Thursday, December 8, 2016

Merry Christmas from Jackie Wilson

Last time I reviewed Elvis, this time I'm doing the guy who Elvis called the Black Elvis. With that being said, this is Jackie Wilson's sole Christmas album from 1963. Now unlike the James Brown Christmas this is all covers, and while I love Jackie, I don't know if this'll hold up. I have heard a song or two from the album here or there, but front to back... That's a whole different story. Let's delve into my second of four, possibly five, Christmas review(s). Note: of the 12 tracks here 5 are in common with the Sinatra Christmas. The album was conducted by two guys, Dick Jacobs (1-3, 6, 8, 9) and Alan Lorber (4, 5, 7, 10-12)
  1. Silent Night: Ah we meet once again.This is a very chill version, that I think honestly works well. There is a white noise in the version I hear, but if that was cut it'd be perfect. The bells really work in this arrangement, and I honestly think this is what helps a bit. Or at least adds to it for me. I love the organ and the chorus sound great. I also like that guitar you hear towards the ending. The arrangement is great, though I wish I could hear all of the instruments. Strings might have helped.
  2. White Christmas: I think I've grown to find humor in this track. Probably because of Uncle Bernie's Farm, but this rendition isn't half bad. I like that organ, and the swells in the track take up a lot of the white noise that was in the last track. I feel like his vocals were recorded over the track, there is a distance, but the piano sounds good when you hear it.
  3. O Holy Night (Cantique de Noël): This is a standard version of the song. But the vocals are great and you feel Jackie singing in it.This isn't the These Arms of Mine. I do kind of wish they went into a gospel feeling though, like. "Oh night de------ vine!" he holds the "ine" and the backing section turns to a gospel choir type song like The Jefferson Theme. You know what I mean? I think it'd be a nice touch.
  4. The First Noel: I also think this is a standard arrangement. Nothing to crazy here, but there is something endearing about the monologue. I mean, I don't know, I like his delivery. And he gives a solid vocal performance.
  5. Deck the Halls:  I don't know how this will go over, honestly I was a bit nervous. Not that I doubt him, but you never know. And if I'm being honest, this is too light. Also it just doesn't feel like Jackie fits. I kind of can say this when you turn a rock song into a soul song and don't do it properly. You know, if you go on a covers website, look up your favorite soul/jazz artist and they do a cover of a Beatles or folk tune and the arrangement doesn't work. You end up with a sort of "this is...... kinda good? right?" feeling. Billy Paul's Magic Carpet Ride for example.
  6. Silver Bells: I never cared for this sing. It is kind if stupid if I'm being honest. This has this sort of Felice Navi Dad feeling to it in the response to the "ring a ling" lyrics. This isn't a terrible version, but I don't think it really works perfect. Like it has it's short comings I guess. But I also don't like this song either in general. So that could also affect my outlook.
  7. Joy to the World: You know this song, and nothing new is here. I like the guitar strumming you can hear, and I like the timpani and the backing vocals. The triangle is nice too. I wonder if his vocals weren't meant for this song. Like I feel like this is a bit of a nightmare, but like it's not his fault.
  8. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear: So this track, while not done particularly crazy or different or even new... Works. How you say? Jackie has a great voice and he just oozes charisma. I do actually like this, and it works quite well. The tremolo strings actually work very well and I think he sounds like he fits on this track.
  9. Adeste Fideles: Sinatra, did it first. Honestly, I like the church feeling of this song. I just feel the vocals need to be much larger, he sounds like he is in front of the mic and everyone else is in the other room singing into the same mic. There aren't enough swells and it isn't powerful enough for me to feel anything really. The second verse should get larger and add other things, and the way he says "given" sounds weird. I do like this rendition, I just feel it's to bare. But I like it well. And that last note sung, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Kind of indecisive.
  10. I'll Be Home for Christmas: Fuck this song, but whatever. This has a nice shuffle feeling to it, but the damning thing about that is I wanna hear solos. It's almost like a sequence, for me. Not that it is one, but how it takes you from one thing to another.
  11. O Little Town of Bethlehem: This is just okay, this doesn't do much for me. It's nice, but I've heard it before I guess. Like nothing that new is added. It's not that compelling.
  12. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen: Hey, guess what. Next we have one Jimmy Smith who plays a fucking killer version of this track. Like in the next review, not on this track. I do like the harpsichord, it's a nice addition. But I wanna make a suggestion, instead of the bells why not add timpani or a percussion instrument that is a bit more eastern.
Overall I have to give this album a 6/10. There is a sort of soul-jazz feeling through out, like I'd heard on Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Smith and so on. It's very hard to breathe new life in these songs, especially now. While this isn't mind blowing, I gotta say it's more enjoyable than most other albums that cover this music. Well at parts at least. His voice also helps the album a lot. Don't get me wrong, but there are moments I felt, this is a Ain't that Good News Christmas nightmare isn't this. I guess I think the biggest disappointment was two things. He's great, so I can't imagine him not making at least a 7 or 8. Second, I feel like this soul jazz/vocal jazz christmas thing would work phenomenal. I guess it sound be revisited another day maybe. Also I wanna have a shout out to "Awaken, My Love!". I can't believe how much I'm digging this thing.

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