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I do love a good Christmas album, and come November-time, I'm rifling through my already extensive MP3 collection and trying to find my own festive favourites to start playing in time for Christmas! I do, however, like finding some new albums to listen to, although I'm wary that many of them don't live up to my own high expectations! I came across Katharine McPhee after seeing her great performance in the TV show 'Smash', and whilst browsing Amazon, I came across her 2010 Christmas album, entitled 'Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You'. It had rave reviews on Amazon.com, where it is more readily available, so I decided to take a punt and download the MP3 album. I'm so glad I did as it's soon becoming one of my favourite Christmas albums!
Katharine McPhee's album isn't anything ground-breaking in terms of new holiday songs, but instead McPhee chooses to focus on the classic songs, and puts her own slant on them. There is only 10 tracks on the album, but for me it seems more than that and I enjoy listening to the entire album from start to finish. It opens with the classic track 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas', a song that pretty much everybody knows, but I loved this version from the first time I heard it. It's a jazzy, bluesy sounding song, with some fantastic brass sections, and McPhee works her voice beautifully over this. She doesn't need to screech, shout or overpower the backing track, instead complementing it beautifully and consequently it's a gorgeous arrangement of a classic song.
The tempo switches up immediately after this one ends with an upbeat and pop-py sounding version of the song 'Jingle Bells'. It mixes a fab beat with an organ backdrop, and while at first I didn't warm to this one, I know love it, and even Harry can't stop tapping his feet to the beat in the car! It's a really fun version of the classic song, and McPhee's voice is stronger in this one, yet she sounds like she's having fun too, making it all the more fun to listen to! Another change in tempo again with an original song by McPhee called 'It's Not Christmas Without You'. I usually find it hard to like new Christmas song, they're never as good as the old classics we all know and love, but this one has really grown on me, and now I love it. It has a beautiful, has a lovely slow rhythm, and I really like McPhee's voice here. Again, she's careful not to overpower the song, but complements the piano led backing and is so easy to listen to. I really do love this song, it's emotional but not too sickly sweet!
Up next is another Christmas classic, O Holy Night. Now, I find that I either love versions of this song or I hate them. For example, I hate Christina Aguilera's version, she murdered it with her warbling whereas Mariah Carey's is a lovely rendition. McPhee manages to surpass either of these performances for me, with a subtle and toned down version of it. She doesn't try to belt out any top notes, just sings it softly, and the soft backing drop works really well for this classic song. I have to confess to listening to this one on repeat, it's gorgeous. Again, McPhee picks up the tempo for the next one, another fun Christmas song called 'Silver Bells'. It's another piano led song, and almost has a bit of a country sound to it which is in McPhee's musical roots. It's a charming little song, and her all-American sounding voice sounds good over the happy sounding backing track. It isn't my favourite but is pleasant enough to listen to!
Up next is a cover of a little heard track called 'Christmas Is The Time' which was originally sung by American singer Billy Squier. It starts slowly with McPhee singing over a piano, but soon an upbeat backing track kicks in, and it's a great song to sing along too! It's quite vocally demanding in terms of pitch in parts, but McPhee manages it with ease, and her voice sounds so strong even belting out the higher notes, showcasing her talents. I really love this one, and while it isn't a classic sounding Christmas song, it's quickly gotten into my head! This is followed by a stripped down version of two well known Christmas carols, O Little Town of Bethlehem and Away in a Manger. O Little Town kicks off the arrangement, and is again stripped back with McPhee singing over piano and strings. She has immense control over her voice, and is a joy to listen to like this, and you can hear the emotion she puts into singing these beautiful songs, with a twist on the tunes we all know to sing along to. It blends seamlessly into my favourite Carol of all time, Away in a Manger. This is again a lovely arrangement, and manages to stay true to the meaning of the song. The blend of these two songs works perfectly, and it switches between them both as if they were made to be sung together.
Next up is another fun song, this time a cover of a 1947 song by Frank Loesser called 'What Are You Doing New Year's Eve'. I have to be honest and say I hadn't heard this one before I listened to Katharine's version on this album, but it's a fun song and the lyrics are lovely too when you listen to them. Katharine's voice is quite powerful on this one, but I love listening to her sing, she puts so much emotion into it, and it's another track that you will have you tapping your feet and fingers along to the catchy beat. 'White Christmas' is up next, and it's another slow ballad for McPhee. I love the sound of this one, again another jazzy sounding arrangement, and it's such an easy listening song. McPhee's voice lulls perfectly above the music, and it really sticks to the classic interpretation of the song, much like the entire album really. I love this song and its lovely to have on in the background in the evening. The closing track is 'Who Would Imagine A King'. This is another one I hadn't heard before this album, but it's a touching little song, sounding like it is sung from a parent to their child. The lyrics are beautiful, as is McPhee's arrangement, with the soft backing, and McPhee's stunning voice taking centre stage. A gorgeous ending to a beautiful album.
I've listened to this album far too many times considering it's still a good few weeks until Christmas, but it's one of those albums that I know I won't tire of listening to all year round, let alone at Christmas-time. It's an album packed with classic tracks, mixed with a new track, and some older songs you may not have heard of before. What holds it all together perfectly is Katharine McPhee's stunning voice. She doesn't look to overpower the songs, the emotion and the message within them, instead singing them from the heart, and she is a joy to listen to. There's a variety of musical genres in here, but I love how she has left the classics to be sung as we would all expect them to be. Piano and stringed instruments take the lead here, and consequently it's a gorgeous album to have quietly on in the background, or in your car as you're driving, which is where I love to listen to it! If you're at all tempted, I urge you to listen to the clips on Amazon and treat yourself to this delightful Christmas album. Perfect for the upcoming festive season, my must-buy musical album of Christmas 2012
(Look out for McPhee's other Christmas tracks 'O Come All Ye Faithful' and 'It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas' too, both of which I feel should be on this album!)
1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
2. Jingle Bells
3. It's Not Christmas Without You
4. O Holy Night
5. Silver Bells
6. Christmas Is The Time
7. Medley: O Little Town Of Bethlehem/Away In A Manger
8. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve
9. White Christmas
10. Who Would Imagine A King
Currently, the CD is for sale on Amazon.co.uk for £10.86 with the MP3 album available for £6.90, or £6.99 on iTunes. This isn't an album I've ever seen in the shops, so you'll have to rely on buying it online if you wish to do so.
Thank you for reading!