- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

TONY BENNETT,
CHARLOTTE CHURCH, PLACIDO DOMINGO, VANESSA WILLIAMS

Our Favorite Things
(Sony Classical)
What happens when you put together four outstanding singers from different musical genres? You get a Christmas treasure. Backed by the Vienna Symphony, this album comes from a live concert performance at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, Austria.
The king of standards, Mr. Bennett, sings "The Christmas Song," teen-ager Miss Church does "O Holy Night," pop star Miss Williams offers "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and operatic tenor and Washington Opera Artistic Director Mr. Domingo performs "Jesus de Nazareth." Then there are the duets, which include "White Christmas" by Mr. Bennett and Miss Williams and a wonderful performance of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" by Mr. Bennett and Mr. Domingo.
Additional highlights include the trio of Mr. Bennett, Miss Williams and Mr. Domingo singing "Angels We Have Heard on High," and all four singers coming together for a beautiful rendition of "Silent Night." Amy Baskerville

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Groovin' Jazz Christmas
(Gold Circle Records)
To celebrate the Christmas season, pop in this album and listen to innovative renditions of your favorite Christmas carols.
The artists include Michael Sims playing the guitar, Chris Camozzi on acoustic and electric guitars, Phil Davis on piano and Eddie M. on saxophone. Steve Nieves plays the sax, Patrick Lamb the tenor sax, and Michael Lington and George Shelby the soprano sax.
"Groovin Jazz Christmas" features "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" with Mr. Nieves, "Carol of the Bells" with Mr. Sims and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with Eddie M. Other standouts include "Winter Wonderland," "The Christmas Song" with Mr. Lington and "Do You Hear What I Hear" with Mr. Camozzi and Scott Fuller on keyboards.
Although this is primarily an instrumental album, the listener occasionally will hear vocal accompaniment. This is the case with "Christmas Eve," which features the vocal styling of Billy Valentine, and "Feliz Navidad," with vocals by Mr. Nieves.
Whether the listener is a jazz fanatic or simply looking for entertaining Christmas music, this 11-track album is likely to please. A.B.

FUGAZI
The Argument
(Dischord Records)
D.C.'s legendary punk band Fugazi often is so overshadowed by its mythology that the sheer musicianship of the members does not get enough attention. Granted, its music is not for everyone, with its shouted verses, chaotic guitar riffs and very political lyrics. But those willing to take the band at face value will find its latest offering, "The Argument," one of the finest of the group's career.
This sixth full-length album continues the experimentation with styles and sound that the band began on 1995's "Red Medicine," and 1998's "End Hits." People who haven't listened to the group since its early days may be surprised to find atmospheric strings opening the record and a gentle guitar ballad, "The Argument," closing it out. In between are traces of vintage Fugazi fury but also clear melody, delicate harmonies and a willingness to throw convention aside.
The song "Epic Problem" is almost pop-radio friendly. "Life and Limb" and "Full Disclosure" add Air Miami's Bridget Cross and Bikini Kill's Kathi Wilcox to songs already rich with bass and guitar interplay. "Strangelight" not only sounds like vintage Brit-pop, but also features a piano.
The old-school growl and bruising percussion still are present (see the dueling drummers on "Ex-Spectator"), but the harmonies of "Nightshop" make this musical experiment well worth the effort. Better still, because of its stance against the mainstream music world, the band is offering this new disc on the Dischord Web site (www.dischord.com) for only $10, a far cry from the present industry standard of $15 to $18 for a new CD. Derek Simmonsen

DON MOEN
I Will Sing
(Hosanna Music)
Don Moen, a music entrepreneur, is known for his talent, creative style and ability to reach others through his music. This album was recorded live at CBN studios in Virginia Beach. Together with a background chorus, the CD employs piano, guitars, percussion and strings. Most of the songs are very soft and peaceful. This CD does not contain as much beat variation as some of Mr. Moen's other CDs, but it succeeds in creating a worshipful atmosphere.
He begins with a soft rendition of "The Lord's Prayer," softly accented by a piano and strings. Much of the CD is a series of prayers set to song.
The title cut, "I Will Sing," is meant for those struggling in their personal lives. Other songs, such as "We Wait," "Like Eagles" and "Lord You Are Good," accentuate this worship theme.
The album emphasizes crying out to God for forgiveness and strength with the help of sporadic Scripture passages read throughout. The lack of variation in this CD makes it unappealing to many; however, those looking for peaceful worship have found it here. Jennifer Deems

BOYZ II MEN
Legacy: The Greatest Hits Collection
(Universal)
Signs that a greatest hits collection represents a coda and one meant to wringe the last few dollars out of a fading career: First, a group's last studio CD comes out, and no one notices. Second, said greatest hits collection features no new songs.
Unfortunately, Boyz II Men's "Legacy" fits both criteria. The group's previous album, "Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya," named after the four members, did little business and spawned no hits. Even the group's selections for the new CD reflect that; only "Pass You By" made the cut.
That's probably a good thing because most of the group's more recognizable songs come from the early to mid-'90s, when Boyz II Men provided the blueprint many of the inferior so-called boy groups followed later in the decade. (Notice, by the way, that Boyz II Men's popularity faded as they left the young adult age group, which could be a warning to all the copycats.) "End of the Road," which appeared on the "Boomerang" soundtrack, was one of the biggest hits of the '90s, and songs such as "On Bended Knee" and "Water Runs Dry" were huge in the middle of the decade.
The greatest hits collection offers nothing new. Worse yet, it comes in at well less than an hour. Songs such as "Uhh Ahh," "Vibin'" and "Yesterday," for instance, could have been added to the disc with plenty of room to spare. Still, the inclusion of two songs that Boyz II Men collaborated on, LL Cool J's "Hey Lover" and Mariah Carey's "One Sweet Day," are nice additions.
Scott Silverstein

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