Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Music Review: Under the Influence Holiday Edition by Straight No Chaser

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great rare and original Christmas songs served acappella
Cons: Prefer them without guests; not all will like "Nutcracker"
The Bottom Line:
More Christmas magic
Many original songs
Will make fans happy

Straight No Chaser Invites Some Friends for Their New Christmas CD

Considering the male acappella group Straight No Chaser got discovered because of a Christmas song (their very fun take on "The Twelve Days of Christmas"), it's not surprise they've released so much Christmas music.  Following up their duets disc this year, they have released Under the Influence: Holiday Edition, and it's another fun disc their fans will love.

This is a short disc (and priced accordingly) with only 8 tracks on it, and the first 4 of those feature guest vocalists.  I will repeat what I said on the regular Under the Influence edition - these songs are good, but I much prefer these guys when they are blending with each other.  Too often with the guest vocalists, they take a back seat and let the guest shine.

Anyway, they start out with a love song duet with Colbie Caillat on "Every Day is Christmas."  It's a fun mid-tempoed start that makes love into an every day Christmas present.  The images are very fun on this song, and I really like it.  Since this is a duet, the entire group gets into an act a bit more than on some of the others in this first half.

Next up is the only truly traditional song on the disc.  CeeLo Green joins them for "White Christmas."  IT is a fun, toe tapping version of the classic.

The most interesting song on the disc is "Merry Christmas Baby."  They take a recording of Otis Redding from the sixties and create new background vocals/music for it.  I'm sure his fans will really enjoy it, but this is probably my least favorite song on here since the guys don't really get a chance to shine.

They close out the first half with Paul McCartney joining them for "Wonderful Christmas Time."  I must admit I don't have that many copies of this song, so it's good to get another one, and there are some fun harmonies on it.

As we enter the second half, these songs are all Straight No Chaser.  And three of the songs are originals.  "Home by Christmas Day" is another good upbeat Christmas themed love song.  The kid in me really loves "Song for Santa" which, despite efforts to honor Santa, keeps turning into a song about presents.

Which brings us to "Nutcracker."  I have a feeling this song will fall into the love or hate category.  They take some of the most familiar sections of the classic Nutcracker ballet and create words to it.  These words?  Well, they tell the story of a guy who wants to be home watching the football game but is dragged to the Nutcracker by his wife.  It's not exactly complimentary to this Christmas classic.  I've never actually scene it, but I still find this song pretty funny.

The disc closes with an odd choice - "Amazing Grace."  I only call it odd because I don't think I've ever seen it connected with Christmas before.  It certainly fits since it is God's grace that sent Jesus to earth in the first place.  Having said that, the guys do an amazing job on it.  The harmonies are great and I fully enjoy it.  I'll be mixing it into my regular music and enjoying it all year long for sure.

Even though I prefer the guys doing their own thing, I really do like Under the Influence: Holiday Edition, and I'm sure that Straight No Chaser's many fans will as well.  It's one I'll be pulling out each December for sure.

CD Length: 27:07
1. Every day is Christmas (with Colbie Caillat)
2. White Christmas (with CeeLo Green)
3. Merry Christmas Baby (with Otis Redding)
4. Wonderful Christmas Time (with Paul McCartney)
5. Home by Christmas Day
6. Nutcracker
7. Song for Santa
8. Amazing Grace

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