Jolly, jingly carols usher in Yuletide season
The nights may be colder and longer, but the songs are getting warmer and more jolly—because the jingly Yuletide season is upon us once again. This year, funk and soul legend Earth, Wind & Fire has decided to help usher in the season of merrymaking by releasing its first Christmas album, “Holiday,” described by cofounder Verdine White as a “musical celebration of love, spirituality and tradition.”
EWF is in a celebratory mood as it reboots “Joy To The World,” “Winter Wonderland,” “What Child Is This?,” “The Little Drummer Boy” and the reggae-tinged “Sleigh Ride” with ravishing harmonies, kalimba-enhanced energy and lead vocalist Philip Bailey’s soothing falsetto!
There are tunes that aren’t as seamless (“Jingle Bell Rock”) and vibratos that are thicker than they should be (“Away In A Manger” but, it’s futile to resist the noirish smolder of “Everyday Is Like Christmas” and the fun-filled vocal frolic of the Japanese hymn, “Snow.”
Even better is Pentatonix’s second Yuletide offering, “That’s Christmas To Me,” which recalls the feisty vocal arrangements and glorious harmonies of The Manhattan Transfer—with a hip-hop-and-electronica twist!
The fabulous fivesome’s textured voices keep tedium and monotony at bay in a sumptuous lineup that has no throwaway tracks! Guest vocalist Tori Kelly joins the group in the cleverly imagined mashup of “Winter Wonderland” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
The exciting dramatic build-up of the theme-appropriate bonus track, “Let It Go,” is another alluring attraction.
“The Sing-Off”-winning a cappella quintet of tenor Mitch Grassi, baritone Scott Hoying, bass Avi Kaplan, mezzosoprano Kirstie Maldonado and vocal percussionist Kevin Olusola “sells” every number with show-stopping flair and aplomb—from the Billboard 100-charting “Mary, Did You Know?” and the pristine “Silent Night,” to the Motown-inspired “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and the jaunty vibe of “Sleigh Ride.”
They make complex vocalizations and counterpointing seem easy, and sprinkle their flawless melodies with plucky tweaks that allow “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing,” “White Winter Hymnal” and their self-penned original number, “That’s Christmas To Me,” bristle with ebullient life and meaning: “I’ve got this Christmas song in my heart/ I’ve got candles glowing in the dark/ As I fall asleep to lullabies, the only gift I’ll ever need is the joy of family/ And we’ll cherish these simple things wherever we may be!”
When heard alongside the aforementioned recordings, MCA Universal’s hefty, all-star compilation, “My Christmas Album,” delivers an uneven mix of bold covers (Nicole’s ethereal “The First Noel,” Krissy’s “Auld Lang Syne,” Urbandub’s “Last Christmas” and Sabrina’s spot-on “Jingle Bell Rock”), bland revivals (Mitoy Yonting’s “O Holy Night”) and overperformed remakes (Janice Javier’s “Grown-up Christmas List,” Zendee’s “Blue Christmas”).
The 21-song track listing is compromised by perfunctory arrangements and renditions that lack soul—which is a shame, because the collection also features alumni of “The Voice’s” first two editions.
Aside from Nicole’s truly idiosyncratic number, other standout tracks include Juan Karlos Labajo’s smooth “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing,” Darren Espanto’s sleek “O Little Town Of Bethlehem,” Paolo Onesa’s cool-as-cucumber “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” Klarisse de Guzman’s sassy “Silent Night” and Sitti’s style-appropriate “Merry Christmas, Darling.”
Except for its catchy tagline, the melody of ABS-CBN’s station ID jingle, “Thank You, Ang Babait Ninyo,” isn’t all that memorable. And Darlene Vibares’ “Joy To The World” is bogged down by diction gaffes and shrill, faulty phrasing.
What about “The Voice Kids’” champ, Lyca Gairanod? While it is true that she performs “Miss Kita Kung Christmas” with contagious vigor and enthusiasm, her performance is weighed down by inappropriately romantic lyrics (“Ang nakapagtataka’y maraming nakahihigit sa ‘yo…/ Hirap n’yan, mayroon ka nang iba…”) that are awkward for a 10-year-old—unless she’s singing about a two-timing parent!
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