Patti LaBelle - Miss Patti's Christmas (2007)

Patti LaBelle
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In many ways, Patti LaBelle is perfectly suited for a holiday album.  Her voice, at once both traditional and expressive, has enough Gospel in it to make it fit the spiritual nature of the music and enough sass to make it all sound wonderfully contemporary.  And fortunately, legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis bring those elements together on LaBelle's marvelous new holiday album, Miss Patti's Christmas.  Released on Def Soul contemporaneously with the Jam/Lewis-produced holiday album by the Isley Brothers, LaBelle's comes off not only as the more valuable of the two, but as one of the best R&B Christmas albums of the past decade.

In many ways, Patti LaBelle is perfectly suited for a holiday album.  Her voice, at once both traditional and expressive, has enough Gospel in it to make it fit the spiritual nature of the music and enough sass to make it all sound wonderfully contemporary.  And fortunately, legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis bring those elements together on LaBelle's marvelous new holiday album, Miss Patti's Christmas.  Released on Def Soul contemporaneously with the Jam/Lewis-produced holiday album by the Isley Brothers, LaBelle's comes off not only as the more valuable of the two, but as one of the best R&B Christmas albums of the past decade.

Christmas opens notably with "Christmas Jam," a prototypical Jam/Lewis uptempo cut that Patti turns into a joyous dance.  It's the first of four original tracks, each of which shines.  "Holidays Mean More to Me" is a terrific ballad that would work within or outside the holiday season, and "It's Going To Be A Merry Christmas" is the perfect follow-up, a similarly slow track that is lyrically the finest track on the album.  The presence of new material on a Christmas CD is always welcome (and is unfortunately rare in the discs generally being shoveled out at this time of the year) and here it makes all the difference.  But even the covers on Miss Patti's Christmas are strong, with LaBelle appropriately reigning in her theatrics on more traditional tracks like "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and Jam & Lewis providing a completely original backdrop for songs that have been recorded thousands of times.

With the prevalence of quickly assembled, unimaginative holiday discs, it's difficult to find one that is, front-to-back, musically successful and a worthy addition to the artist's discography.  Miss Patti's Christmas is both, and is a true Christmas present for soul music lovers in 2007.

By Chris Rizik

 
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