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Mcgarrigle Christmas Hour

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product Description

For acclaimed singer-songwriters Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Christmas is about home and hearth and so too is Christmas music. Taking their cue from The McGarrigle Hour, their award-winning 1998 album of folk favorites, the sisters and their extended musical family renew the warm and intimate spirit of the holiday season with The McGarrigle Christmas Hour, an eclectic and glorious album of fresh originals, timelss classics, and contemporary favorites.

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Kate and Anna McGarrgile have a storied recording career that spans a slate of five-star albums that includes original music and songs from the French Canadian world, American ragtime and other "old world" genres. They would appear to be quaint to most ears if they weren't so damn good at blending the past and their modern sensibilities in memorable verse and song. Enter their Christmas record into that same framework, as the sisters and a few friends (Emmylou Harris) and family members (Rufus and Martha Wainwright are the children of Kate)mix up the old and new. The French song "Il Est Ne" is rounded out with a shimmering round of vocal backing harmonies while Rufus' "Spotlight on Christmas" (penned a couple years ago) and his wonderfully fey reading of "What Are Your Doing Christmas Eve?" prove to be just three highlights of another five-star effort. Although it will be an acquired taste to some, the McGarrigle Christmas Hour is like spending quality time in Kate and Anna’s parlor. There the piano, fiddles, other instruments and friendly voices are ready to satisfy with old world charm that could never be mistaken for old school insignificance. --Martin Keller
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 1, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000B9EYD4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,576 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Peter Durward Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 17, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Kate and Anna McGarrigle never became major stars but I get the impression that they never really wanted to. They record music for fun and if they can make money out of it - well - that's a bonus. At least, that's how it seems to me. They were born in the 1940's in the Montreal area of Canada, so they were raised on a mixture of musical styles including French and English traditional folk music. Another sister, Jane, sang with them for a while when they were starting out.

Kate and Anna first came to public attention as songwriters in the early seventies after Linda Ronstadt (Heart like a wheel) and Maria Muldaur (The work song) each recorded one of their songs. Although Kate and Anna recorded their first album in the mid-seventies, this is (I think) only their eighth album to date. So Kate and Anna are not exactly prolific, but they enjoy what they do and never compromise on quality or style.

This album finds the duo singing Christmas songs with family and friends. Kate was married for a while to Loudon Wainwright III (the folk singer and satirist whose album, Social Studies, I reviewed a long time ago) and their marriage produced Rufus and Martha Wainwright. Lily and Dane Lanken, Emmylou Harris and Chaim Tannenbaum are among the other guests who have long-standing connections to Kate and Anna, either as relations or simply as friends. Now I can't help thinking that they missed a trick with this album - surely the majority of the singers (without Chaim) should have recorded O Tannenbaum and dedicated it to Chaim? Never mind, the music here is brilliant anyway.

Kate and Anna are happy to play comparatively minor roles for much of the album.
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Format: Audio CD
Stumbled into my local music store today without much of a purpose. I definitely had no intention of buying a Christmas cd. I find most of them too Christmas-y. However, as I looked over the display of Christmas cds (mostly to see what horrors had been added this year), I found, to my delight, that the McGarrigles had released a Christmas cd which features most of the players from their McGarrigle Hour from a few years ago. I am a dedicated fan of that cd, and of her son, Rufus Wainwright, so I decided on the spot to purchase the cd. It has been in my cd player for the last few hours, playing over and over again. I have not skipped a song, which I must confess, I sometimes do with the original McGarrigle Hour. None of these songs disappoint, which is especially surprising because I'm not really a fan of Martha. But even her song, "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year", is excellent. Her version of Jackson Browne's "Rebel Santa", which she performs with her cousin Lily Lanken, is simply amazing. Other outstanding tracks include Rufus' "Spotlight on Christmas", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", and "Port Starboard Sox" (a very unusual Christmas song). This is an alternative Christmas cd without being Alternative.
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Format: Audio CD
It's a joy, what more can be said, really, a little something for everyone, whether your Christmas is a happy occasion or you're eating your turkey loaf alone by a candle. The harmonies and music are impeccable, the song choices stellar, and the family is cut from pure genius. Many highlights, Rufus in particular in fine form , a nice visit from Emmylou Harris, and Kate and Anna note-perfect as usual, yet the honors for top track go to Lily Lanken and Martha Wainwright on an utterly brilliant take on Jackson Browne's "Rebel Jesus", which is so amazing I can't do it justice in mere words. A unique Christmas album, sweet and pure yet with a definite edge. Gorgeous.
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Format: Audio CD
I found out about this album from an Orlando Sentinel review. They particularly liked Emmylou Harris' contribution on "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but it's hard to choose a favorite. Others participating in the music are Martha and Rufus Wainwright (Kate McGarrigle's children).

Once you listen to the CD, you'll agree with Jim Abbott/Orlando Sentinel, "there's not a clinker on this beautiful holiday collection."
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I'm a fan of "alternative" Christmas music, and can barely stand ear after year of the same in the stores and on the radio.

This album meets that standard, but many of the songs are rather depressing.

I like the artists, and have been a fan of the McGarrigles for a while (1970's).
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Format: Audio CD
I enjoyed the amateur-hour feel of the McGarrigle Hour, but this record fails to achieve the same atmosphere. The quality of the performances is probably better than it appears, but one star off for the slightly sloppy production, and another for the spoken-word material - they really should resist the temptation to include it.

This is the second record in a row on which they've done this, and it's a bad trend. That stuff isn't even good the first time!

Really, I'm not being harsh.

I've enjoyed their music since I first heard Linda Ronstadt do 'Heart like a Wheel'. I saw them in Amsterdam in 1976 and then bought their first record - what a stunning beginning.

Mostly their career has been impressive, and gems just keep turning up, like the French records and Matapedia.

They were in Australia early this year with the Leonard Cohen show and doing their own concerts with Rufus and Martha, and from the evidence of those performances and this record I think they're getting tired. I hope they can rejuvenate their work, because the spark is still in there somewhere.
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