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The Classic Christmas Album

Earth, Wind & Fire

Legacy 2015

Review by David Bowling

 

Literally thousands of musicians have released Christmas albums during the last 50 years. They have included country, rock, pop, easy listening, and jazz artists but perhaps one of the most unique holiday releases is The Classic Christmas Album by the rhythm & blues and funk band Earth, Wind, & Fire.

Earth, Wind & Fire was formed in 1969 and while a dozen or so musicians have performed with the band, they have remained relevant and commercially successful for nearly a half-century, selling tens-of-millions of albums and continually crossing over onto the mainstream pop charts. Songs such as “After The Love Has Gone,” “Shining Star,” “Got To Get You Into My Life,” “September,” and “Boogie Wonderland” have become a part of the American musical landscape while propelling the band into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Given their musical niche, a Christmas album could have been a disaster; but they wisely do not just play the songs but rather adapt the material to their style, which makes all the difference.

The traditional hymns are more of a stretch for the band. “Joy To The World,” “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away In A Manger,” and “The First Noel” center around the vocals rather than the rhythms. On the other hand, “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “and “Sleigh Ride” return the band to the funky rhythms that made them famous.

There are also a number of original compositions, and while they may not be eternal holiday fare, they are a lot of fun. “Get Your Hump On For Christmas” is not for the fire place on Christmas Eve but is fine for the holiday dance floor. “December” and “Gather Round” have a more sophisticated approach and are fine additions to the holiday catalogue of sounds.

Earth, Wind & Fire took a chance by creating an album of Christmas music. Instead of taking the safe route, they travel in some unexpected directions and create a minor masterpiece. Everyone needs a little funk in their Christmas season.

 

Rating: ****

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