 AM
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Earth Wind & Fire Cleveland Christmas Karaoke

"Get Your Hump on this Christmas,” a new 2009 ‘Stoolbend Virginia’ holiday hit, features Fox TV cartoon character Cleveland Brown.

Cleveland sings the track along with the dynamic instrumental and harmonic backing of Earth, Wind & Fire.

"Get Your Hump on this Christmas” is funky, proving once again that if you can dance to it, good taste gets kicked right out of the lyric window.

Who listens to the words anymore anyway?

You can add this song to other infamous novelty holiday fare.

At least Earth, Wind & Fire can proudly boast that they share the billing on this fun Christmas song (but will they want to)?

Here are some group members, along with Cleveland.

The mp3 single is available at iTunes.

Powerhouse Radio’s holiday music special begins Thursday, December 17 and will continue through Saturday, December 26. Yes, we’ll play this one too, along with many of your favorite holiday classics.

Listen to 30 seconds of “Get Your Hump on this Christmas."

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Posted by King on 12/17 at 01:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Christmas Song Video Treat

As recently mentioned, “The Christmas Song” by the legendary Flamingos featuring Terry Johnson is a delightful new treat.  Enjoy the video.  Thank you Terry Johnson and company!

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Posted by King on 12/15 at 08:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Flamingos Flock to the Christmas Song

The Flamingos featuring Terry Johnson have just released a classy 2009 rendering of “The Christmas Song."

You’ll like this ‘retro harmony’ version from these doo wop legends who are in both the Vocal Group and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It’s been a long time since their iconic smash, “I Only Have Eyes for You,” hit the charts in the late 1950s.

"The Christmas Song” is Terry Johnson’s first Flamingos release since 1962 and is The Flamingos’ first-ever holiday recording.

Listen to 30 seconds of “The Christmas Song,” and visit Terry’s website: Terry Johnson’s Flamingos.

Bonus: Don’t miss my 2006 article: “Baltimore Flamingo Terry Johnson Soars to the Sky."

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Posted by King on 12/08 at 01:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Candy Cane Christmas from Darius Rucker

Darius Rucker, vocalist - guitarist of Hootie & the Blowfish fame, has just dropped “Candy Cane Christmas,” a 2009 holiday ditty right out of the Lou Rawls, Sammy Davis Jr. school of pop.

This charming song has all the hooks of an attractive Christmas classic.

"Candy Cane Christmas” offers Darius a way outside of blues-rock to showcase his earthy voice.

Listen to and enjoy 30 seconds of “Candy Cane Christmas” by Darius Rucker.

Download the complete song for free (for a limited time) from the iTunes music store.

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Posted by King on 12/01 at 01:00 AM
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Howard Hewett Christmas

Howard Hewett found independence in his solo career the second time around when he moved on from Shalamar to pursue additional interests.

Just after December 25th, 2008, I was able to get a hold of his new holiday album: Howard Hewett Christmas.

Timing is everything, so last year’s missed opportunity opens the door to a new season of cheer, a perfect time to take a look at this still relatively new release.

Fans easily connect Jody Watley‘s female voice to the aural personality of Shalamar’s vocal blend.  There were several guys in the history of Shalamar, so in many ways, Howard Hewett is an undiscovered lead singer.

He gets the job done on Howard Hewett Christmas.  I can’t say that there’s an aspect of his voice that really makes it unique, but he performs the songs well using very tasteful arrangements.

The carols are just contemporary enough to give the songs a new millennium edge without drifting into gimmicky waters.

It’s easy listening, with some great help from among others: Stevie Wonder who performs a harmonica solo on “The Christmas Song."

George Duke produces a couple: “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “That’s Christmas."

Howard collaborates with other writers for a couple of pleasant original songs, “That’s Christmas” and “I Remember Christmas."

Ralph Johnson of Earth Wind, & Fire fame plays drums on several tracks and produces 5 of the songs.

Howard Hewett Christmas is delightful.  The tempo is just right for relaxing listening.

  1. “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”
  2. “The Christmas Song” with harmonica soloist Stevie Wonder
  3. “Sleigh Ride”
  4. “That’s Christmas”
  5. “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
  6. “Christmas Time”
  7. “Christmas On Sunset, interlude”
  8. “I Remember Christmas”
  9. “What Child Is This”
  10. “This Christmas”
  11. “Silent Night”

Enjoy 30 seconds of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” a duet with Jasselle.  She sings her part in Spanish, Howard sings his part in English.

