Cellist Yo-Yo Ma has long been a giant in the classical world, though he has also made a number of recordings with musicians who play other styles. This holiday disc doesn't exclusively stick to traditional Christmas songs, but covers a wide scope of material in a very ambitious manner.
The single most influential album of Western songs in post-World War II American music, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs touched a whole range of unexpected bases in its own time and has endured extraordinarily well across the ensuing four decades. The longevity of the album's appeal is a result of Marty Robbins' love of the repertory at hand and the mix of his youthful dynamism and prodigious talent that he brought to the recordings, and the use of the best music production techniques of the era. Add to that the presence of a pair of killer original songs that were ready-made singles, "El Paso" and "Big Iron," and a third, "The Master's Call," that was startlingly personal, and the results are well-nigh irresistible.
Aside from his tremendous powers of performance, Stevie Wonder stands as one of the greatest songwriters of the late 20th century, probing the joyous peaks and depressing valleys of love and relationships. The Motown tribute album Conception: An Interpretation of Stevie Wonder's Songs has its highs and lows as well; with Stevie himself in the producer's chair (along with new-era Motown exec Kedar Massenburg), the album certainly has a lot of promise. It boasts plenty of neo-soul balladeers – India.Arie, Mary J. Blige, Brian McKnight, Joe, Musiq – as well as mainstream stars like Eric Clapton and John Mellencamp, who took musical cues from classic Stevie Wonder LPs like Talking Book or Songs in the Key of Life.