O'Jays - Christmas with the O'Jays (2010)

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Yes, it's that time of year again. It seems like retailers have barely put the Halloween decorations and costumes on sale when they start cranking out all things Christmas, and before you know it, you've heard enough variations of the same tried-and-true holiday classics while you shop to recite them as you sleep. It's been almost 20 years since The O'Jays have released a full-length CD focusing on this time of year, and for some, Christmas with the O'Jays will be worth the listen.

Credited to the group but actually performed by the duo of Walter Williams and Eddie Levert Sr., Christmas....is smoothly produced and offers ten tunes, eight traditional ones and two new compositions. "What Child Is This (Greensleeves)" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" are arranged nimbly and delivered reverently, while "Oh, Holy Night" is given a mid-tempo stride.

Yes, it's that time of year again. It seems like retailers have barely put the Halloween decorations and costumes on sale when they start cranking out all things Christmas, and before you know it, you've heard enough variations of the same tried-and-true holiday classics while you shop to recite them as you sleep. It's been almost 20 years since The O'Jays have released a full-length CD focusing on this time of year, and for some, Christmas with the O'Jays will be worth the listen.

Credited to the group but actually performed by the duo of Walter Williams and Eddie Levert Sr., Christmas....is smoothly produced and offers ten tunes, eight traditional ones and two new compositions. "What Child Is This (Greensleeves)" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" are arranged nimbly and delivered reverently, while "Oh, Holy Night" is given a mid-tempo stride. It may take people by surprise to hear "All you steppers out there, get on the floor/step, step, step with the Christmas spirit" at the beginning of "Jingle Bells," but its interpretation is a fresh one and one of the most enjoyable tracks on the CD. "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" takes fans back to the 70s, thanks to its caressing ballad feel and spoken "rap" intertwined within the classic verses.

As for the original songs, they are as pretty far from regular Christmas fare as they can get: " ‘Cause It's Christmas" has a jumped-up swing-jazz infusion, with lyrics that focus on, well, the joys of fooling around during that special time of year (alrighty then!).  "I'm What You Want This Christmas" is half boudoir-ready and half bragging, telling some lonesome lady that he should be at the top of her list because he "don't need no batteries, it's unbreakable" and that "satisfaction is guaranteed." Guess there's nothing wrong with a recession-proof gift that keeps on giving, right?

With such legendary voices at work, it's hard to believe that there are flaws to be found, but they do exist and cannot be overlooked: Mr. Levert's baritone is still full-bodied, but is downright craggy in places, and both he and Mr. Williams seem to be dragging out the verses in an effort to add more soul ("Silent Night") or singing at a different pace from the track arrangement altogether ("Joy To the World"). These quirks certainly detract from the listening experience, but fans who have been following the O'Jays for years will forgive those slights, find comfort in their familiar soul stylings and enjoy what is otherwise a solid (if not quite spectacular) holiday CD.

Notable Tracks: "Jingle Bells,""What Child Is This (greensleeves)," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"

Vocals: 3.0
Lyrics (for non-traditional fare): 3.0
Music: 3.5
Production: 4.0
SoulTracks call: Mildly recommended

By Melody Charles

 
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