We Need a Little Christmas
by: Michael Rider
Christmas is always a time of year when everyone looks for comfort. The season can be a mixture of joy and heartbreak. It is no wonder why so many songs have been written about finding the meaning of Christmas. Kenneth Gartman, singer and pianist, shares his Christmas story with us in his recently released album We Need a Little Christmas. The album is a collection of holiday favorites and newer works that are sure to become favorites.
The album opens with a reflective and haunting rendition of WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS (Herman) that brings a quiet intensity to this typically upbeat song. He then joins this classic Christmas tune with WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE (Bacharach and David) creating a beautiful juxtaposition of the longing for the joy of Christmas with the desire for love throughout the year.
The second track on the album is a solo reimaging of DON’T LET CHRISTMAS PASS YOU BY (D. Jay Bradley) and through the lyric, transports the listener to the sentimental Christmas world, reminiscent of the classic movies that come to be associated with Christmas such as Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. Keeping us in the sentimental mood, Gartman sings THE CHRISTMAS SONG (Torme and Wells). His warm and inviting tenor voice is perfectly suited for this Christmas classic.
Laughter is also a welcome addition to the season, and Gartman delivers this deftly through three songs about wishes and dreams. His performance of I WANNA BE A ROCKETTE is charming and light-hearted, giving the listener a whole new take on a well-known song. A MIRACLE FOR CHRISTMAS is a vaudeville type send up song, lauding the wonderful discovery of a ‘chemical’ support system to help him get through the holidays. David Friedmans’ A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS WISH is always sure to make even the most cynical laugh.
The last half of the album turns more towards examining the events of this 2020 holiday season and what that means, and how can we get through this time. This is most profoundly explored in Gartman’s arrangement of THE GIFT OF TROUBLE (David Friedman and Deborah Breevort) combined with MAY I SUGGEST (Susan Werner). Both songs look for that ‘silver lining’ during rough times. Gartman expertly intertwines these lyrics to bring a hopeful message even in these unprecedented times.
The inspirational anthem GO LIGHT THE WORLD (Chris Rice), the next to last track, is a universal call for finding light and love and spreading it out to the world. This song allows Gartman’s beautiful and warm tenor voice to soar. He closes the album with David Friedman’s THE TRUTH ABOUT CHRISTMAS, an honest look at the expectations and stresses of the holiday season.
Kenneth Gartman’s We Need a Little Christmas is a well thought out program of holiday songs, highlighting a time that is filled with such a wide array of emotions and experiences. Many of the song arrangements are based closely to the original arrangements or most popular performances, giving a sense of familiarity to them. Some newer and more personal arrangements might make the album an even stronger story being told. The arrangement of THE GIFT OF TROUBLE and MAY I SUGGEST is a perfect example of creating an arrangement that is personal and fitted perfectly for the performer. I would credit that for the reason it is my favorite song on the album.
The album also features exquisite playing by Tom Hubbard on bass and Hiroko Taguchi on Violin and Viola, rounded out by Corinne Broadbent on vocals. The album was expertly engineered by Tom Stuart, Jeff Willett and John Shyloski.
We Need a Little Christmas is a wonderful new album to add to your holiday collection. Beautifully sung, this album would make a perfect stocking stuffer. Or with it’s universal themes, would make a great gift any time of the year.