This holiday season, there are many tunes out there
that can have the same effect as mistletoe. Need something to make your playlist more passionate? There are options beyond the newly released balladfocused retrospectives from Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.
On the title track from her debut Worrisome Heart, Melody Gardot's tempting purr can melt any frosted window. The sultry jazz accompaniment takes it to another level, recalling the steamy cabaret scenes from The Fabulous Baker Boys. Throughout her bow on Verve, Gardot comes across as Norah Jones with a tinkering for smoky jazz. The Philadelphia native was hospitalized after being hit by a car while on her bicycle. The singer-songwriter's doctor recommended music therapy to the bedridden Gardot, which got her to start recording music. Gardot's Sweet Memory has been heard on ABC's Samantha Who?, and Worrisome Heart was featured on NBC's Lipstick Jungle.
Adele makes quite an impression with her debut outing, 19. Drawing comparisons to big-voiced veterans such as Etta James and Alyson Moyet, the British newcomer excels at tackling slower numbers like Daydreamer, her breakout single Chasing Pavements and Melt My Heart to Stone. Adele is a graduate of the BRIT School of Performing Arts, where fellow standout singers Amy Winehouse and Leona Lewis have studied. A limited edition of 19 is available with a second disc containing live tracks, including a pairing with Jack White's band The Raconteurs to redo Many Shades of Black. After her sold-out stateside tour earlier this year, Adele returns to Chicago with a date at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage, Jan. 19.
Few can deliver a tragic love song quite like George Michael. His recent retrospective, Twenty Five, shows off his history of favoring down-and-out ballads like Careless Whisper, One More Try and Jesus to a Child. New material like the cover of The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face and This Is Not Real Love are welcome additions to his repertoire. Michael's multiple run-in's with the law can be briefly overlooked as he pours out his heart's woes here.
Missing the suave approach of Marvin Gaye? On The Way I See It, Raphael Saadiq unearths some 'sexual healing' with his knack for the old-school sound. Calling, Oh Girl and Just One Kiss ( his duet with Joss Stone ) summon the soul grooves of yesteryear. Also, the former member of Tony! Toni! Tone! contributes Let's Take a Walk to the Cadillac Records soundtrack.
Seventies soul is the focus on Seal's covers project, aptly titled Soul. His unique voice delivers true renditions of A Change Is Gonna Come and If You Don't Know Me by Now. Soul is a much-overdue project to show off Seal's distinctive chops matched with the Motown sound. In 2004, Seal did a remake of Lips Like Sugar by Echo & the Bunnymen for the soundtrack to the Drew Barrymore romantic comedy 50 First Dates.
On Just a Little Lovin', Shelby Lynne puts her spin on nine Dusty Springfield favorites, including I Only Want to Be with You, The Look of Love and Breakfast in Bed. In this honest homage, Lynne remakes these on her own terms by turning down the notch some on Springfield's signature takes, making subtlety go a long way. The superb Just a Little Lovin' is produced by Phil Ramone and makes for a great harbinger as Nicole Kidman is set to star in a biopic on Springfield. Both kd lang and Tracy Chapman return this year with albums laden with love songs, although both have been known to sing of the maladies of the heart. On lang's Watershed and Chapman's Our Bright Future, these Grammy winners favor intimacy. lang's I Dream of Spring and Close Your Eyes and Chapman's Sing for You and Thinking of You expose a certain loving tenderness these two talents tend to shy away from.
Matt Alber's Hide Nothing and Sarah McLachlan's hits package, Closer, are absolutely ethereal. If Alber's stubble and boyish smile do not seduce you, just be prepared to be uplifted by his songs The Slow Club and End of the World. Ever the romantic, Alber freely sings of man-on-man love with stars in his eyes. McLachlan's Possession may seem a bit too stalkeresque, but the Canadian crooner makes it all right to end up on the naughty list sometimes. Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust marks the first album that Sigur Ros recorded outside of its native Iceland. Godan Daginn and Med Sud I Eyrum are purely magical, as is the band's first stab at a song entirely in English titled All Right. The instrumentation and out singer's Jonsi Birgisson's booming falsetto allow for plenty of room for imagination. The works of Sigur Ros have been used in Queer As Folk, Vanilla Sky and Mysterious Skin.
If you prefer electronica to spark warmth, give The Logic of Pleasure by Blank and Jones a try. Guest vocalist Vanessa Daou certainly knows what it takes to get 'two to tango' as she returns in top form on the alluring Consequences. Even the pulsating beats on the instrumental pieces California Sunset an Breakout can make the heart go aflutter.
Congratulations are in order for Sophie B. Hawkins ( probably best known for the song Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover ) for the birth of her son, Dashiell, born Nov. 17