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  Listen Up! 12/18/02 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Dec. 18

Ella Fitgerald, “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas,” Verve Master Edition. How is it I’ve never actually heard this record before? All the usual secular suspects are here – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “White Christmas,” you know these songs – but Ella sings them so smoothly, with such impeccable swing, that they all sound absolutely fresh and original. This is rocketing up the charts to be one of my all-time favorite Christmas records.

Stevie Wonder, “My Cherie Amour,” Motown Records. Though the title track has become an easy listening standard, and he covers things like “The Shadow of Your Smile” which started out that way, this record is a pretty solid transition for Mr. Wonder. He’s looking for a way out of the teeny stuff he did so brilliantly when he was Little, and if he hasn’t figured out that the answer will be to write all his own material, and play all his instruments, and explore every funky idea that pops into his head, he’s at least figured out that he can absolutely master every variety of popular music he tries to sing. So, he dives into rock, soul, jazz, pop, whatever, and he comes up smiling.

--Steve Pick



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