Get in hol­i­day mood with Diana Ross, John Le­gend

Tri-City Herald - - Explore -

Hol­i­day al­bums re­viewed by the As­so­ci­ated Press.

DIANA ROSS, ‘WON­DER­FUL CHRIST­MAS TIME’

Ross Records

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’

Columbia Records

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.

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