Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's never too early ... well, actually it is

It's been a while since I've listened to Jim Dale read an audiobook, so the small taste via The Spirit of Christmas was a minor treat. This is a picture-book-length poem by Nancy Tillman (from Portland!) that is given the full audiobook treatment: the aforementioned Mr. Dale, MBE; Clement C. Moore, a handful of Christmas carols from a children's choir, and ... a keepsake ornament. I'm a big fan of Christmas music, but this would not be among my favorite albums. (This is my favorite Christmas album.)
Jim Dale reads Tillman's poem, then he reads Tillman's poem with page-turn bells, and then he reads "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (otherwise known as "The Night Before Christmas"). The carols make up the rest of the CD. It's below-average Dale, but he doesn't have a lot to work with. Tillman's poem is a sentimental compilation of the goodies that are part of this holiday, but we are reminded that it really has no meaning without love. OK, OK ... call me Scrooge (and Dickens is Tillman's predecessor in connecting love and Christmas). Dale reads with the commitment that tells me he believes the message. The second poem is a little livelier, since he gets to throw out a few more character voices. But it's all over too soon.

The singing leaves a great deal to be desired. The recording is poor (like someone stuck a microphone in the back of the church and the choir started singing), so it's difficult to tell if the singing is any good. They mostly sound in tune and the high notes are reached without screeching (always good). The diction wasn't so great; there were verses where I couldn't understand the words at all.

The reading with the page-turn signals -- which are silvery, festive bell tones -- was extremely odd, since the audiobook does not come with a book. It seems kind of cheesy to make you buy the book separately. And, as for the keepsake ornament ... I guess if you are a fan of Tillman's artwork (I have no opinion either way, since I have never cracked one of her books), it might be nice to have. But the words cardboard and keepsake don't really go together in my mind ...

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