Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas isn't Christmas without Alexander O'Neal

One of my favorite Christmas albums ever released has to be "My Gift To You" by Alexander O'Neal! This is one those albums that can be played from beginning to end. . . the way an album should be played.

Released in 1988, this album has stood the test of time. With iconic producers James (Jimmy Jam) Harris and Terry Lewis at the helm, it has all the makings of an outstanding Christmas albums. It rocks, it bumps, it's classic and classy! Alexander O'Neal is so versatile. He can schmooze and he can be humble, all with his tone. I believe him as he is singing his heart out!

Track List:

My Gift To You

Sleigh Ride
This is Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis all the way!

Our First Christmas
Remember Why (It's Christmas)
The Little Drummer Boy
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
This Christmas
Winter Wonderland
Thank You For A Good Year
Remember Why (It's Christmas) (Reprise)

Allmusic says this album is a "lushly romantic set considerably more thoughtful and heartfelt than your average yuletide cash-in. Half of the album's ten songs are Jam/Lewis originals, and even if none of them emerged as contemporary standards, they do a good job of capturing both the secular ('Our First Christmas') and spiritual ('Remember Why It's Christmas') dimensions of the season. O'Neal also delivers shopworn material like 'The Little Drummer Boy' and 'Winter Wonderland' with conviction, saving his most potent performance for the Donny Hathaway classic 'This Christmas.' There's no getting around the trademark Jam/Lewis production, though. My Gift to You is plainly a product of its era, complete with thick synthesizers and programmed rhythms, and is best enjoyed by listeners still hoping Santa brings them acid-washed jeans and Members Only jackets regardless of the year in question."

This is so true. This album is more than just a bumpin Christmas album. There's the message of hope and thankfulness with The Sounds Of Blackness lending their gospel choir talents to those songs. And considering the state our world is in, I believe this album and it's message is very timely.

I have always stated that if an artist is going to cover a song, it should be done right or not at all. Mel Torme's The Christmas Song sung by the great Nat King Cole, in my opinion could never be covered. And yet, I've always enjoyed Alexander O'Neal's version of the classic song, recorded in the same key with the intro the same as Nat's original. Lovely.

Winter Wonderland is super cool and jazzy. Very classiy "Big Las Vegas of the 60's" sounding!! I love it!!

If you haven't heard this album, it's available all over from streaming sites such as Grooveshark or even to purchase.

Take a listen. Trust me, you are going to love it.
It just might be your Christmas music stable, like it is mine. : )

Thursday, December 6, 2012



Israel Houghton Set To Perform Hit Single, “It’s Not Over (When God Is In It)” During Stellar Awards Taping Jan. 19

Following four back-to-back GRAMMY Award-winning albums, Israel Houghton returns with New Breed to gather two additional GRAMMY nominations for the first live recording in five years from Israel & New Breed, Jesus At The Center, which was recorded as a joint venture by Integrity Music and RGM-NEW BREED Music. The nominations were announced last night by The Recording Academy from “The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!! — Countdown To Music’s Biggest Night,” a one-hour CBS entertainment special broadcast live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Receiving a nomination for Best Gospel Album, as well as for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song for the hit AC radio single, “Your Presence Is Heaven,” the latter nod marks Houghton’s first nomination in the category. The awards will be given out during the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards, live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, and broadcast on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

In addition to the GRAMMY nominations, Houghton has been tapped by the 28th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards to perform at their annual awards ceremony to tape Jan. 19, 2013. Houghton will perform his current Top 5 and climbing hit Gospel single, “It’s Not Over (When God Is In It)” from Jesus At The Center.

Jesus At The Center was released Aug. 14 and launched to the top of multiple retail sales charts, becoming Israel’s fifth consecutive Billboard Top 200-selling album and gathering praise from fans and critics alike. Recorded live over four days in front of more than 29,000 worshippers at Houston’s Lakewood Church, the Jesus At The Center double-CD, 18 song album with three additional studio singles features Israel & New Breed returning to their roots, delivering new anthems for the modern day church. (A buy link for the album is http://jatc.tv/LP/.)

After hearing the album, USA Today’s Brian Mansfield calls Israel Houghton “an impassioned worship leader with impeccable pacing” who has “a killer band that blends '80s synth-funk, Latin dance, even arena rock.” Associated Press says the music is “superb praise and worship” as Worship Leader confirms it is “a multicultural, polyrhythmic, choral feast of pop-shaded, rock-informed worship that combines and fuses a universe of musical possibility.” Following more praise from critics, as well as multiple major print and broadcast network appearances, such as ABC’s The View, Los Angeles Times, The 700 Club, BET, WGN TV, Jet Magazine, The Tavis Smiley Show, Gospel Music Channel, Ebony, The Washington Post, GospelFlava.com, San Francisco Chronicle, CCM Magazine, Detroit News and more, Israel Houghton will be featured soon in an upcoming PBS NewsHour story.

Co-writing all the songs, except the Bob Dylan cover, “To Make You Feel My Love,” and “You Have Me,” by Michael and Lisa Gungor, Israel says, “The overarching story of the album is that sometimes we can be so ‘churched’ that we can lose sight of the ‘who, what, why’ of worship. This project simply places Jesus where he is supposed to be. We intentionally removed the metaphors and simply focused on his name.”

Taking the message and music on the road, Israel shared the stage for the very first time with peers Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp and Donnie McClurkin on The King’s Men tour that filled 15 major market venues in the US this fall. Israel’s touring continues this month with an event tomorrow in Nigeria, followed by an event in London Dec. 29 before returning to the US for a series of dates beginning in January. For all the last tour dates and news, go to www.newbreedmusic.com.

In 1995, Israel and Meleasa Houghton founded New Breed Ministries, an organization they continue to run and that is comprised of noted musicians and singers who serve within their respective churches and together serve the Church at large. Since then, Israel & New Breed has amassed a legion of followers that crosses generational and African American, Latin and Caucasian listener lines. While blasting down barriers, Israel has been fittingly graced with 2 Gold-selling albums, 4 GRAMMY Awards, 12 Dove Awards, 2 Stellar Awards and a Soul Train Award.

Active as worship leader in his local church, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church (Houston), Israel has served as worship leader at Hillsong conferences and Franklin Graham crusades. He has written or co-written 11 CCLI Top 500 favorites, been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, accompanied Alicia Keys at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards for a performance of George Michael's “Freedom '90,” and performed at the 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards. He uses his own multi-cultural upbringing as a reference point with a desire to draw people of all races, ages and cultures together. More information on Israel & New Breed is available at www.newbreedmusic.com.

About RGM-NEW BREED Music:
RGM-NEW BREED Music was formed by merging Israel Houghton’s NEW BREED and Galley Molina’s RGM (Reverence Gospel Media) to create this new multimedia and music company. In addition to Jesus At The Center, RGM-NEW BREED is getting ready to launch “I’m in Love with a Church Girl,” a feature film set to release 2013. Produced by Houghton, the film marks his first foray in the faith-based feature films genre. See www.rgmusa.com for more information.

About Integrity Music:
Kingsway and Integrity Music compose the music division of David C Cook, a nonprofit global resource provider serving the Church with life-transforming materials. Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Kingsway and Integrity Music’s resources are distributed in more than 160 countries and sold worldwide. Additional information can be found at http://kingswayworship.com and www.integritymusic.com.