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Home for Christmas
Home for Christmas

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Christmas Gem, 3 Mar 2012
This review is from: Home for Christmas (Audio CD)
Christmas albums can tend to follow well established trends, schmaltzy, party, traditional and so on, and it seems obligatory for most well known artists to throw one in at sometime or other in their career. Lots of times they can be a bit lame, after all there's only so much you can do with the Christmas theme. When H&O released 'Home' in 2006 it had a limited availability for some reason. This may have been because of the marketing arrangement, due to the undertaking from the band that 50% of proceeds would go to a charity that provided toys for Christmas for kids from deprived backgrounds. The album is now more generally available.

On release Hall and Oates described the collection as 'spiritual', and the track listing has the usual mix of a few carols and many of the numbers you might expect, with a few less well-known seasonal numbers thrown in and just two original numbers from the pair. With the choice of opening number 'The First Noel' you might wonder just how this album is going to go, but it is a mark of Hall and Oates' talent and creativity to see them take this rather staid and formal Christmas standard and transform it into a breathtaking arrangement of tasteful strings, chord structuring and measured soulful singing from Hall, that doesn't obliterate the original but somehow achieves the impossible of making it work - and how. If the word masterpiece still has any meaning in music - then this is it.

There is a great variety in this quality album, from the hardcore gospel `Mary Had A Baby' (incidentally Hall started his singing career in church gospel!) to the supremely laid back `The Christmas Song' from John Oates. You can almost see Oates toasting his toes in front of the fire as he drains the last drops from a bottle of cream liqueur. `Midnight Clear' is another traditional number to get the H&O treatment and another highlight which once heard cannot be forgotten. Held together by T Bone Wolk's lyrical and unobtrusive guitar picking and with a new chorus arrangement the whole piece seems to magically evoke the image of a still moonlit winter's night, as it moves along beneath Hall's vocals through a shimmering acoustic break from T Bone, toward the end when the string section wafts in again and we feel ourselves utterly transported. A truly wonderful piece.

This is a really great Hall and Oates album and a superb Christmas collection which deserves far more recognition than it has had. Is `Midnight Clear' Hall and Oates' finest moment? That's a really close call, but surely that has to go to `The First Noel'.

A Christmas Cornucopia
A Christmas Cornucopia
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 4.68

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Annie belts out the reason for the season, 16 Dec 2011
This review is from: A Christmas Cornucopia (Audio CD)
Here's Annie's Christmas offering from 2010, indeed a cornucopia of many styles, unusual arrangements and lesser known traditional pieces. This is a very memorable collection for the holiday season, and while some numbers are more conventionally performed, in general Annie is really pushing the envelope artistically. You're not likely to confuse this with anything else! The choral arrangements are beautifully done. The first thing that struck me about this album was the sheer power that Annie uses as she belts out the carols. I can't help thinking that this is Annie almost giving the finger to the all-pervasive smothering political correctness of the age which says, 'Don't dare mention that name, Jesus Christ, you might offend someone'. She could be saying, 'This is a man who stands for the poor, the downtrodden and the suffering of the world, as I do, and I ain't shutting up.' Annie doesn't call herself a christian, preferring instead to believe in the hope and light in every faith. While some might not share her view, what else would we expect from this woman who cares deeply about the poor, and wants to identify with each regardless of race, nationality, or creed? The final number, 'Universal Child', seems to just about sum things up. Good on you Annie, may all your Christmases be bright.

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