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I Heard Labelle On Christmas Day
With her legend cast following the worldwide success of her disco anthem 'Lady Marmalade' in the late 1970's it is a mark of Patti Labelle as an artist that she didn't sit on her laurels from that point forward. In fact the R&B legend (this despite her big hit being a frothy disco number) has almost been an ever present in an industry that has a penchant for chewing up artists and spitting them out in double quick time. Her longevity is testament to her burning talent which has seen her win several Grammy's and sell millions of records over a career that stretches for over half a century. And there is no stopping the veteran as she continue to record and perform.
With such a long stint it the business it was perhaps inevitable that Patti would record Christmas material and her maiden voyage to Tinseltown came in 1990 with 'This Christmas'. Like most Christmas projects Patti mixed things up with a little bit of the old and some of the new although she surpassed herself on the latter with 8 new originals penned for the occasion. While 'This Christmas' is never less than a success it has aged somewhat and is certainly of its time which means the sometimes leaden production might put some people off. On the better known tracks like 'O Holy Night', 'What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?' and 'This Christmas' (Donny Hathaway's 1970 classic) Patti bring her sense of the grandiose to proceedings with flourishes of orchestral music enhancing the experience. Patti treats the new material with equal passion so that the album's single 'Twas Love' is never less than stirring with Labelle belting out the lyrics as if sermonising from the mount. While 'This Christmas' is not overtly religious in tone there are moments like on 'Born In A Manger' where the true meaning of the season is recounted with heightened expression as only Patti can conjure. 'This Christmas' is a world away from the throwaway albums that have become the norm at Christmas so naturally it is one to savour.
It would be almost 2 decades on before Patti Labelle returned to the sounds of the season with 2007's 'Miss Patti's Christmas'. And her second Christmas album was all about ditching the commerciality of the holidays in favour of what it is meant to be all about. So on tracks like 'Nativity', 'Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child' and 'Away In A Manager' the focus was on the very first Christmas, while 'Holidays Mean More to Me', 'What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas?' and 'Every Year, Every Christmas' was Patti's take on how we should carry through on that event from over 2000 years ago. And if that all sounds like its wouldn’t make for great Christmas party material think again because there is plenty of stompers like the lively opener ‘Christmas Jam’. ‘Nativity’ is also a full on hands in the air anthem that is flush with a smooth R&B swagger with Labelle belting out the lyrics with trademark gusto.Author: Kevin