Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Music Review: Christmas Album by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun Latin takes on many holiday favorites
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Something different
Yet I find it nostalgic
So fun at Christmas

Herb Alpert's Christmas Album is Back and I Couldn't Be Happier

I trace my eclectic Christmas music tastes to my childhood. My parents had some Christmas albums they'd pull out every year. As a result, these albums, by artists I haven't heard of anywhere else, are so ingrained in me that the first few notes immediately make me think of Christmas past. This is one of those albums.

Originally released in 1968, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's Christmas Album was a hit, reaching the #1 spot three Christmases in a row. It's been out of print for many years except for a brief issue on CD until this year, when it was released as part of the Herb Alpert Signature Series. It's been fully restored and includes a booklet talking about the release.

So what about the music? This is a mostly instrumental recording featuring Herb on the trumpet and the drums, guitars, and maracas of the band as well. This makes for unique arrangements of the classic songs. I guarantee you have nothing like this in your collection.

I say mostly instrumental because a choir is involved. Mostly, they hum the melody for a few measures and then let the band take over, sometimes coming in later to highlight the melody again. In addition, Herb sings on two songs. His version of "The Christmas Song" isn't going to top anyone lists of favorite versions, but is good. I've only heard "The Bell that Couldn't Jingle" here, but this time Herb's vocals are better suited to the song. It's a fun little number about Santa and Jack Frost helping a Bell find his jingle again.

And fun best describes the arrangements on this disc. The choir opens with a few a cappella measures of "Winter Wonderland," then the band takes over with a samba arrangement that will be sure to have you dancing. The samba rhythm applies to "Jingle Bells" as well. "My Favorite Things" is probably the most original song here (and also a huge hit at the time of original release). It features several breaks and changes in tempo. You have to listen closely sometimes to follow the melody of all of these songs, but the music is so much fun to listen to, you'll be tapping your toes or dancing along before you know it.

The samba rhythm is still going strong for "Sleigh Ride," but they slow things down and switch to more jazz inspired arrangements for the final three songs. "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" is especially unique because the choir hums the melody throughout to the accompaniment of the band.

Herb Alpert's Christmas Album is not for everyone, but if you like something different to break up the monotony that can set in come December 20th, this is a CD to check out. I am so glad it is back in print so I can once again enjoy it for many Christmases to come.

CD Length: 32:01
1. Winter Wonderland
2. Jingle Bells
3. My Favorite Things
4. The Christmas Song
5. Las Mananitas
6. Sleigh Ride
7. The Bell That Couldn't Jingle
8. Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow
9. Jingle Bell Rock
10. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

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