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Posted by King on 11/12 at 01:00 AM
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wynton Marsalis Christmas Jazz Jam a Gem

Mix some soulful swing with a generous portion of good old New Orleans gusto, and you have Wynton Marsalis at his multicultural best on the contemporary Christmas Jazz Jam, new for 2009.

Watch the video below for a taste of Wyton’s virtuosity.

I had the pleasure of attending a Wynton Marsalis concert in St. Paul, Minnesota several years ago.  Without question, Mr. Marsalis commands technical dominion over his horn with the skill of a world class surgeon conducting a scalpel.

Improvisation for an instrumental player is key to pumping excitement into traditional repertoire, and Christmas Jazz Jam doesn’t disappoint.

This is the first Wynton Marsalis holiday album in 20 years.  He’s joined by his septet to present the following traditional songs:

  1. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
  2. “Mary Had a Baby”
  3. “Jingle Bells”
  4. “Blue Christmas”
  5. “Go Tell It On the Mountain”
  6. “O Christmas Tree”
  7. “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
  8. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
  9. “The Christmas Song”
  10. “Good King Wenceslas”
  11. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
  12. “Greensleeves”

Wynton Marsalis is a Pulitzer Prize/Grammy Award winner, with more than 70 albums in his portfolio.  Christmas Jazz Jam is available on iTunes, and exclusively at Target.

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Posted by King on 11/05 at 01:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Aretha Recites The Night Before Christmas

When Aretha Franklin gives you a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” it’s not just the same old passage.

We’ve added some of our own elements, including Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Listen to a quick two minute tale featuring The Queen of Soul, from her 2008 holiday CD, This Christmas Aretha.

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Posted by King on 12/23 at 07:30 PM
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ledisi Lifts Christmas Up with Musical Style

Ledisi is woman who offers a new breath of fresh air in the competitive arena of song styling.

You’ll pick up just a hint of Anita Baker and Chaka Khan in her magnificent delivery.  Ledisi is more of a torch singer with the pipes to prove it.

Don’t confuse her with the trendy light-weight pop princess divas of today.

According to the official Ledisi website, her name, (pronounced led-duh-see, is adopted from the word that means “to bring forth” in the Yoruba language of Nigeria).

You can read her long biography at length on her website, but our focus here is her holiday album, It’s Christmas.

Ledisi has put together a top notch feast of Yuletide favorites.

The opening track, “I’ll Go,” showcases her impressive vocal prowess within a 2 minute 4 second snapshot.

This album is contemporary and tasteful.  I enjoyed all the tracks.  The strength of It’s Christmas is Ledisi’s fantastic voice.

She adds just enough vocal improvisation to the traditional tunes to keep them interesting.  Frankly, I’m quite impressed with her sophistication of craft.  This is just her 2nd album for the legendary Verve label.

Ledisi has been tagged as an R&B/Jazz/Pop singer.  She’s versatile enough to handle a broad range of material.

After 2 Grammy nominations, there’s definitely a future award waiting for Ledisi.

Ledisi: It’s Christmas

  1. “I’ll Go”
  2. “Children Go Where I Send Thee”
  3. “Give Love On Christmas Day”
  4. “Be There For Christmas”
  5. “This Christmas (Could Be The One)”
  6. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
  7. “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”
  8. “It’s Christmas”
  9. “What A Wonderful World”
  10. “Please Come Home For Christmas”
  11. “Silent Night”
  12. “Thank You”

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Posted by King on 12/18 at 01:00 AM
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Monday, December 15, 2008

The 10 Best Funky-Christmas Party Jams

Here are my all time picks for the 10 best funky-Christmas party jams (as appraised in 2008).

  1. “Christmas in Hollis” - Run-D.M.C.
  2. “N - Yo - City” - Bootsy Collins
  3. “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto” - James Brown
  4. “Christmas Rappin’” - Kurtis Blow
  5. “Little Drummer Boy” - Kofi
  6. “Joy To The World - Aretha Franklin
  7. “ Winter Mix” - Gloria Gaynor
  8. “Nutcracker Suite (remix)” - Berlin Symphony Orchestra
  9. “Funky Christmas” - The Whispers
  10. “Happy Holidays” - Ohio Players
  11. bonus: “Here Comes Santa Claus” - Rupaul

For the sonic volume, energy, and originality, Run-D.M.C. makes the top of the list.  “Christmas In Hollis” is featured in the original 1988 movie, Die Hard.

Bootsy Collins, James Brown, and Kurtis Blow all stretch out with a funky Yuletide beat.

Kofi’s entertaining reggae version of “The Little Drummer Boy” offers an edgy contrast traveling from a softer chorus to a driving percussion during different parts of his score.

