5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Christmas Gem,
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'.