I am not big on Christmas albums. Not my favorite thing in the world. I don’t mind compilation albums with numerous different people singing various Christmas songs, but one album, by one person doing only Christmas songs. Not my thing. So when Matt Nathanson announced a Christmas album, I wasn’t thrilled, but at the same time, it was Matt Nathanson who is one of my favorite artists. So, I gave it try and now I’m glad I did.
The digital only album is nothing but covers, but it is okay as how do you write a new Christmas song when there are so many out there. He starts off with the sweet, tender “Christmas Time Is Hear” which features the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. It is a hauntingly beautiful interpretation, short and sweet and a great opener. Matt kicks things up a notch with the English/Spanish song “Donde Esta Santa Claus” which is a fun, energetic romp full of Latin flavors. It is a tasty treat and one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Matt covers “Blue Christmas” and he plays it softer than Elvis and thankfully he doesn’t try to copy that approach as it would sound too Karaoke. Matt’s version has a country flair to it and is quite pleasant as Matt’s voice is as slick as melted butter. To keep the color theme going he goes in to “White Christmas” which is amazing short at only 51 seconds so not sure why even bother including it. It is an all acoustic short instrumental that is actually quite beautiful.
He covers Joni Mitchell’s “River” and is one of the best performances on the album. I was not real familiar with the song, but Matt makes it his own and is quite a sensational Christmas song. I am glad he covered this one. It is an acoustic, piano driven with some nice string orchestrations. The most fun Christmas song on the album is The Kink’s “Father Christmas”. I think this song represents most everyone’s actual Christmas. It is a rowdy, rocking good time, angst ridden blast of a song. What you would expect to come from The Kink’s.
“Little Drummer Boy” features Donovan Woods on vocals with Matt and although it ain’t Crosby/Bowie it is a valiant effort and another stellar cover. This is one of my favorite Christmas songs so I am usually pretty critical of this one, but I like his version. It is a keeper. Then one of the songs I am least fond of for Christmas is the overplayed “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”. He does a decent job, but when don’t like a song to begin with, it is hard to connect to it no matter who does it. At least his isn’t all campy, corny and over the top. It is a straight, upbeat performance which makes it palatable.
Another great track is “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”. He kept to the original feel of the Darlene Love / Phil Spector version which is an old school r&b vibe. It is a simple, yet wonderful performance by the band and Matt. “I Believe in Father Christmas” sounds like Matt and the boys are sitting around a fire with their acoustic guitars and playing us as we melt our s’mores over the fire. I can almost hear the wood popping from the heat and taste the chocolate.
One of the my favorite tracks is “Snow” since that is my name. This Harry Nilsson track is played very stripped down, so soft, so pleasant and with so much heart. And the album ends with “When The River Meets” which was done by John Denver and The Muppets. I was waiting for Kermit to come and sing along when the banjo started playing, but that didn’t happen.
And that is it. It was only 12 songs and only 31 minutes in length. It wasn’t over the top, it was mostly stripped down to reveal the true essence of the songs. It is a light, casual affair with no over-the-top production. It is what Matt does best and finds the true meaning of the song and plays it to shine the light on the song and its lyrics. I still don’t love Christmas albums, but I do love this. Its brevity is also its charm as you get just enough before you tire of it. Now, Matt…I want a vinyl release please so when we put up the tree every year, I can drop a needle while the fire is lit and the family can sing along.
Merry Christmas Everyone! May your day be filled with love and joy!! Thanks for stopping by on this glorious day!!