I enjoy Christmas music – always have, always will. If a new Christmas album, LP, 45, CD, or whatever, was released by a respected artist, I had to have it. So I was quite enthused to see that Michael Bublé had finally got down to recording a full Christmas CD, mindful of the truncated 2007 mini-CD he released with 6 tunes on it. But after listening, the enthusiasm waned.
I couldn’t quite figure it out at first, but soon realized there’s no personality in the disc – it’s an analytic approach. He sings the songs, but the whole disc is devoid of warmth or feeling. I had high hopes when I heard the intro to the first tune, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, for the orchestration brought to mind the wonderful Christmas album by Tony Bennett – Snowfall – arranged and conducted by the man Quincy Jones called “the greatest of us all” – Canadian Robert Farnon. But then my hopes were diminished, for Michael began to sing. To be fair, this is one of the best tracks on the CD, and he really seemed to be trying to give it some emotion, but he doesn’t quite make it.
Santa Claus is Comin’ to town is a great swing chart by Pat Williams, Michael sings it well, but goes into Bublé histrionics toward the end, destroying the simplicity of the tune.
Jingle Bells, sung with the Puppini Sisters, is pretty well stolen from the Bing Crosby/Andrew Sisters recording from the 40s, but not as well done.
In his program notes, Michael says that listening to Crosby’s White Christmas as a child was a real inspiration to him. Upon hearing this version with Shania Twang (or is it Twain?) I’m sure both Bing and composer Irving Berlin are spinning in their graves.
All I Want for Christmas is You, credited to Mariah Carey, is one of those modern unmelodic tunes that young folks mistake for music. ’Nuff said.
Hahlly, Jahlly Christmas wasn’t intended by the composer, but that’s the way it came out.
Eartha Kitt’s Santa, Baby, sounds weird sung by a guy, even when it’s changed to Santa, Buddy, and again, they pinched the original Henri René score. You ain’t sexy enough for this one, Michael, Baby!
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, introduced by Judy Garland in the film Meet Me in St. Louis, was a mystery. Michael sang it well, no decoration, but I realized they were just words – he hasn’t discovered how to get inside a lyric and make it poignant. St. Francis of Sinatra has recorded it commercially 4 times and once for the film the Victors, for which I had the distinct pleasure of backing him, and every one of them grabs you because of how he treats the lyrics.
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) is another of those unmusical twiddles which has about as much of a Christmas feeling as Randolph, the brown-nose reindeer.
The nicest thing about Silent Night is the Children’s Choir directed by Janet Adderley.
They tried hard with the backing to capture the Elvis rock ’n’ roll feel for Blue Christmas, but the King’s voice and style are right for this approach, Michael can’t come close. Listen to Elvis with Martina McBride.
Cold December Night, partly credited to Bublé, is another modern tuneless hash with nothing to redeem it whatsoever.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas, no matter how hard Michael tried, just makes you appreciate Bing Crosby’s 1943 version, which won him his 5th gold record, as well as those by Como, Sinatra, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, et al.
Ave Maria in Latin? Adjuva nos Deus!
But, oddly enough, Mis Deseos combined with Feliz Navidad comes across with the right feel and flavour. A duet with pop Latin queen Thalia, a light Latin beat, tasteful guitar solo by Dean Parks – this one works.
Christmas recordings: Sinatra never produced a great one, partly because the Capitol version was arranged and conducted by the mundane Gordon Jenkins, and the Reprise offering was a hodge-podge with his offspring. The Columbia issue, though very early in his career, is the best. Tony Bennett’s Snowfall is superb, Andy Williams is right up there, but the Christmas CD that gives the widest variety of classical and popular styles with performances that will never be equalled: The Carpenters.
Keep on with the ardua, Michael, and one day you might make it ad astra.