Thursday, December 13, 2018

Music Review: Decade the Halls by Tenth Avenue North

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some tracks are perfect
Cons: Some tracks are extremely weak
The Bottom Line:
Journey through decades
For these unique arrangements
Uneven results

Musical Trip to Christmas Past and Present

I almost missed Tenth Avenue North's Christmas release last year, but when I saw the title, I knew I had to get it.  Decade the Halls features Christmas songs arranged to sound like they are from different decades.  Sounds creative and fun, right?  Unfortunately, the result doesn't quite live up to the potential.

We travel as far back as the 1920's for "Good King Wenceslas," and this is where the trouble starts.  The arrangement itself is a very fun Charleston, but they decided to give it the pops and lesser sound quality we associate with the very early recordings.  That would have been good for the first few seconds, but they kept it for the entire song, which is a shame because otherwise this would be a fun arrangement of a lesser recorded song.

However, when this release is on point, they do it perfectly.  A perfect example is the next track, a 1930's big band version of "O Come All Ye Faithful."  I don't think of this carol as being upbeat, but it is so much fun, it might be my favorite version now.  Things continue in a good vein for the 1940's "O Holy Night," which perfectly captures the crooner style.

There are two original tracks on the disc.  "The First Christmas" is the first of these, and in classic 1950's Jitterbug style, we are reminded about all the things we think of as Christmas today that weren't part of the original Christmas.  It's a fun reminder of everything we've added to this day.

The other original song comes near the end of the disc.  "Mistletoe (The Christmas Sweater Song)" represents the 2000's.  This song makes me laugh as it tells about someone waiting for his sweetheart to arrive at a Christmas party, although the lines about "If you're Mary then you know" still confuse me.  Also, I've got to say I don't find the style that different from a song today.  It could just be me, or maybe musical styles haven’t changed that much in the past decade.

Speaking of noticing stylistic difference, I find it hard to peg the 1960's inspired "Deck the Halls" or the 1970's inspired "We Three Kings."  That could easily be my lack of musical knowledge, however.  I find it much easier when the synthesizer comes in on "Go Tell it on the Mountain" to place this one in the 1980's.  And the 1990's inspired power ballad version of "The First Noel" makes me laugh at how they nailed it (although I could have done without the brief narration).

For several of these songs, they have added an original bridge.  Unfortunately, it takes over and ruins the final track, 2010's "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."  Likewise, it is another strike again "We Three Kings."  On the other hand, it is a very fun addition to "Deck the Halls."

Along the way, they get many musical friends to help them out, with the likes of Colton Dixon and Britt Nicole, to name two, showing up on various tracks.

There are some very fun tracks here, and I certainly applaud the creative approach.  Unfortunately, the weaknesses mean Decade the Halls as a whole won't get much playing time for me come December over the next few decades.

CD Length: 34:35
1920’s – Good King Wenceslas
1930’s – O Come All Ye Faithful
1940’s – O Holy Night (feat. Jon McLaughlin)
1950’s – The First Christmas (feat. Zach Williams)
1960’s – Deck the Halls
1970’s – We Three Kings (feat. Britt Nicole)
1980’s – Go Tell it on the Mountain
1990’s – The First Noel (feat. Colton Dixon)
2000’s – Mistletoe (The Christmas Sweater Song)
2010’s – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (feat. Sarah Reeves)

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