Aretha Franklin’s version of “Joy To The World” is not exclusively funk, as it includes the high energy gymnastics of a soaring gospel choir.

Gloria Gaynor offers “Winter Mix” to prove that exciting “house music” never goes out of style, even when reworking “Winter Wonderland,” which is what she does on “Winter Mix."

The remixed “Nutcracker Suite” by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra is crafty and clever.

"Funky Christmas” from the Whispers dances along, old school style, with their trademark harmonically tight vocals.

"Happy Holidays” from the Ohio Players has to be included in my list, even though this song barely propels itself up to a medium tempo beat.

The Ohio Players managed to keep their unique style and identity on this nearly 8-minute track.  While somewhat repetitive due to the length, the holiday message charms us into the spirit of the season.

As a bonus, a shout out to Rupaul, who took Johnnie Taylor’s “Disco Lady” melody, and turned it into a tongue-and-cheek party prance.  This ain’t cowboy Gene Autry singing here!

PowerhouseRadio.com’s annual Christmas music, holiday song spectacular is gearing up now.  Watch my exclusive 90 second video and count the number of friendly faces who have wonderful holiday songs to share with you!

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Posted by King on 12/15 at 01:00 AM
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Odetta Creates A Unique Christmas Concert

In 2005, Odetta, the singer of folk based African American traditional songs, released an immaculately recorded live album.

Gonna Let It Shine, A Concert for the Holidays is a stellar collection of spirituals celebrating Christmas.

If you love gospel, praise, and traditional spirituals, Odetta delivers a definitive 16 song collection of favorites.

The clarity of the live sound is phenomenal. Gonna Let It Shine, A Concert for the Holidays was recorded in front of a festive audience on the campus of Fordham University in New York City.

Throughout both the ballads and uptempo tracks, Odetta respectfully transmits an inspirational message propelled by the power of faith and the glory of Christmas.

Gonna Let It Shine, A Concert for the Holidays, is a completely different Christmas album.

It comes from the classically trained, civil rights savvy, legendary vocalist from Birmingham, Alabama, the late Odetta (who passed away on December 2, 2008).

  1. “Intro”
  2. “This Little Light of Mine” (with the Holmes Brothers)
  3. “Rise Up Shepherd”
  4. “Mary Had A Baby”
  5. “What Month Was Jesus Born In?”
  6. “Shout For Joy”
  7. “Virgin Mary Had One Son”
  8. “Down By The Riverside” (with the Holmes Brothers)
  9. “Poor Little Jesus”
  10. “Freedom Trilogy”
  11. “Somebody Talking ‘Bout Jesus”
  12. “Keep On Movin’ It On”
  13. “O Jerusalem”
  14. “If Anybody Asks You”
  15. “Midnight Special”
  16. bonus: “This Little Light of Mine” (unedited - with the Holmes Brothers)

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Posted by King on 12/11 at 01:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Gloria Gaynor Will Survive with New Christmas Cheer

The pleasant, appealing voice of Gloria Gaynor has been reactivated for Gloria Gaynor’s Christmas Presence.

You may have missed this holiday treat, originally released in 2007, but still new for 2008.

Dismiss your Gloria Gaynor preconceptions and join her sleigh ride for this Yuletide out-of-the-box potpourri of holiday hits.

Christmas songs may shine not always because of the singer, but because of the infinite creative arrangements these songs are given.

Gloria combines both assets to serve up yet another take on these seasonal favorites.  I was expecting hard core R&B as the dominant vibe.  The actual sound is lighter but still contemporary.

A touch of jazz here, a touch of pop there, and a dash soul to boot.  Gloria Gaynor’s Christmas Presence has it all.

She projects a warm voice that soothes and comforts without the panache of shouting.

All the tracks are enjoyable, but I especially rate highly “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” along with the mellow “Christmas Blue,” the playful “Frosty The Snowman,” and the funky bonus bouncer “Winter Mix."

Gloria Gaynor has brought her distinct personality to this collection by recording a very mass appeal Christmas record.  You can fire up this CD for the office party or holiday gathering with the confidence that the hip factor is strong enough to please almost everyone.

Christmas Presence is not perfect, but it offers a different dimension of the “I Will Survive” diva. It’s contemporary, polished, and main stream, without being cheesy.  Gloria deserves the credit for trying something different.

