So I told the back story on this one last post. In case you missed it, I got it from Hallmark in 2004 or 05 on sale when I bought three cards. A bit of research reveals that the album was re-released a couple years later with a couple of changes to the track list. I'll admit I was jealous when I read about the changes--they replaced "Deck the Halls" with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." But it's altogether possible that I'd be upset with that rendition, so perhaps it's for the best that I've got the "Deck the Halls" version of the album. Here's what else I'll tell you about James Taylor in general: first, I'm a big-time fan. Huge. But my experience with his live album is similar to what's going on with this Christmas album. James Taylor is not afraid to sing his own songs in a completely different way, so it's not surprising that he doesn't mind taking a traditional carol and mixing it up. You'll see how that works out for him in the track-by-track.
So here it goes:
1. "Winter Wonderland" I have lots of versions of this song. This one sounds like a James Taylor song. I'm not being facetious . . . it just completely sounds like a song James Taylor would sing, and there's some good piano here.
2. "Go Tell It on the Mountain" I didn't know until I was an adult that this is a Christmas song. I really think the Baptist church that had joint custody of me as a kid used to sing it year-round. Plus the Harding University Chorus used to sing it regularly. But it is about Baby Jesus, so apparently, it is a Christmas song. And this is the only version of it that I own, and it's really good. James Taylor is a mellow good time.
3. "In the Bleak Midwinter" Apparently this song has been around for a long time, but I didn't know it before James Taylor taught it to me. I'll admit that when I first got this album, I thought this song was lame, but it has certainly grown on me, and the words (written in the 1800s by British poet Christina Rossetti) are beautiful.
4. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" I don't know that I'd ever heard this song before owning this cd either. Now it's everywhere in my life, but it started here. Natalie Cole is the girl, but unfortunately for the joke I'd like to make, James Taylor is not one of her dad's dead old friends. Fun song.
5. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" It is a matter of public record that I prefer a Springsteen-style, rocking version of this song, but James Taylor can do no wrong.
6. "Jingle Bells" I need to talk about this song in context of another James Taylor song. The first JT album that I owned was his Greatest Hits album. The last song on that disk is "Steamroller Blues," and it took me years of owning that cd before I could like that song at all. I'm not really a blues sorta girl, I guess. Then when I got his live album, it was on there and sounded significantly different, and it bothered me that it wasn't like the one I was used to. Listening to this "Jingle Bells" is sorta like that. It's bluesy and with a sort of improvisational feel. It's unsettling.
7. "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" Except for wishing a Merry Christmas to kids from one to 102 (a ten year improvement over most people's versions), it's basically a standard version. Pretty good stuff.
8. "Deck the Halls" Not a huge fan of this song, but this is a nice rendition of it. Very mellow.
9. "Some Children See Him" Like the "Bleak Midwinter" before it, I had some major reservations about this song in the beginning. It's about how different colored-children see Jesus in a way that's just like them. And it's interesting and kind of pretty.
10. "Who Comes This Night" I didn't know this song before owning this cd, and it's another Baby Jesus song. It's very JT-ish. I'm glad I know it now.
11. "Auld Lang Syne" Though not a Christmas song, this is a very welcome addition to my Christmas soundtrack. And as the last track, it's a fitting benediction to end the album.
I'm feeling like my buddy James got a bit short-changed. I like this album quite a lot, and it has several songs I wouldn't have otherwise. There are no stand-out knock-you-down spectacular ones, but it's solid and special and overall very peaceful. And there's something to be said for peaceful.
I'm going to try and get the last actual cd written up today, and then there's just the digital stuff left. Remind me never to start an eleven-part series on a deadline ever again.