Christmas has come early, a full two months early. Very premature for someone who likes to keep Christmas well and truly within the month of December. So here I am, confronted with the task of reviewing an album of Christmas music in October. Only for David. This album does a good job, in general, of capturing the spirit of Christmas, with songs that express both the spiritual side and the traditional side of the holiday. This album is truly Christmas, from the heart. Christmas CDs are a very common and easy way for an artist and label to make money. Some artists are more suited to it than others, but this traditional style definitely suits David’s voice. The music fits him like a glove, and allows David to explore a more traditional vocal style than his pop ventures have permitted.
The first half of the CD is filled with “ye olde classics” such as Joy to the World, Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful arranged with orchestrated classical strings and a prom style performance. The second half ventures more into a cut back, groovier take on Christmas songs featuring more modern and unusual Christmas tunes. There is a nice variation between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, and the lavish and the restrained. Christmas From the Heart is a fantastically balanced album truly possessing something for everyone.
Each track has its own moments of vocal magic. Silent Night demonstrates that soft fuzzy quality to his voice better than any other song I have heard him sing, whilst O Holy Night and Ave Maria enable David to take the bull by the horns and belt. David manages to capture the spiritual heart of each song so wonderfully, enhancing the beauty of Silent Night and elevating the joy in The First Noel, to name just a couple of songs. Joy to the World lets David put his take on a very traditional Christmas tune and inject some big vocals. O Holy Night gradually ascends into an epic collision of beautiful melody and David’s voice, accompanied by a full orchestra. This is a track not for the faint of heart. Truly epic.
Towards the latter end of the CD we encounter some more unusual songs with a more modern sound. Two personal highlights of the album include Pat a Pan, a rather unexpected pleasure, and Riu Riu Chiu. The former includes a snippet of French and the latter is sung entirely in Spanish. Pat a Pan begins with a cheeky little melody but emerges into a grooving soft rock song with some superb dramatic string work and an energetic chord progression. Riu Riu Chiu plays off a simple melodic hook but continues to build to an absolutely superb climax. Spanish is such a wonderful language and David performs this song with strong emotion and understanding.
A jazzy duet with Charice Pempengco, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, sits as a highlight of the album. David has a chance to display his wonderful blues/soul intuition. The two voices blend wonderfully, and Charice shows tasteful restraint. Not quite sure why, but memories of Aladdin and Jasmine spring to mind when listening to this song. Maybe A Whole New World should be next on the list?! Haha.
Ave Maria is one of the most commonly covered songs ever sung. It has been performed by the truly, truly great, and thus is subject to critical comparisons. It has the ability to pack a powerful spiritual punch but must be executed to perfection in order to do so. David’s vocal performance on this track is nothing short of a masterpiece. At 18 years of age? What can you say, really?
The final track on the album is an original song, Melodies of Christmas. This song is the link the between the debut album and the current CD. The radio beat and simple hook make this track the best one to represent the album. Overall, I like the song. It has a decent melody and chord progression. It gets a little hectic towards the end and the lyrics are a little cheesy but hey, it’s Christmas, so maybe in December I’ll be able to let that pass. David brings an uplifting sense to this song, which I think will go down well when the time is right.
The album ticks a lot of boxes here. Vocally, I think the album is a masterpiece and I haven’t heard a major label commercial release with awesome singing for a very long time. One major box I felt was un-ticked by the first album was the production value. In an earlier review, I raised major concerns with the sound, cohesion and direction of the production of the first CD, but I feel this album is a huge step forward. I was fearful that the orchestras would sound tacky, but was surprised at the lavish sound. David’s voice sounds pure and the arrangements are, with a few exceptions, tasteful yet powerful.
There is something here for everyone. Some will enjoy the more traditional and orchestrated sound, and others will take more of a shine to the stripped-back modern stuff. Leaving the merits of the concept aside, the album delivers in the quality. Christmas songs may not be what everyone wants David to do, but in terms of quality, the album merits itself as a very worthy Christmas album. David is growing, you can hear it both technically (Ave Maria’s climax note) and also stylistically (I’ll Be Home for Christmas). The future is looking brighter and brighter and the journey is still young, but I can say for sure – this is a very strong stepping stone along David’s path.
(For those few people who don’t know him, chenson is a college student studying music, and lives in the south of England. He has hopes of becoming a session musician and writer, and has followed David pretty much since week one of AI.)