It wasn’t until I was browsing eBay that I realised that Whitney had released one of these albums, but as soon as I saw it, I realised that it made perfect sense. In 2003, her recording career was stumbling a little, along with her vocal power. Recording a Christmas album may well have been seen as a bit of a cash cow.
This is an 11 track album, featuring classic Christmas songs. All we’re recorded new for the album, except for two tracks which are lifted from her soundtrack album for her 1996 film The Preacher’s Wife.
First up is the classic The First Nöel, which opens with a clear nod to RnB with it’s mellow clicky beat. Whitney gives a strong vocal performance here, hitting her unmistakable range. However, I find this song a little dull, as musically it feels like a generic RnB backing track, rather than remotely Christmas.
Next up is The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire), which again includes a mellow RnB clicky beat, but this time it is joined by some sleigh bells and a harp, and the pace of the song seems to compliment the RnB approach. Of course, Whitney makes light work of the vocals here, and even closes the track with a near I Will Always Love You ending. She manages to extend the Christmas sentiments ‘to everyone‘ with a short spoken word segment at the end of the song, and a nod to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
Third track Little Drummer Boy features Whitney and Bobby Brown‘s daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown take lead vocals. Her vocals are adorable here, and fit perfectly. The beats on this track are delicious, and suit the ‘drummer boy’ theme, alongside some delicate acoustic guitar. About half-way through the track takes a funky turn before turning up a key, and Whitney takes the lead against a string section. Suddenly Bobbi returns with her ‘me and my drum‘ line.
This is followed by the sole single from the album, the title track One Wish (For Christmas). This gives Whitney another strong song. Its slow tempo give her plenty of space to reach across her vocal range. This is a really nice modern track, and I can see why it was released as a single (although it wasn’t released in the UK).
A wonderful orchestral score opens next track Cantique De Nöel (O Holy Night), before giving way to Whitney and piano. Here, her vocals are well tuned against the gentle warm piano. This is a return of classic, good, Whitney, and at about 2m 30s in Whitney and the orchestra really belt it out. It’s this song that remind me of how good a Whitney Houston sung Bond Theme could have been.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas is up next, and the tone changes with some electric piano intro and a cheery sleigh bell intro. The song remains quite simple, giving her vocals plenty of space to own the track.
A really funky version of Deck The Halls/Silent Night is up next, with a great funky bass line and beat. The backing vocals really help to bring the song to life with ‘faa la la la la’ in the Deck The Halls half, and their vocal harmonies in the latter part when it gets into the Silent Night part. Whitney really goes to town with Silent Night. Overall this two track medley really works – I really like it!
The classic Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas follows. The orchestra continues on through this track, but there’s a few brief clipped musical sections (notably during the line ‘through the year’s we all will be together’) in this. However, Whitney takes the chorus perfectly.
O Come O Come Emanuel is up next, and it opens with Whitney and a wonderfully warm vocal choir. On a slight down-side, the choir sing the word ‘bum‘ about six times, which once you’ve spotted it, it kind of ruins a good thing. The track also includes ‘throat percussion’ (a quiet bass drum sound is made by someone in an almost glugging-the-mulled-wine style). Otherwise, the track is a great rich production, and the vocalists really make this a brilliant song.
Penultimate track is the first one to have been lifted from The Preacher’s Wife – Who Would Imagine A King. This instantly gives it a slightly different style – the orchestra is stronger here. This is quite a nice track, and most definitely a movie song. Out of the context of the film, it seems odd that right near the end, a strange little voice is heard saying ‘mommy‘.
Final track, also from The Preacher’s Wife, is Joy To The World. The track starts off quietly, but then suddenly bursts into a huge gospel track. With Whitney’s gospel routes (via her mother, Cissy) it was inevitable that there would be one belting track in this style. Despite this not being a new song from her, it really brings a fantastic album to a warm Christmas time album. It comes complete with a false ending too… just as you think The Georgia Mass Choir has ended on a high, the rim-shot taps the track back in again for the final time.
Starting off a on shaky ground, the album soon redeems itself, with Little Drummer Boy, Deck The Halls/Silent Night, and Joy To The World being fantastic versions of these well known songs.
WHERE IS WHITNEY HOUSTON NOW?
Sadly, Whitney was found dead in February 2011, in her hotel room in Beverly Hills, California. She had drowned in her bathtub. Heart disease and her troubling addiction of drugs are reported to have contributed to her death. She was 48 years old.
Her legacy lives on, with countless albums, videos, films (including the brilliant The Bodyguard) and show-stopping vocal performances.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2014 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2003 UK CHART POSITION: Did not chart.
- POP RESCUE COST: £3.78 from eBay