Can She or Can’t She?

Ashlee Simpson has just recently released her second album I Am Me. The burning question is – Can she even sing? Critics and fans have been arguing this question ever since she emerged from her sister’s shadow (famed reality star Jessica Simpson). Of course, her lip-synching fiasco on Saturday Night Live didn’t help prove her talents. Either way, her CD has been booming since its release. The first single ‘Boyfriend’ peaked at #19, and is currently positioned at #47, on Billboard’s Charts (a song that she claims is NOT about Lindsay Lohan and Wilmer Valderrama).

To Baghdad and Back

If you missed Anne Garrels at University of Michigan this month, listen to the NPR foreign correspondent’s frank memoir of her sudden immersion into Iraqi culture and the culture of war, Naked in Baghdad. Garrels is the antithesis of the flak-jacketed, steel-jawed journalist-celebrity, acknowledging her real fears for her life, her journalistic misunderstandings and missteps, and the overwhelming complexity of the situation in Iraq.

Pulitizer-prize winning author and journalist Rick Atkinson’s In The Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat provides an equally honest and unadorned look at the war in Iraq. Atkinson followed the 101st Airborne from Kentucky to battles in Najaf, Hilla, and Karbala, narrating the gritty, brutal and ultimately deadly experiences of the soldiers he grew to respect and mourn.

The Play Ground

Hallelujah, Hallelujah redux. If classic Messiah isn't your cup of eggnog, the Motor City is presenting "Too Hot to Handel" at the Detroit Opera House on December 17 & 18th. This jazz gospel Messiah features The Rackham Symphony Choir with red hot performances by pianist Alvin Waddles, bassist Marion Hayden and beebop saxophonist George Benson.This is being billed as a "hand-clapping, soul-stirring holiday rapture." A good way to keep warm.

Short Story Classics on Audio

What is Ernest Hemingway’s greatest short story? The Killers? The Three Day Blow? Big Two-Hearted River? Listen to the three-volume set narrated by Stacy Keach and discover anew the works that made Hemingway the author of the 20th century.

One of the best current short story writers is Alistair MacLeod. Like Hemingway, place and time are main characters in MacLeod’s stories. Two stories from Island: The Collected Stories, The Road to Rankin’s Point and The Closing Down of Summer are especially poignant reminders of the command of nature over our daily lives.

The Play Ground

Hallelujah, Hallelujah! When UMS started presenting Messiah concerts in 1879, it was a rarity. Today, Messiah is the sacred sign of the season for almost every community, with a variety of stylistic choices from small Baroque renditions to all-gospel versions. Messiah was composed in only 21 days when Handel was 56 years old as part of a series of concerts that the composer was giving in Dublin to benefit various charities. Although the premiere was largely considered successful, the oratorio’s popularity blossomed only after Handel’s death. Featuring the UMS Choral Union and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra with Jerry Blackstone, conductoing. At Hill Auditorium Dec 3rd & 4th.

Thank you Earlene!

Snow is here!

Our first snow of the season is here; to me, that means that the holidays are rapidly approaching! In order to prepare and get yourself in the holiday mood, check out the library’s wide selection of holiday music CD’s. Here are a few titles that the library owns:

Bing Crosby’s Christmas Classics by Bing Crosby – This crooner sure can sing Christmas songs.

Holiday Times by Ella Jenkins – She sings a collection of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa songs, among others.

The Man in Black is Back

This week actor Joaquin Phoenix walks the line as Johnny Cash in a a new film earning positive reviews across the board. Phoenix is a good choice to play the rough-hewn, emotionally-charged Man in Black, who allmusic.com calls "one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music....He created his own subgenre, falling halfway between the blunt emotional honesty of folk, the rebelliousness of rock & roll, and the world weariness of country." Check out The Fabulous Johnny Cash, left, or last year's excellent Cash, a special tribute book from Rolling Stone magazine featuring new and old essays, plus a fascinating overview of Cash's life and detailed critical discography.

Madonna Confesses

On Confessions of a Dance Floor, Madonna returns unapologetically to her roots. A stunning blend of musical styles with one foot in early disco and the other pointed toward the future, Confessions On A Dance Floor "is all about having a good time straight through and non-stop," says the Material Mom, who co-wrote and co-produced every track. For Madonna and music fans everywhere, the all-dance, no-ballad Confessions on a Dance Floor is a welcome guilty pleasure. Now let's see if there is any truth to the rumors that she may play the halftime show during the Superbowl next February.

Back Home with Eric Clapton

Here’s another album from Eric Clapton that fans will surely appreciate. Back Home, “Clapton's first recording of (mostly) original material since 2001's Reptile, is a combination of solo compositions, covers, and collaborations with writing partner Simon Climie. Backing musicians include John Mayer (guitar), Blind Faith mate Steve Winwood (synthesizer), and longtime associate Billy Preston (keyboards), whose expertise with the Hammond B3 shines brightest on the Vince Gill cowritten "One Day".

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, an event in Great Lakes maritime history immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot in his 1975 ballad, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", which appears on several Library CDs, including his own Sundown, and in books from our sheet music collection such as Music of the Great Lakes and The New York Times Great Songs of the 70s. A DVD titled The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is also available, and an article about the 30th anniversary recently appeared in The Detroit News.

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