Raul Malo makes a bid for his first holiday album to be a timeless affair, to have it mentioned in the same breath with festive albums from crooners of days gone by. With jazzy arrangements supporting him, a winsome tone connecting each of the eleven, seemingly effortless recordings and his signature velvety voice in focus, Malo’s aim is more often than not true. Tracks like the title offering, “Not So Merry Christmas” and “Blue Christmas” are fun and fanciful, sure to find their way onto the soundtrack for many a holiday gathering. The Mavericks’ frontman exhibits just as much reverence and gravity on gorgeous, inspired arrangements of songs like “Silent Night” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (an almost definitive rendering of the song) as whimsy he shows elsewhere. While the album veers off towards its end into trite, overdone territory on the closing trio of “Silver Bells”, “Feliz Navidad”, and a brief, whistling-only version of “Winter Wonderland”, the bulk of the project is too good to ignore. While Malo may not quite have crafted a classic, Marshmallow World deserves a place near the top of Christmas record canon.
// Notes from the Road
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