  1. “Happy Time of Year”
  2. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
  3. “All I Want Is You For Christmas”
  4. “Christmas Blue”
  5. “Frosty The Snowman”
  6. “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
  7. “Joy To The World”
  8. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
  9. “Let It Snow!”
  10. “O Holy Night”
  11. “Little Town of Bethlehem”
  12. “Winter Wonderland”
  13. “The Christmas Song”
  14. “Joy Came To The World”
  15. “Christmas Prayer”
  16. “Winter Mix (Radio)” bonus track
  17. “Winter Mix (Dance)” bonus track

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Posted by King on 12/03 at 01:00 AM
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brian McKnight Comes Home for Christmas

Brian McKnight fans, Rejoice!  B.M. has just released his 2008 holiday chestnut, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, his 11th album.

Brian cheerfully reports at BrianMcKnight.com that “Christmas has always held a very special place in my life and my heart."

"When it arrives, it brings with it memories of the past and the promise of a future of memories with friends and family all over the world."

5 of the 12 tracks on I’ll Be Home For Christmas feature duets with Vince Gill, Josh Groban, Nikolas McKnight, Noel Schajris, and Take 6.

"The Christmas Song” kicks of the collection.  McKnight gives the spunky arrangement his best - keeping the vocal range in his trademark higher register.

When it comes to inflecting passion into his actual singing sound, McKnight has always been a vocalist who shines in the understatement.  You won’t mistake his articulated sonic discipline to the flashy nature of a Luther Vandross or Marvin Gaye.

McKnight has built a solid following over the years.  He now slots himself into mature R&B territory that young guns Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Akon, and Usher can’t quite occupy yet.

As for the other tracks on this new release, cut 2 “Silver Bells” chimes to McKnight’s clear, measured resonance.

In a departure, “Christmas You and Me” teams Brian with Vince Gill.  This track, grounded in R&B, has contemporary country music overtones, and succeeds nicely in the way Lionel Richie’s 1986 “Deep River Woman” duet with Alabama did.

"Let It Snow,” also featuring Nikolas McKnight, is bright, frothy, and bubbly with an ample supply of strings to delight the light hearted.

"It’s the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” packs a powerful jazzy punch.  It’s the best uptempo track of the collection.

Overall, the mood is mellow on the I’ll Be Home For Christmas album.  The CD has a ‘quiet storm’ tone, with enough energy in the uptempo songs to provide good balance.

Piano builds the foundation of the classy instrumentation.  These songs are well arranged.

Even if you are not a Brian McKnight fan, you probably will be pleased with this charming Christmas CD.

Spread the news: “Brian McKnight Comes Home for Christmas!"

I’ll Be Home For Christmas:

  1. “The Christmas Song”
  2. “Silver Bells”
  3. “Let It Snow” (featuring Nikolas McKnight & Brian McKnight Jr.)
  4. “Christmas You And Me” (featuring Vince Gill)
  5. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”
  6. “Silent Night"(featuring Noel Schajris)
  7. “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”
  8. “Adeste Fideles”
  9. “Who Would Have Thought”
  10. “Angels We Have Heard On High” (featuring Josh Groban)
  11. “Christmas Medley”
  12. “Bless This House” (featuring Take 6)

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Posted by King on 11/20 at 07:30 PM
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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Al Jarreau's Christmas 2008

The term “song stylist” get tossed around a lot.  Al Jarreau is one singer who has earned the tag.

Jarreau’s distinctive voice and phrasing style puts him in unique company among the fraternity of balladeers.

Al’s Christmas is a charming collection of holiday favorites.

"Winter Wonderland” kicks off the yuletide mix bouncing along with a soulful beat to Mr. Jarreau’s lilting inflections.

"Hark The Herald Angels Sing” gets a respectful contemporary reading embellished with nice classical touches.

If you like your Al Jarreau contemplative and melodramatic, “White Christmas” delivers in this style.

The 2 tracks featuring the group Take 6 showcase the pure magic of traditional vocal harmony.

Jarreau touches various styles from jazz to R&B to pop in this, his first holiday collection.

Some of the arrangements remind you of similar approaches other artists have taken sculpting these familiar melodies.  However, the power of Jarreau prevails giving these songs a vibrant Mr. J personality.

Two thumbs up for Al Jarreau Christmas:

  1. “Winter Wonderland”
  2. “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”
  3. “White Christmas”
  4. “Interlude: By My Christmas Tree”
  5. “Carol Of The Bells”
  6. “O Come All Ye Faithful”
  7. “The Christmas Song, (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) - (featuring Take 6)
  8. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas - (featuring Take 6)”
  9. “Gloria In Excelsis”
  10. “Christmas Time Is Here”
  11. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
  12. “Some Children See Him”
  13. “The Little Christmas Tree
  14. “Angels Singing...” untitled bonus

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Posted by King on 11/06 at 08:00 AM
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