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PATTI LaBELLE
Miss Patti's Christmas
(US Def Soul, 2007)

1) Christmas Jam 2) Itís The Most Wonderful Time Of Year 3) What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas? 4) Holidays Mean More To Me 5) Itís Going To Be A Merry Christmas 6) Do You Hear What I Hear 7) Nativity 8) Jesus, Oh What A Wonderful Child (with the Original Soul Seekers) 9) Every Year, Every Christmas 10) Away In A Manger

Def Soul's second seasonal release is from Patti LaBelle. I have always loved Patti LaBelle, and love her voice. She is an international treasure and, vocally, a force to counter Gaia itself. I still think that this Lady is an untapped resource. I feel that apart from Dexter Wansel and Burt Bacharach the Lady's real potential has yet to be tapped. However, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis do a very sterling job on this set of traditional, and down-right funky yuletide servings. If forced to compare this and the Isleys set, I would say this was definitely the weaker of the two. I say that for personal reasons in that the Isley set is more fun, and this set appeals more to the religious listener - as you won't be surprised about. Musically, though, this surpasses most of the weak material that the Lady has had to contend with these past years. If only she would have such classy and soulful arrangements on her mainstay releases!

Jam and Lewis are not averse to a good Christmas tune. Their work with Alexander O'Neal on his "My Gift To You" set from 1988 is still played regularly in my house every year, and the following decade's outings with the Sounds Of Blackness heralded great things with "Soul Holidays". If you love that, then I highly suspect that you will love the first song on offer, "Christmas Jam". This is fun, seasonal and a classic slice of Jam and Lewis. The hook is catchier than a piece of Velcro! Indeed, for funky value you can have "Nativity", which makes me chuckle. It's a clonking, stonking slab of Jam and Lewis hip hop soul that takes some getting used to but is thoroughly modern yet entertaining. If this is too modern then you should really appreciate the more traditional and beautifully orchestrated "Do You Hear What I Hear?", "Holidays Mean More To Me" and "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of Year". "Every Year, Every Christmas" is a melancholy effort, with the song ending with a lovely dedication to the one and only Luther Vandross. Oh, how I miss him.

The song "What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas" elicited the immediate response "Pull their own cracker" from me (Don't look at me like that! It's not my fault you have a smutty imagination!) There is, however, a KILLER on here that makes the hair on my arms stand up. Forget the lyrics if you need to, just soak up the music. This is just breathtaking. It's a gentle, finger-clicking affair with plenty of timbales, tinkling ivories and lashings of strings. I'd go as far as saying this was the best thing Patti has laid down since "Show Was On The Other Foot" back in 1997. I will definitely be spinning this CD over the festive season, must to the pleasure of the children who love "Christmas Jam"!
- Barry Towler

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