In the Spring of 1990 I was told by my record company that the only way I would receive tour support – money for touring expenses such as tour bus rental, salaries etc. – if I agreed to record a Christmas album. We were lining up a tour as the opening act for Basia in the fall of 1990 and knew that receiving some tour support was essential. NF was doing well, but it wouldn’t bring in money for many months.
I remember we were in San Francisco for a couple of days and my then manager gave me a handful of Christmas sheet music books she had picked up and booked me into a hotel room on the fifty-something floor. I love being high up and seeing the city below. After dinner I went up to my room and looked at the city and then through the sheet music. The next morning I called my manager and told her I had figured out how to arrange some of the songs and was confident we could record something pretty good.
So we spent the summer of 1990 in a studio in Santa Barbara recording Christmas songs, some of which I had never heard and had to learn from sheet music. The album, Poets & Angels was released in the Fall of 1990.
A decade later, in 2000, I wanted to move on from the record contract I had been signed to since 1992 and was told I *could* deliver a Christmas album to complete the contract. I discussed the prospect with Jon and we decided that we could easily record a second Christmas album. I called the album christmas + santa fe – a boolean logic term. This Boolean search of “Christmas” AND “Santa Fe” limits the search results to only those documents that contain both of the two keywords. The album can be found on CD but doesn’t seem to be available on streaming services.
In 2003 I decided to do a third Christmas album, this time for my own label SSRI. Jon and I worked on it while recording La Semana. I am not sure why I wanted to record another Christmas album. Perhaps I wanted to record one that was a little darker, a little more introspective. Here is what CultureCourt wrote about it.
A time to reflect, a time to party. As a collection of classic Christmas refits and original OL compositions, the concept here is brilliant. The kids have gone to bed, you’re on the couch dreaming in front of the fire, a glass of wine, a glass of Napoleon B, who knows, but you’re dreaming. Track 2 is playing, Little Town of Bethlehem/The City of Tijuana… people you miss, people you love… then there’s a gentle shift into electro fiesta time, and you’re south of the border, maybe in some dodgy cantina slinging back Aztec Golds as the fireworks explode… and then, gently, you’re back in acoustic Bethlehem in the snowfields under the stars. Amazing compositional control here, this double-character style that’s the signature of Winter Rose.
The mood is never allowed to collapse into sentiment, although sentiment is used. Tradition sets the ceremony, although the ceremony includes reggae… just as in Track 7, Kora/River of Stars. This is one beautiful number. For those familiar with Ottmar Liebert, you’ll recognize his jazz octave ghosting, and the hypnotic flamenco glides. Bassist Jon Gagan is riding shotgun on the old sleigh here, so you bump into reggae time, and then space out on the “river of stars” via JG’s big string harmonics and synth squeals.
But surely, as some advance listeners have proclaimed, the best track is Les Roses d’Isphahan, OL’s interpretation of Gabriel Faure’s [1845-1924] homage to the ancient Persian city known for its superlative rug weaving.