Anita Baker - Christmas Fantasy / Kate & Anna McGarrigle - The McGarrigle Christmas Hour

At this time of year the radio stations play the same christmas songs and the music shops stock the same tacky Christmas Compilations. Two of the "good taste" Christmas albums are the "Phil Spector Christmas Album" closely followed by "James Brown's Funky Christmas". I doubt the above two albums will come to be regarded in the same manner as those two, but they make a pleasant diversion from the usual Christmas musical fayre.

Anita Baker's album employs some of her regular recording musicians like keyboard players George Duke and Barry Eastmond who also produces, Nathan East on bass and Ricky Lawson on drums to create that blend of smooth soul singing and jazzy playing that they do better than anybody else these days. As well as their interpretations of seasonal standards such as "Frosty The Snowman" and "O Come All Ye Faithful", the album features several Baker compositions of which "Family Of Man" is the most impressive

Nowadays the McGarrigle sisters are best known as the mother and aunt of Rufus and Martha Wainwright. The two siblings join Kate and Anna for this Christmas Hour album (I don't know how long 52 minutes has constituted an hour). Where as the Anita Baker set invites you to have a jazzy soulful Christmas the McGarrigle's are having an old fashioned traditional family sing song. "Old Waits Carol" is performed acapella. Emmylou Harris joins the family for "O Little Town Of Bethlehem". The families French connection roots are featured in "Il Est Ne / Ca Berges". Rufus performs the Broadway standard "What Are You Doing New Years Eve" and the family sign off with Elvis "Blue Christmas

Derek McCann

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