Soulful Christmas
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Uncle’s Critique

4 out of 5 party cups

For some of you who don’t know, Uncle is a huge John Legend fan. He gained my loyalty upon the release his debut album Get Lifted. Needless to say, I got super excited when it was reported that he’d be releasing a Christmas album. I know, I know you are probably saying “ugh, not a Christmas album” or “who wants to listen to John Legend singing carols.” Well in the words of Littler Richard, SHUT UP!

I’ll be the first to admit that over the years we have been inundated with countless Christmas albums from various artists of all genres.  Most songs are recycled and produced to give a different flare on a classic. Let’s be honest, how many times can one make Jingle Bells sound hot.  But you know what, it doesn’t matter because it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  The magic of Christmas tends to make us more tolerant, cheerful and jolly.  And since it only comes ‘round once a year, why not embrace new Christmas music even if we know all the lyrics. 

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A Legendary Christmas is a 14-track holiday album which consists of classic numbers we have come to love and 6 original tracks written by John and other notable Grammy award winning songwriters such as Dan Wilson, Meghan Trainor, and Raphael Saadiq. The album puts us in the Christmas spirit by opening with a Stevie Wonder staple, What Christmas Means to Me. John’s approach doesn’t veer too much from the original version however he enhances it with a more prominent horn section. Before the close of the song, Stevie graces us with his presence not with vocals but his matchless harmonica skills.

John’s soulful-upbeat approach to Silver Bells will have you grooving in the kitchen while whipping up your famous pecan pie or putting the finishing touches on that macaroni and cheese.  Jazz princess Esperanza Spalding lends her talent to Have Yourself a Merry Christmas. The marrying of these unique voices is sweet and endearing. Grab your favorite guy or gal and hit the dance floor as this song plays in the background of your company holiday party.

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In the mood for the blues, then skip to Merry Christmas Baby/Give Love on Christmas Day. It starts out solemn yet silky but the beat drops and it immediately gives me juke joint and free flowing moonshine vibes. The organ, saxophone and the background singers had me swaying and snapping my fingers like I was a part of the Ikettes. I was a little disappointed when John incorporated Give Love on Christmas Day near the end of the track.  It felt like an afterthought and didn’t mesh well together.  In my opinion, it was an unnecessary pairing.  Another track John could have kept was Purple Snowflakes. I’ve never really been a fan of this song but I will say I like his rendition better than Marvin Gaye’s.

The original songs are not to be slept on.  The intro of No Place Like Home reminds me of The O’Jays’ song, Family Reunion. It’s fitting given the nature of the song which exclaims the feeling that Christmas times brings when you are with the ones you love.  Feel good music at its best. The musicians are consistently on point during the entire album.  Real R&B is exemplified on Bring Love.  One of my favorites from this album is Wrap Me Up in Your Love. It’s a sexy Christmas groove.  Yes, sexy and Christmas can go together.  Why not?

Laying aside all bias, A Legendary Christmas is an album worth adding to your collection.  John does the classics just right without adding a bunch of fluff which takes away from the essence of the lyrical content. He will get high marks from me for not sliding in the Donnie Hathaway hit This Christmas. Y’all, Uncle is so tired of people butchering this song and I am applaud John for not attempting. The new tracks are a great balance as well.

Other standouts include: Merry Merry Christmas, Please Come Home for Christmas and The Christmas Song

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By the way, if you are a true John Legend fan, you’ll be glad to know that this album will be followed by A Legendary Christmas tour which kicks off November 15th. Click the button below for a full list of cities.

Merry Christmas nieces and nephews!