[8 December 2008]
Not your average a capella group, Straight No Chaser are a quirky ten-man ensemble comprised of Indiana University Singing Hoosiers alumni. Known for their fresh reworkings of pop classics, Holiday Spirits applies the fresh reworking formula to stale Christmas leftovers. Things start off promisingly with “12 Days of Christmas” which mingles and then breaks into the melody of Toto’s “Africa” with a spontaneous combustion of the images dancing in these big kids’ heads, merging the ‘80s pop hit with the Christmas classic.
Save for the dectet’s zingy (and flat out awesome) version of “The 12 Days of Christmas”, the punchy “Auld Lang Syne”, and the sentimental “Indiana Christmas”, the rest of Holiday Spirits doesn’t offer much material that differs from your traditional Christmas catalog. While their unaltered, perfectly blended vocals are something to marvel at, as are their fuller-than-a-blue-spruce arrangements with not an instrument in earshot, Holiday Spirits lacks the innovation that Straight No Chaser is more than capable of. While still a great album to spin during the holidays, Holiday Spirits could have been so much more fun if they only took a few more risks, giving these standard carols the same treatment they gave to “The 12 Days of Christmas” and their repertoire of original re-imaginings of pop classics.