Get in holiday mood with Diana Ross, John Legend
Holiday albums reviewed by the Associated Press.
DIANA ROSS, ‘WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS TIME’
Are you in the mood for jolly, sing-along Christmas music? Diana Ross has you covered.
Looking for something more serene, with religious tones? Diana Ross has you covered.
Or are you looking for inspirational music that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the holidays? Again, Diana Ross has you covered.
Her new Christmas album, the 20-track “Wonderful Christmas Time,” may actually have a track for every mood of the season with the exception of the bah-humbug crowd. Ross’ silky, smooth soprano takes on a wide variety of songs, from “Ave Maria” to “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let it Snow!”
She also goes outside the Christmas arc with songs about peace and love, like Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed.”
While there’s something for everyone here, the downside is the lack of cohesiveness: Even though “What the World Needs Now” is given a sweeping, classical approach, to go from that to “Amazing Grace” is still a bit of head scratcher, despite a near seamless transition.
Of course, it’s a small quibble, like complaining that you were offered too many pie options at the holiday meal. In the end, you'll be deeply satisfied.
JOHN LEGEND, ‘A LEGENDARY CHRISTMAS’
If anyone needs a model for how to put out a successful Christmas album, look no further than everyone’s latest EGOT winner – John Legend.
On the modestly titled “A Legendary Christmas,” the singer mixes old chest- nuts and new tunes, switches tempos from jazz to blues, and adds a few perfectly cast cameos. (Only Legend could get Stevie Wonder to play a little harmonica work on “What Christmas Means to Me”).
Legend teams up with veteran producer Raphael Saadiq for new takes on classics, including an uptempo “Silver Bells” and a lush “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with guest Esperanza Spalding. “Christmas Time Is Here” gets the lounge treatment and he’s nicely unearthed Marvin Gaye’s “Purple Snowflakes.”
Legend shows off his own songwriting with the delicious throwback “No Place Like Home” and co-writes the bustling “Bring Me Love” with Meghan Trainor. “Waiting for Christmas” is classic piano Legend, “Wrap Me Up in Your Love” is a smoky R&B standout and “By Christmas Eve” – a promise to get home, like an update on Brenda Russell’s “Get Here” – is simply sublime.
The album’s cover features Legend in a Santa hat and bow tie, emulating one of Bing Crosby’s iconic Christmas albums. Bold move, Mr. Legend – but earned. This Christmas album is an instant classic.