Having gone through my teenage years in the '80s, I am no stranger to the music of Darryl Hall and John Oates. In many ways, they are a very large part of the soundtrack to many of my fondest memories of family and friends.
So, when the opportunity presented itself for me to give their new holiday record, entitled Home for Christmas, a review, I eagerly volunteered. Of course, while doing so, I did not, as many filthy allegations may contend, hum the chorus to “Maneater” over and over again.
Here then, are my thoughts on the songs from Home for Christmas:
“Overture / The First Noel” – Strings start this album off on the right foot; a lazy yet beautiful give and take that eventually blends into a lovely harmony that is the beginnings of the well known song “The First Noel.” From behind these opening strings, you eventually hear the more typical instruments, which one expects on a Hall and Oates album, stretch out and find their place in the melody.
That’s when Hall’s voice floats out of the ether and into the mix. Accompanying his voice is a lovely chorus of voices chanting “Noel” with a decidedly gospel flair. This is the point where the song truly begins. This soulful gospel song is the perfect opening to the album.
“It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” – An acoustic guitar and Hall’s voice start this song off, and for nearly a minute, they seem to be all the song could ever need. Then, the soft strings and other instruments begin to flow in.
It’s such a simple song, and yet its purity makes it so achingly lovely.
“No Child Should Every Cry On Christmas” – Once again strings set off a song, only to roll away at the kick of the drum and guitar licks. It’s an effective opening, and sets off a song that is more than amply served by the lead vocals of Oates. As this is an original composition of his, that seems only fitting.
A very, very solid song.
“Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday” – Soft and beautiful, this is the first song that begins simply with the musicians already grooving together. The same goes for the vocals, which begin with the chorus only to slowly dissolve away into Hall’s voice.
I’m sitting here wondering how one can do justice to a simple Hall and Oates love song that is wrapped into a holiday song that promises “it will be a holiday every day” his baby comes home?
You can’t. You can simply thank them for such a great song.
“Home For Christmas” – My first impression when this song began was that it nearly had the feel of a Jimmy Buffet holiday song. After listening to it a couple of times, I still haven’t shaken that vibe. Around it, thankfully, the song floats on and expresses the universal desire to always make it home in order to celebrate Christmas with the family.
It is a lovely sentiment in a lovely song.
“Christmas Must Be Tonight” – This is the first fairly “up-tempo” song on the album, which is not surprising as Robbie Robertson (of The Band) penned it. The song manages to be soft and lovely while still crackling with the joy of holiday rock and roll harmony. It’s a song that I would have loved to hear The Band perform.
I’m not sure they’d have done a better version than this, however.
“Children Go Where I Send Thee” – This song is such a refreshingly gospel / rock-a-billy tinged ode to joy. What’s nice is that it balances the joy of the rhythm with the vocals. It’s just a great song.
“Mary Had A Baby” – To me, this song begins in nearly a bluesy state of mind. With a melody built on guitar and piano, it eventually swings into a very nice harmony about the birth of Jesus — all from the simple fact that a wonderful woman named Mary had a baby.
As my own mother’s name was Mary, How can I not love this?
“The Christmas Song” – Opens like a song built in the backrooms of a smoky jazz club. The vocal harmonies combine with the soft skiffle drumbeat and piano accompaniment — all of which is just framework for a wonderful horn melody to bob and weave through.
So, so beautiful.
“Jingle Bell Rock” – Okay. Who doesn’t know this song, really? It sounds as if they recorded a slowed down version of their Christmas standard, at least to my ears tonight.
A classic song, I love it and probably always will.
“Oh Holy Night” – The final song on the album begins much the same way as the first, with the soft haunting melody of strings, eventually melting in to the vocals. Even after all the other songs on the album, this is a song that really makes me take notice of how Good Hall’s and Oates’ voices still sound.
This is such a simple and pure approach to a wonderful song. I love it.
I’m not a fan per se of the typical need that every artist finds in their life that impels them to do a Christmas album. No, I am of the mind that there are definitely some artists that I do Not need to hear singing Christmas songs. For instance, Billy Idol’s new album comes to mind.
However, I’ll allow that the idea of a Hall and Oates holiday album had me intrigued. The thought of them bringing their usual harmonies and soul-filled musicianship to Christmas songs, though…
It’s as if I chose to praise the heavens above on the beauty of a dove, simply at seeing its shadow dancing at my feet. Once it took flight and I had the chance to really see the bird for what it was in the open sunlight, I find my ideas of beauty infinitely expanded.
That is how my heart feels about this album. You will never regret purchasing this — I promise. The album can be purchased from F.Y.E. as well as other media outlets.