STYLE: Pop RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 5763-5642 LABEL: Reunion 023410015 2 FORMAT: CD Album RRP: £4.99
Reviewed by Tony Cummings
It was Sammy Horner who once observed that Americans can take shallowness to new depths. And in few areas of cultural activity is there a more consistent celebration of cultural cheesiness and aberrant taste than in the annual phenomenon of Christmas albums. There is seemingly now a rigidly held tradition throughout the record industry that once a year singers of every stylistic hue can momentarily discard any cherished perspective of being The Artist, with its associated sense of creative continuity and become instead wallowers in bottomless vats of glutinous sentimentality. Take for instance the case in hand. Michael Whitaker Smith's 'Live The Life' earlier this year gained a 10 square review in Cross Rhythms and is well on the way to achieving a huge mass audience. By comparison 'Christmastime' tumbles from the sublime heights of "Missing Person", "Love Me Good" and "Live The Life" (classics every one) to music and arrangements of such stupefying depths that one is left hoping beyond hope that the London Symphony Orchestra and the Abbey Road studios had helped Michael serve a colossal Yuletide prank on his industry friends. But 'Christmastime' is no joke, merely a ghastly creative deviation where even lush, plush orchestrations, guest appearances from Sandi Patty on "Christmas Waltz", guitar maestro Phil Keaggy on "O Christmas Tree" and a mass boys choir on the original song title track. Michael no doubt thought the cornball version of "Jingle Bells" a rib-tickling tribute to Dancer, Prancer, Donna and Blitzen. In fact it's grotesque burlesque. Also, the idea of bringing in his eight year old daughter Anna to guest on "Away In A Manger" is the kind of OTT kitchness one usually associates with American award ceremonies. Michael is a monumental musical talent, but from this particular reviewer's perspective, 'Christmastime' is a monumental mistake.
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