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Soul Express Album Review

A Christmas Of Love
(US Rhino, 2007)

1) Be Your Santa Claus 2) Party Christmas 3) It's Christmas Again 4) The Christmas Song 5) All I Want For Christmas 6) Once A Year 7) Nothing Like Christmas 8) Point Of Christmas 9) Under The Tree

I was not expecting much from this. I have not purchased a Keith Sweat album since 1996 – and that was purely for the Ron Isley and Roger Troutman inclusions. Fact is, this is a lot more enjoyable than I expected – though not in the same league as the Isleys or Patti Labelle's recent festive offerings. Though into his 40s (he was born in 1961; ed. note), Keith Sweat is still trying to hang with the homeboys BUT is more restrained for this tinsel-edged seasonal effort. The opening cut is very much what we would expect from Mr. Sweat – in fact, it's better than most of his recent fare, and the emphasis here, as with most of the CD is the sexy slow jam with a festive edge. Here he wants to be her Santa Claus. There's many a joke I could pull out here, but I'll leave them back in the 1970s where they belong! LOL. This is not a bad track, but the uptempo effort following this is more of what we can expect by way of appeasing the younger generation – this would be a good song save the silly Chip 'N' Dale backing vocals. Or am I just old and embittered? DON'T answer that!

The sleigh bells are dusted off for the jolly “It's Christmas Again”. I actually think that Keith sounds fantastic on this song. In fact he has probably not sounded as good and original as this in years. There is a Gerald Levert flavour to the melody and the intricate, thoughtful lyrics. This track is very nice indeed. He really excels on the cover of the old chestnut (pun fully intended) “The Christmas Song”. Not up to the standard of the O'Jays 2004 offering but still a very good and quirky version. My personal favourite is the Zapp-ish “All I Want For Christmas”- another excellent vehicle for the real talent that Sweat tends to hide under the histrionics of homeboy bling and swagger. As I said with other recent seasonal offerings – if only the lyrics were not seasonal then this would rate as the best song he has laid down in over a decade.

The Hip-Hoppish “Once A Year” is not too bad either, and the flavour of Zapp comes through nicely. The monotonous female backing harks back to the dreadful days of Mary J Blige (Though she is still churning them out), SWV, Kut Klose and all the rest of their cloned homegirl ilk. “Nothing Like Christmas” is another strong song, and again if only this was not a Christmas song! The Christian take on Christmas is addressed in “Point Of Christmas” atop a bouncier, chunky Hip Hop backbeat. The closing curtain is the stripped down and more traditional “Under The Tree” with synth and piano. Keith vocalises a bit more on here and doesn't sing it straight as he did earlier on in the album which is a pity, but having had so little to say about the gentleman's output recently I think that this CD makes a refreshing pit-stop on a musical journey that is certainly nowhere near complete for Keith Sweat.

As with all Christmas sets – their appeal is time limited and so enjoy them, accept them for what they are and do as the man says – celebrate in love.
- Barry Towler

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