Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A New Thought for Christmas

Melissa Etheridge’s “new thought” for Christmas isn’t really new…giving peace a chance and celebrating the soul of the season and the power of love are a classic ideals we should all adhere to all year long…but when it’s presented in such a potent, heartfelt, soulful collection of songs that doesn’t matter one little bit.

A New Thought for Christmas is a consistently engaging collection of holiday songs new and old. There’s no Santa Claus here but there is an abundance of hope and joy and pleas for peace.

It kicks off with a grand, bluesy version of “Blue Christmas” and that inviting vibe inhabits rocking takes on “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and the sly and sassy reading of the immortal “Merry Christmas, Baby” as well. Etheridge is in fine fettle throughout these rockers as well as on the propulsive “Christmas in America”, an Etheridge-penned plea for a lost lover to come home for the holidays, and during the boogie-woogie strut of “It’s Christmas Time”.

She is also in fine, fine vocal form during the mellower tracks such as the original “Glorious” (a sweet paean to love and family during the holidays that incorporates some of the traditional “Angels We Have Heard on High”) and the hopeful “Light a Light”

There’s a sweet jazzy vibe (including a very tasty guitar solo by Philip Sayce) to her sedate take on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that vaults into the upper echelons of the many versions of that charming chestnut.

The peace anthem “Ring the Bells” (see below)…co-written by Salman Ahmad, who also contributes vocals and guitars…has a Middle Eastern vibe that invests it with additional power as it soars up towards the heavens.

By the time the disc ends with the inspirational “O Night Divine” (with incorporates aspects of the traditional “O Holy Night”) you feel immersed in the Christmas spirit without the need of nary a jingle bell nor a flying reindeer…and it’s a lovely thing indeed.

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