Christine Lavin

Winter in Manhattan [Single]

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It is impossible at first blush to say whether Christine Lavin's "Winter in Manhattan," a song featured on her album Folkzinger and excerpted here as a single in both her folk rendition and one by the a cappella octet the Accidentals (which also appears on the Lavin album), will ever join such standards as Rodgers & Hart's "Manhattan," not to mention Bernstein & Comden/Green's or Kander & Ebb's "New York, New York," as a Gotham anthem. But it is possible to say that it is typical of Lavin in its sweetness, gentle humor, and tunefulness. A winningly quirky songwriter, Lavin delights in soft zingers and reversals, and she fills her lyric with observations that might be taken as criticisms of life in New York if she didn't seem to be presenting them in such a positive light. So, for example, in a characteristic bit of enjambment, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is described as "freakishly enormous," and Lavin brings up the experience of nearly everyone who has lived in Manhattan (especially the Upper West Side) since 1990, that, at one point or another, you are going to feel like an extra on Law & Order as you try to get out of the way of the TV crew shooting on location. But Lavin seems to mean these things, as the saying goes, "in a nice way." In fact, Law & Order is "as good as TV can possibly get" -- or is she just being sarcastic? (If an acid tongue could be sugar coated, that would describe her method.) There is no doubt, however, that she enjoys living in a city where "restaurants stay open 24 hours" and where sweethearts can go "kissin' in the moonlight" in a horse-and-buggy ride through Central Park. The combination of wit and affection is one that Lorenz Hart would surely recognize (and he'd probably like Dame Edna, too, just as Lavin says she does). The Accidentals' version of the song is more about their elaborate arrangement than the lyrics, which makes Lavin's acoustic-guitar-and-vocal version the preferred one, even though the group is clearly talented.

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