Johnny Cash – Christmas 1976 | Johnny Cash – Christmas 1977

Johnny Cash – Christmas 1976 / 2007 Shout Factory / 50 Minutes / http://www.johnnycash.com / http://www.shoutfactory.com /

I really have to applaud Shout! Factory for releasing something like this. Every time one of these television specials or long forgotten releases is given new light, that is one less item that will be lost to sands of time. Who knows how many different shows, performances, and similar materials have been lost over the years due to the fact that individuals did not care or know about their present. Well, Shout! Factory has released the 1976 and 1977 Christmas specials hosted by Johnny Cash, and have kept the performances sacrosanct. This means that there are a number of different performances that are present on this DVD, whether it be Cash’s version of “Wandering”, “Camptown Races” (with Roy Clark and Tony Orlando), or “Old Folks at Home”; Roy Clark’s “Juke Box Saturday Night”, or Billy Graham’s “A Story of Christmas”. The video quality on this DVD is sharp, considering that the special has not been aired in any capacity since its original airing in 1976. Sure, some of the humor seems to be a little bit on the corny side and “stars” like Roy Clark and Tony Orlando have paled in comparison to Cash, but there is still a magic with this special that defies the withering effects of time.

Rating: 6.5/10

Johnny Cash – Christmas 1977 / 2007 Shout Factory / 50 Minutes / http://www.johnnycash.com / http://www.shoutfactory.com /

The lineup for Cash’s 1977 version of eir Christmas special just seems to be stronger than that on thwe 1976 special. Perhaps it is the fact that CBS allowed Cash more money to hire eir friends, or maybe there just was an alignment in the stars, but this special just seems better than the 1976 show (not to say that the 1976 show was weak in the slightest, either). This time, Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, June Carter Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis all combine to create a set of songs that are memorable even after the disc ends.  “Oh, Pretty Woman” is given a solid treatment by Orbison, while Jerry Lee Lewis’s performance of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” is right up there with the studio version in regards to catchiness and sheer hookiness. Regardless of the effort that is put into these two tracks, it is not until the Johnny Cash, Family, and Friends version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” that individuals will truly be impressed by the special. The vocal qualities of everyone attached to the song just makes this rendition pop, and provides individuals with a good sense of the beginning of the end for this special. Pick it up if you can find it this season.

Rating: 7.0/10

James Taylor – One Man Band

James Taylor – One Man Band / 2007 Hear Music / 19 Tracks / http://www.jamestaylorweb.com /

James Taylor has been in the music industry for nearly 40 years. It is no surprise, then, that the music that is present on “One Man Band” is some of the most mature and strong of eir career. What “One Man Band” is is not a new album, but is rather an audio and video version of a live performance, during which Taylor recreates some of the best known songs of eir career. This means that classics such as “You’ve Got A Friend”, “Fire And Rain”, and “Something In The Way She Moves” are all present here. The video version of this set provides Taylor fans with a number of different visual googahs. Essentially, what individuals are buying here is not just an audio CD but really a 2 in 1 that allows individuals that are too busy to sit down and watch the video to pop in the CD. Continue reading “James Taylor – One Man Band”

Anchors for Arms – Listen.React

Anchors for Arms – Listen.React / 2007 Oort / 11 Tracks / http://www.anchorsforarms.com / http://www.ortrecords.com /

“The Roots” is the first track on “Listen.React”, and it shows the approach that Oort is taking in signing a number of these independent emo bands to their label (for those that do no know, Oort is an imprint of Lobster Records). What I mean with that is that Oort is bringing back the roots of Lobster’s signing style, bringing back the emo to the emotional releases that Lobster comes out. The heavy riffs that Anchors for Arms place on this album will remind listeners of a Sum 41, albeit with a heavier push to the technique and finesse of the guitars rather than the raw power that Sum 41 placed into their tracks. The only weakness that individuals will hear on the early section of this disc is that the vocalist attempts during some points – specifically points during “Machines” – to fit way too many lyrics in too short of a time. Continue reading “Anchors for Arms – Listen.React”

Oslo – The Rise and Fall of Love and Hate

Oslo – The Rise and Fall of Love and Hate / 2007 Six Feet / 11 Tracks / http://www.osloband.com /

I had a feeling that this was the case, but Oslo is a band from the United States. On “The Rise and Fall”s first track, “Slowdive”, the band calls forth a very current, British sound to alternative rock. The track is catchy in the same neurotically-sung, neatly arranged style as many of the rock tracks that end up charting in the United Kingdom. Regardless of where Oslo draws their influences, “Slowdive” is a track that is perfect for opening up the disc. It is iconic that individuals will begin to associate a specific sound with Oslo, while it does not shine too brightly, so that individuals would feel disappointed with the second half of the disc, no matter how well the band does on it. Continue reading “Oslo – The Rise and Fall of Love and Hate”

