Sunday, December 24, 2017

Michael Bolton-This Is the Time: The Christmas Album (1996)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: December 24, 2017

While I've been gathering up my collection of albums by one of the greatest and most iconic voices in adult contemporary popular music, it occurred to me that I didn't exactly recall when I last heard his first holiday album, if I'd even heard it before at all. So I made plans to treat myself to Michael's "This Is the Time: The Christmas Album" while I began getting my Christmas Eve morning started. Already one of my personal favorites from the traditional catalog is found on the opening slot: "Silent Night". No matter how many times I've heard this, I can never get enough of hearing the familiar 'silent night, holy night.....sleep in heavenly peace', and the man who's always demonstrated superb excellence in covering old classics delivers a ringing rendition of this one as well. And something in his rising voice is especially piercing to the heart when he's delivering the lyrics here. Then right after has gotta be one of the most festive and exhilarating rockin' remakes of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" that I've ever heard; it just makes me come alive! One thing I expect to hear on holiday releases by these soulful music legends is at least one or two majestic, elegantly-produced operatic offerings. Michael's orchestra-led performance with Placido Domingo on his take of "Ave Maria" stands as one of them; another is his dreamy and vocally-stunning take on "White Christmas". A pair of other personal traditional favorites get the pop music treatment: "O Holy Night" (well, more so on the soft rock side, that familiar refined sound that I'm accustomed to hearing in many of Michael's songs recored back in mid-90's) and "Joy To The World", which is instantly captivating with his soaring voice delivering the first verse amidst the quiet chords of church organ and piano, but then explodes into a powerful celebration with the church choir taking over the rest of the way (and I like when they break off with their own revamped reinterpretation of the original lyrics—'joy to the world, joy, and let heaven and nature sing'—in the later movements). Along with these Christmas covers are a couple of treats at the end that I believe are Michael Bolton originals: the title track itself, which is a moving masterpiece performed with country star Wynonna Judd, and "Love Is The Power", which is an ideal listen at any moment of the year:

1. Silent Night
2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
4. Joy To The World
5. Ave Maria (with Placido Domingo)
6. The Christmas Song
7. O Holy Night
8. White Christmas
9. This Is The Time (with Wynonna)
10. Love Is The Power

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