October 16, 2008
” width=”160″ height=”160″ />George Strait
By now, we all know that George Strait’s Classic Christmas is a re-release of his Christmas album, Fresh Cut Christmas, which was exclusively sold through Hallmark stores in 2006. Despite the exclusion of all other retail outlets, it still went platinum within the first week of its release. So, it stands to reason that such a successful Christmas project would finally be made available to everyone.
While his first two Christmas offerings, Merry Christmas Strait To You (1995) and Merry Christmas Wherever You Are (2002), were quality projects, both albums have the mark of dated productions that hold them back from timeless status by reflecting the popular sounds of the time periods in which they were made. Classic Christmas, however, manages to avoid such influences and takes a more organic approach. Instead of the big band or orchestral arrangements that are typically associated with Christmas music, Strait adapts the classic Christmas carols to more relaxed acoustic based productions with a traditional country flavor. Moreover, Strait sings these well known classics with a good mix of ease and festiveness.
Although this album feels relatively short, Strait covers ten of the major classics. The songs are evenly split between slow and up-tempo. The slower songs are sung in a laid back, but engaged manner. Songs like “Silent Night, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” are sung with appropriate sensitivity. The faster songs like “Joy To The World”, “Deck The Halls”, “Jingle Bells” display a looser George Strait than we’re accustomed to hearing from the normally reserved artist. In particular, he lets out hearty “ho, ho, hos” throughout “Up On The Housetop.” While the other up-tempo numbers may not be quite as energetic, they are still compelling.
Classic Christmas is a relaxed, refreshing affair that will most certainly still sound relevant twenty years from now. It is a ten track album that is tastefully produced with gentle, traditional instrumentation and warm vocals. Most importantly, it showcases a man who sings as though he truly partakes of the Christmas Spirit.