Music truly creates an atmosphere and Christmas music is no exception. Christmas probably wouldn’t seem like Christmas unless there was some sort of carol playing in the background. Some people begin blowing the dust off their Christmas cassettes and CDs as early as October. To some, Christmas music truly makes the holiday.
In celebration of the season, Oprah announced on Wednesday’s Favorite Things for 2008 show that she would be offering the Holiday Hits 2008 music compilation on her website. A holiday mix featuring some of the biggest names in the music business, the tracks are a wonderful mix of jazz and traditional that will keep you on your toes as you decorate for the holiday.
The mix begins with a rousing traditional composition of Joy to the World by Faith Hill. I have to admit, I have strayed away from Hill in recent years due to her dependence on the pop scene. However in this song, she lets all the stops out, singing merrily and beautifully in such a way that you can’t help but be impressed.
The mood continues with Tony Bennett’s toe-tapping rendition of I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Full of piano solos and backed by a wonderful band, Bennett makes you feel as though you should be in a dimly lit downtown lounge sipping on eggnog and dressed to kill.
The mix falls back to tradition with multinational operatic group Il Divo’s O Holy Night. The four men, who hail from Spain, Switzerland, France and the United States, come together in a heartbreakingly beautiful live performance of the classic carol.
Opera favorite Josh Groban is next up in the mix, singing It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. Though one would expect Groban to follow the more traditional route, the carol is smoothly sung, a mellow mix between classic and modern. One of the high points of the song is just hearing Groban’s harmonization (with himself), bringing out the somber, but joyful aspects of the song’s lyrics.
The music picks up again with Brian McKnight singing a jazz version of It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. McKnight’s voice dances easily up and down the score and his band easily keeps up. The combination of both make all those slick musical runs and saxophone solos sound ridiculously easy.
Following is the classic Christmas favorite Amy Grant lending her vocal talent to O Come All Ye Faithful. The song is more traditional than many in the mix. Backed up by only a guitar and occasionally a choir, Grant’s warm and clear voice reminds us that there are too few singers like her these days.
Of course, what sort of Christmas mix would this be if it didn’t include Harry Connick Jr. Singing It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Connick Jr. sings along with a fairly mellow arrangement, backed up by a small band and his ever-present piano. It’s a classic rendition of the song and serves as a great last hurrah before the mix ends.
Aretha Franklin rounds out the mix with Silent Night, singing it as only Aretha can. Heartfelt and powerful, her voice rises and falls effortlessly throughout the piece. It’s a wonderful end to the mix.
If you aren’t in the Christmas mood by the end of the CD, chances are you may need to get another glass of eggnog, put your feet up and take another listen.
The eight songs will be available to download for free on Oprah’s website for the next 48 hours.
Holiday Hits 2008, Oprah.com