Sunday, December 5, 2010

CD Review: Katharine McPhee "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You."

So as we are already in December I thought I would review one of my new favorite Christmas CD's. It comes from American Idol Season Five runner up (and in many eyes the actual winner Katharine McPhee and it's "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You." Which I have to admit based on the title alone I have to why is it only Christmas the time? Can't you tell your partner on their birthday, Valentine Days, on any given day but according to Katharine it's Christmas or else.

1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - In one of the best Christmas songs ever I think does an adequate job with it. Her phrasing seems a little bored but the tone is perfection. I just think she doesn't know that this is truly a sad song that should be sung with a certain sadness to it. She does bring her usual jazz tones to the song which are a nice new arrangement of the song but without the loneliness that's built in the song i doesn't go anywhere.

2. Jingle Bells - I loved her take on this all time classic. I would even rank it up there with Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow for taking a tired song and putting a fresh spin on it that stays true to you. I love the organ sounds and her freedom with the medly that gives it a playful quality to it.

3. It's Not Christmas Without You - It's funny for all the sadness she left out for Have Yourself....she's seemed to save for this song. I think because it has more of a contemporary feel for it so she understands it more but everything down from the switches from her chest to head voice all sound lovely

4. O Holy Night - It's funny that seemed almost disconnected from this song. Almost as if they needed something to add to the CD and they gave it to her last minute to record. II like the inclusion of the choirs but even then I know why were they included it I think it would have worked much more effectively with her and just a solo piano.

5. Silver Bells - At first her delivery confused me but after listening to the waltz that was added in back ground that]] seemed to morph into a marching sound which gave this classic a fresh spin and gave her something to play around with while remaining true to the original song and still making it pleasurable and not preciousness .

6. Christmas Is The Time - I think this is one of the highlights on the disc, It's not a well known song but it has in it for Kat to play around and have fun with the song something that she hasn't done since "Jingle Bells;

7. Medley: O Little Town Of Bethlehem/Away In A Manger - I thought the arrangement of this song was gorgeous and she delivered it alternating from head to chest voice.

8. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve - I LOVED the playful sexiness she brings to this song I've heard this song done sadly, sexy but never this much fun with it,

9. White Christmas - Sticking with the more traditional version of this song is nice then perfect for Kat as she adds some stunning jazz inflections into this song, I love just went you think she going to stick to the typical standard phrasing and she flips it on it's year while reemerging different vocal lines and still staying true to the basis while bringing a fresh life to ii.

10. Who Would Imagine A King - I love the amount of warmth that she brings to this song my only problem is I wish it was longer song then the few minutes they gave to it.

Bonus Track
11 It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas -
I Loved how she infused this song with just a bit of gospel sound to it without sacrificing any of the joy of the song. She made it her own without falling into the indulgent trap.

These are how Christmas CD's should be done, playing up to the artists strengths while focusing on songs that aren't overplayed and coming up with fresh arrangements on well known classics. Pick up this exquisite Christmas CD and had it to your holiday collection.



Anonymous said...

Great review. I love Christmas songs, and this album has quickly become one of my favorites. I have to disagree with you on a couple of critiques though. Katharine's version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas not only showcases her intuitive jazz vocals, but is the only version I have heard in a while that actually does bring the loneliness. Katharine does not try to go for that big note that most singers do and even just the way she sings the word "light" so melancholy followed by a slight dissonant "sight". Katharine is a master of subtle vocals that have such great impact on her interpretation.

I also felt that her version of O Holy Night is genius. Again, showing immense restraint in not going for that glory notes, Katharine takes it a step further by reducing the dynamic and building up from a whisper, providing a climax that does not involve over singing this solemn song.

StevenD said...

Thank you I'm actually a HUGE Katharine fan and consider her in my top ten of favorite Idols ever. I do like her version of the song but being a huge fan ad hearing so many different versions I don't think she brings the jazzy melancholy tones that could have been brought to the song. I think of singers who lived a sadness around the time of year Judy, Christine Ebersole, and Dorothy Loudon singers who've lived that and sadly Katharine will probably have that one day. I do agree about the "master of slight" and have always admired her ability to go from chest to head voice with no issue. That' something a true vocalist can do with no issue and Katharine is a true vocalist.

As for O Holy Night after another listen (which are quite a bit) I think she tried something new but you have to run the risk of performing it as a showstopper or a lullaby and current songs can get away with the lullaby (Corinne Rae Bailey sadly has made this an art form but if your ever having problems with sleeping.....) I think that instead of choosing a song that Katharine had problems with she could have picked something different possibly "Hard Candy Christmas, " or "Santa Claus is Comin to Town" full out jazz style or even an unknown theater type of song from Julie Gold (from a Distance) "Christmas Eve" which would have been heven!!!