One More Drifter in the Snow
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Grammy winner and Oscar nominee Aimee's first Christmas album is a collection of holiday classics and two original, beautiful, and bittersweet songs written by Mann and Michael Penn. Reminiscent of classic albums of the 40's and 50's, but without any retro kitsch. Like Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, and Peggy Lee, Aimee Mann captures the emotional beauty of Christmas.
One More Drifter in the Snow offers a bittersweet--but not downbeat--look at a holiday that represents the height of happiness for some, the depths of sadness for others. Following in the classy footsteps of Miss Peggy Lee, Aimee Mann takes an intimate approach to an increasingly hectic time of year. In other words, the set is a throwback to a slower-paced era. (In cinematic terms, that means more Meet Me in St. Louis, less Jingle All the Way.) There are two fitting originals, "Calling on Mary" (Mann) and "Christmastime (Jon Brion and Michael Penn). The rest are seasonal favorites, with the exception of Jimmy Webb's "Whatever Happened to Christmas," which may be new to some. On all tracks, the focus is on the tasteful strings--credit Patrick Warren for the chamberlin, celeste, and pump organ--and Mann's delicate delivery. Overall, the artist is more interested in providing comfort than radical reinvention, although a dreamier-than-usual "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" enjoys a slight edge over the other selections. Grant Lee Phillips, taking over from Boris Karloff, provides the theatrical narration on "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Top Customer Reviews
Once all of this is understood, it's obvious that an Aimee Mann Christmas album will not be about carolling through the snow and sipping egg nog with your loved one. The ten songs she has selected here are delivered in a somewhat blurred, stripped-down tone, smoothed over by Aimee's unique vocal style; and while some well-loved classics are featured here ("I'll be home for Christmas", "Have yourself a merry little Christmas", "Winter wonderland", "The Christmas song"), she has typically selected some lesser-known gems such as "Whatever happened to Christmas" or her husband Michael Penn's "Christmas Time". Not surprisingly given her amazing songwriting abilities, she has also penned an original Christmas number ("Calling on Mary") that reaches out to those for whom Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year.
Does this mean the album is depressing ? In spite of everything previously mentioned, it isn't.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The album starts off with the nostalgic and bittersweet "Whatever Happened To Christmas." The singer laments the fact she isn't as happy as she once was. It is only near the very end of the song that Aimee reveals that she longs for her former lover.
Other great ballads on this CD include "Christmastime" and "Winter Wonderland." The musical arrangements are very nicely done.
One surprise nostalgic song that makes me laugh is "You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch." This brings back fond childhood memories when I watched this Christmastime TV special every year in December. Aimee performs this along with Grant Lee Phillips; together they pack a punch on this number.
There are classic Christmas ballads on this CD, too. Aimee sings "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire);" "I'll Be Home For Christmas;" "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "White Christmas." Aimee sings "White Christmas" with a certain extra melancholy style that draws attention to this number on the CD.
The CD ends with another rather bittersweet ballad entitled "Calling On Mary." Aimee makes a play on words between "Merry" as in "Merry Christmas" and "Mary" as is Mary Magdalene, the devoted disciple of Jesus. Aimee then calls upon Mary to grant her inner peace and strength at this very special time of year.
Although the CD impresses me as a solid album, the packaging disappoints me. The CD does not come in any type of jewel case but rather a thin cardboard case with a plastic holder for the CD. The liner notes, therefore, are practically non-existent. You get the credits but that's all. However, there are very nice photos of Aimee and that partially compensates for the cheap packaging.
Overall, Aimee Mann succeeds with her first Christmas CD. The quality of the sound is good and Aimee communicates her passion for the season and all the nostalgia that comes with it. Despite the second class packaging I still highly recommend this CD because Aimee's artistry is excellent on all these songs. She both sings and plays acoustic guitar throughout; I hope this CD brings you joy and peaceful reflection at this coming Christmas season.
The two original songs are true standouts. "Calling on Mary" is an instant classic.
The highlights for me include the retro-cool of "Winter Wonderland", the driving beat of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (rock on - lol), the lovely, melodic acoustics of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and the beautiful melancholy of the outstanding "Calling on Mary". The new arrangement of "Christmastime" works in the context of the overall mood of the record but I prefer the original release of this song in which Ms. Mann duets with her husband, Michael Penn, who co-wrote it. And, no review can be complete without mentioning the devious fun heard in "You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch." Musically, this record is a departure for Ms. Mann and I wouldn't mind hearing this sound explored further on a non-holiday album.
When I received this album in the mail yesterday, I thought I would listen to it once then put it away until December. However, I found myself listening to it over and over again with a brief interruption to listen to the new Amos Lee album, "Supply and Demand", and an old Miles Davis soundtrack "Ascenseur pour l'echafaud". To say "I love this record" would be a huge understatement.
So, who will appreciate "One More Drifter in the Snow"? On a basic level, most (but, apparently, not all!) Aimee Mann fans will. Others, who have an appreciation of a wide range of great music, from 50's & 60's jazz to chamber music to indie rock, will hear the layers of sonic texture that give this deceptively simple record greater depth than most Christmas albums. Those who understand the season of Christmas is emotionally chaotic encompassing not only joy but melancholy will recognize the emotion Ms. Mann brings to this collection. Those who understand the season of Christmas can accentuate loneliness in the midst of gatherings will understand the message of "Calling on Mary". Those who have been waiting for Christmas music that doesn't fill your head with visions of the crassness of the modern day Christmas season will "get" this album. Those who choose pearls over swine will appreciate "One More Drifter in the Snow".
Thank you, Aimee Mann, for delivering this wonderful album. It is already a classic in my heart.