[1 December 2008]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Rahsaan Patterson explores all facets about the Christmas holiday on The Ultimate Gift. Like the trajectory of Patterson’s Wines and Spirits (2007), it has an emotional arch that begins spiritedly, turns contemplative and somewhat saturnine, then blazes a felicitous path towards joy.
With producers Jamey Jaz and Keith Crouch, Patterson wraps the songs in eleven ornately designed packages of melodies, rhythms, and rhymes. Van Hunt teams up for “Christmas At My House”, a spicy libation of club-based elements whose taste is more flavorful than a double serving of eggnog. Patterson dips into Christmas past to put his signature on Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” while decorating “Little Drummer Boy” with a bevy of colorful vocal and instrumental phrasing.
Surrounding the merriment is a pair of songs that transcend mistletoe and garland. For some, Christmas is the loneliest day of the year, a fact that infuses the mournful “That First Christmas”. On the title track, Patterson wishes for the eradication of racism, injustice, greed, hate, war, hunger and homelessness and the gifts of peace and healing to be spread around the world. Both “The Ultimate Gift” and “That First Christmas” add a truthful dimension to the dominant image of Christmas as a snow globe diorama.
Consistent throughout the eleven tracks is the always-superb musicality of Rahsaan Patterson, ensuring thatThe Ultimate Gift is one of the few Christmas albums you can play well beyond December 25. Me? I’ll be spinning “Christmas at My House” in August.