A few of the songs on Jewel’s new Christmas offering, Joy: A Holiday Collection, are wonderful. Just like Jewel’s early work, they’re cute and fun.
A few songs get an “A” for effort for doing a decent job of re-arranging Christmas standards, but a “C” overall, just because they don’t do anything overly fantastic.
Then there are those songs that make Jewel sound like she’s the woman at church on Christmas Eve who gets to sing because her family has been attending the church for over 50 years, not because she has the range or musical sense to sing the particular tune. Those tracks suck.
Let’s focus on the good first. “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Jewel’s duet with her mother Nedra Carroll is great. If you caught that VH1 special of hers about two years ago, you may have seen her perform it. Theoretically, if Mr. Grinch and Ebeneezer Scrooge ever had a child, this song would be just quirky enough to bring a great big smile to his or her face, and hence, save Christmas. Theoretically, of course.
Her version of “Winter Wonderland” contains an odd cross of yodeling and scatting, along with some great steel guitar playing. It’s a highlight of the upbeat tracks. Another one of Jewel’s duets with her mom, “I Wonder As I Wander,” is almost angelic.
Now let’s get to the bad tracks. They don’t ruin the album, but they definitely make you want to turn it off. On “Ave Maria,” Jewel does her best Suzie Kane impression, as her voice seems strained, out of range, and under-trained for this operatic experience. Her “Christmas Version” of “Hands,” incorrectly assumes that when you add chimes and a children’s choir to any song, you’ve turned it into a Christmas song. Guess what? It’s still the same damned song.
As a whole, this album is a decent Jewel album, and a pretty good Christmas album. Jewel fans don’t need it, but if you get a kick out of slightly more acoustic guitar-based arrangements of Christmas tunes, you might want to give this a listen.
// Notes from the Road
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