A Mary Christmas

Mary J. Blige

Verve, 2013

http://www.maryjblige.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/24/2013

As another festive season is upon us, so is the endless gift shopping and general hustle and bustle of trying to achieve pretty much anything in time to actually enjoy the holiday itself. While out and about doing that very testing gift shop trip, I couldn’t resist dropping into one of those rare stores that still sell CDs to check out this year’s Christmas albums for fun. Fun or not, when I saw that MJB had dropped one on us, my wallet was out of my pocket faster than…can’t think of an appropriate analogy here because my brain is fried.

Anyway, it was fast because I love Mary J. and have for the best part of twenty years now; knowing that her work is nearly always of great quality, I purchased this disc with a confidence (something that was not there a couple of years back when I picked up Dylan’s Xmas treat). I’m happy to report that my confidence was well rewarded because as far as Christmas albums go, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 A Mary Christmas is one the best I have heard in a very long time. Yes, these sorts ofa lbums will always be slightly naff because carols are slightly naff, so the trick to recording a successful album of carols is the song selection – you get that right and half the battle is won right there.

MJB got that right (for the most part). Another stroke of genius was getting David Foster to produce for her because, let’s face it, this kind of stuff is right up that dude’s alley. The overall vibe is Christmas-y enough but also has that smooth R&B emphasis on the groove, which is a trademark of MJB’s. Her singing throughout the set here is simply beautiful and like everything else she does, it comes straight from the heart; it’s hard not to be charmed by that.

There are a few guests on call here who contributed to the proceedings, and they don’t come bigger than Barbra Streisand, who duets on a lovely version of “When You Wish Upon A Star.” Granted, that is not a carol, but it fits so well with the carols here and Babs’ voice is just incredible. Mary holds her own, but boy, that was a brave move. Jessie J guests on “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and as nice as it is, Mary should have kept it for herself because she nails it.

The Clark Sisters and Marc Anthony drop in, too but those tracks – “The First Noel” and “Noche De Paz (Silent Night),” respectively – are nice but hardly essential. But the first half of the disc is superb, from the opener “Little Drummer Boy” to the album’s true gem “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Another standout is the surprise inclusion of “My Favorite Things,” which again fits the atmosphere so well and Blige does a stellar job with this one too.

Overall, A Mary Christmas is a very pleasing effort and would make even a casual MJB fan happy to own.  For us fanatics though, it’s a must have.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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