Celtic Woman – A Christmas Celebration

Celtic Woman – A Christmas Celebration / 2007 Manhattan / 15 Tracks / http://www.celticwoman.com / http://www.manhattanrecords.com /

In the last few years, Celtic Woman has taken the world by storm. Starting out with PBS specials and moving into selling out venues, going Gold and Platinum, and they have reached a level of fame high enough to merit recording a disc of Christmas tracks. The disc captures a perfect blend of Christmas standards, lesser known Christmas-themed tracks, and even a track in Gaelic (a version of “That Night in Bethlehem”). The five piece, consisting of Chloe Agnew, Orla Fallon, Lisa Kelly, Mairead Nesbitt, and Meav Ni Mhaolchatha, are as strong as they ever have been; despite the fact that a number of individuals already have this CD (due to the fact that it was released last year), I still have a feeling that it will rocket back up the charts this year. Continue reading “Celtic Woman – A Christmas Celebration”

Tender Forever – Wider

Tender Forever – Wider / 2007 K / 12 Tracks / http://www.takemybreathaay.net / http://www.krecs.com /

You know, the cover of “Wider” does not immediately give individuals a good sense of what the album will ultimately sound like. The lead singer is sitting in front of a cardboard (or paper) representation of a fire, in an meditative pose. When one actually puts the CD in, the cover of the album actually begins to represent the style of music that issues forth from “Wider”. “Tiny Heart and Clever Hand” has an emotive, quiet style of vocals that stumble into catchy harmonies at times, while the instrumentation is antiseptic, open, electronic, and acts like the wide open spaces that are present on the front cover of the CD. Continue reading “Tender Forever – Wider”

Michael Bolton – A Swingin’ Christmas

Michael Bolton – A Swingin’ Christmas / 2007 The Second Time Around / 10 Tracks / http://www.michaelbolton.com / http://www.concordmusicgroup.com /

Ah, Michael Bolton. Your “A Swingin’ Christmas” has you covering some of the best known Christmas-themed songs. There are versions of “Walkin’ In A Winter Wonderland”, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, “White Christmas”, “Let It Snow”, and more. In fact, there is only one song that I did not know from a quick glance over the titles: “The Christmas Song”. What individuals can expect from “A Swingin’ Christmas” is a slightly emotional, slightly jazzy rendition of these Christmas classics. Thus, “Walkin’ In A Winter Wonderland” is essentially the same as the typical version that is played in malls all through the country. Continue reading “Michael Bolton – A Swingin’ Christmas”

Alter Bridge – Blackbird

Alter Bridge – Blackbird / 2007 Republic / 13 Tracks / http://www.altarbridge.com / http://www.universalrepublic.com /

As most individuals may know, Alter Bridge consists of three-fourths of what was Creed. To those ranks, Myles Kennedy (formerly of The Mayfield Four) provides lead vocals and guitar. “Blackbird” is the band’s second album, and the disc’s first single is “Rise Today”. For those wrestling fans that happen to read NeuFutur, “Rise Today” was the track that was played to all hell during WWE’s Unforgiven 2007. While this album did not peak as highly as their debut album, “One Day Remains”, did (#13 compared to “One Day Remains'” #5), there is a certain evolution to the band’s sound that will only impress listeners. Continue reading “Alter Bridge – Blackbird”

The Staple Singers – The 25th Day of December

The Staple Singers – The 25th Day of December / 2007 Concord / 12 Tracks / http://www.concordmusicgroup.com /

I must admit that I was not that familiar with The Staple Singers before receiving this CD. For anyone that is too young to remember The Staple Singers, they were a gospel group that released albums for over twenty-five years. It took them about 12 years to actually break onto the charts; their 1971 self titled album got them a #9 on the R&B charts. The next seven years would bring them a number of other successes, and the act persevered into the eighties. Continue reading “The Staple Singers – The 25th Day of December”

Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates of Dawn

Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates of Dawn / 2007 Capitol / 11 Tracks / http://www.capitolrecords.com /

Any Pink Floyd fan knows that “Piper At The Gates of Dawn” was the first album created by Pink Floyd. Casual fans that just know Pink Floyd from “The Wall” and “Pulse”-era recordings will struggle to find commonality between those albums and “Piper”. 2007 marks the 40th anniversary of the original release of the album, so what Capitol does here is create a remastered version of the album that showcases some of the arrangements and compositions that may have gained a little dust in the transformation from reel to reel to album, and from cassette to CD. The results are stunning, and what results with this version of “Piper At The Gates of Dawn” is something that will give Pink Floyd fans a whole new light into the motivations and desires of the band at this point of their careers. Continue reading “Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates of Dawn”