This year Michael Buble (I haven’t figured out yet how to add an accent mark on WordPress–don’t laugh at me!) released his album Christmas. Because MB is young and about as hip as an old-school crooner can be, and because he doesn’t have a mediocre acting career to rival his discography, he often, unfortunately, overshadows an artist who was making Big Band-style Christmas albums and sounding uncannily like Frank Sinatra long before little Michael came on the scene: Harry Connick, Jr.
Last night I listened, as I do at least once every year, to Harry’s first (and best) Christmas album, When My Heart Finds Christmas. It has sappy moments, as you might guess from the title. It has no logical flow–a funky number about Santa Claus is followed by a solemn, haunting piece about Jesus. But it has fourteen of the greatest Christmas arrangements and originals ever recorded. Here are a few reasons for its greatness:
1. Harry is never reluctant to let the band be the star. On sweeping numbers like “O Holy Night” and “What Child Is This,” there are long sections of orchestration during which our crooner doesn’t get to show off his voice. But Harry is fine with that. This is a band album, not a solo album.
2. He’s also not afraid to–yes–remind us what Christmas is all about. “The Blessed Dawn of Christmas Day,” perhaps my favorite track (though it’s hard to pick), actually contains the line “Jesus died for me.” Most CCM artists don’t even go that far on their Christmas albums!
3. Harry can do funk, not just jazz and classical fare. “I Pray on Christmas” and “Must Have Been Ol’ Santa Claus” break out of the smooth, Sinatra/Buble-style mold and reveal Connick’s New Orleans roots.
Ok, I’m not a music critic, but trust me: it’s an album worth listening to.