J-Bird Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The more time I've spent listening to Rockapella's music over the past year, the more I'm convinced that these five guys should be much bigger stars than they are. From the power of their last studio album 2 to seeing them perform live in concert in Chicago, they have done nothing but impress me. (Put it this way - I've never had a band's manager apologize to me for the band backing out of an after-show, and Rockapella had a damn good reason to do so. That, my friends, is class personified.)

So you might be surprised, as I was, when I sat down to listen to Christmas, the new holiday CD from Scott Leonard and crew, and found myself feeling a little unimpressed. Fortunately, they quickly do gain their momentum back, and my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Christmas proves itself to be a pleasant album you'll want to add to your collection of holiday music.

Maybe it was the way that Rockapella chose to open the album, by tackling "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" - admittedly, not the most exciting holiday song out there. So, I'm willing to concede that, on this track, they just might have been limited by the source material. But even the original track "The Hope We Hold" isn't able to pull the disc out of the doldrums. (A medley of "Glow Worm" and "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" doesn't help matters.)

Fortunately for Rockapella, Christmas quickly gets back on track after this slow start. Their take on the holiday classic "Silver Bells" reminds the listener just how magical this group can be. A swing-influenced version of "Winter Wonderland," the holiday heartbreaker "Christmas Without You" and special spins on "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" all shine as well.

And then, there is the centerpiece of this disc - the band's take on "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch". (Memo to whoever was responsible for the soundtrack for The Grinch: You really dropped the ball by passing on this track.) Admittedly, I had to adjust to the way that Rockapella attacked this track, only because I'm so ingrained to hearing the version on the television special for 30 years - but once you take this version on its own merits, it quickly reveals itself to be an absolutely fabulous track. True story: we had this on at Thanksgiving, and both my four-year-old daughter and my almost-two-year-old cousin were happily bopping along to it.)

Maybe if the tracks on Christmas had been differently spaced out, the disc would have gotten off to a better start. But even despite the slow start to Christmas, Rockapella prove that they could probably pick up the phone book and turn it into an exciting piece of music.

Christmas is the kind of disc whose true beauty is revealed on repeat listens - and clocking in at under 40 minutes, it's a disc you'll have lots of time to listen to again and again. Every so often, a Christmas album comes out that's destined to become a holiday standard. Even as an imperfect disc, I'd like to think that Christmas is destined to become one of those.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of J-Bird Records, and is used for informational purposes only.