Friday, November 30, 2007

Home for Christmas

There are some music fans who believe that pop artists have jumped the so-called “shark” if they release one or more of four types of albums: greatest hits, live recordings, covers collections, and holiday records. While this can sometimes be true, I’m willing to cut folks some slack on the matter…especially when it comes to holiday records. There is a burgeoning sub-section of my CD collection that is devoted to holiday records…at least a couple get added every year…and I am unabashed in my fondness for them (and no, there’s no such thing as “too many” versions of “O Holy Night” or “Jingle Bell Rock” :-)

Daryl Hall and John Oates, their hit-making days behind them for the time being, have released albums in all four of the categories mentioned in the previous paragraph. Their holiday offering, Home for Christmas, is a heartfelt, soulful, sparkling gem of the genre that never descends into dullness or treacle.

With a soaring overture leading into a very fine, gently funky version of “The First Noel”, the CD gets off to a grand start indeed.

Some of the songs are the usual suspects… “The Christmas Song” (aka “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”…written by Mel Torme & Robert Wells but totally owned by Nat “King” Cole), “Jingle Bell Rock”, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, “O Holy Night”…but Hall and Oates bring a vibrancy to the proceedings that makes them all shine once again. Hall’s still potent voice brings a heartfelt and delightful urgency to the tunes and the arrangements are fresh and exceedingly well-played.

Two of the songs are originals: Oates takes the lead vocal on his self-penned “No Child Should Cry on Christmas” (he also does an admirable job on the oft-covered “Christmas Song”) and he acquits himself admirably while Hall delivers a sweet, mid-tempo jewel with the title song which he co-wrote.

The Stax song, “Everyday Should Will Be Like a Holiday”, co-written by the great Booker T. Jones, fits right into Hall’s R&B wheelhouse and he knocks it out of the part. Their version of one of my favorite holiday songs, Robbie Robertson’s lovely “Christmas Must Be Tonight”, is just as fine.

The rollicking, toe-tapping gospel of “Children Go Where I Send Thee” is righteous enough to make even the biggest sinner smile and dance along. And “Mary Had a Baby” makes a smooth, joyful noise of its own.

By the time the closing song, a soul-filled and soaring take on “O Holy Night” , was done I was filled with enough Christmas spirit to bring light to a cold, gray Autumn’s day…can’t ask more than that, can I? :-)

(Below, Hall and Oates performing "Christmas Must Be Tonight" on the Megan Mullally Show.)


Wally Banners said...

I always like those dudes and their happy music.

Jebb said...

They have three or four greatest hits albums alone, don't they? Oh, well … you can't have too much of "One on One" and "Method of Modern Love."

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