Customer Reviews: James Taylor At Christmas (Bonus Track Version)
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James Taylor's voice is in excellent form on his Christmas CD entitled James Taylor At Christmas. The CD boasts an excellent collage of traditional and somewhat formal holiday hymns interspersed with more playful, upbeat pop numbers. The ultimate effect is sheer delight to almost anyone's ears; and just one listen to this CD will prove it.

The CD starts off beautifully with a playful and heartfelt rendition of "Winter Wonderland." Chris Botti plays the trumpet on this song, too. This secular music is quickly followed by the more religious "Go Tell It On The Mountain."

Some other songs celebrating the joy of the holiday season include a pleasing and laid-back duet for James Taylor and Natalie Cole on "Baby, It's Cold Outside;" "Jingle Bells" onto which James Taylor puts his own stamp using a unique arrangement; "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" and "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)" written by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells. Toots Theilemans does a great job on harmonica for "The Christmas Song," too.

"In The Bleak Midwinter" is a much more religious song with a lush musical arrangement; James Taylor addresses the importance of loving Jesus as Jesus loves everyone. "Who Comes This Night" is based on the nativity scene in the manger and it is equally charming.

The CD ends with the thoughtful "Auld Lang Syne." The musical arrangement is flawless and this is the perfect song to end this CD.

The liner notes are beautiful. There are two great photos of James Taylor and the song credits are there, too.

In addition, there is the issue of the differences between the three "versions" of this CD. This CD is, for the most part, a re-issue of James Taylor's 2004 Christmas CD put out by Hallmark. There is the 2004 Hallmark version which is now difficult but not impossible to obtain. The 2004 CD has the song "Deck The Halls." On the other hand, this 2006 Christmas CD has the songs "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "River," a song about escaping from the holiday crunch-rush. There is, believe it or not, a third version of this album that does have "Deck The Halls" as a bonus track. I agree with the reviewer who writes that this third edition WOULD be the definitive James Taylor Christmas CD. If you can't find the version that includes "Deck The Halls," I suggest this CD as a solid alternative.

There may be three versions of this CD; but James Taylor surely put his heart and soul into every song on all three CDs. All technicalities aside, you can't go wrong with this CD. It still boasts excellent sound quality, great cover art all its own, a wide range of Christmastime songs and excellent contributions by Natalie Cole, Chris Botti and Toots Theilemans. John Pizzarelli and Dave Grusin play guitar and piano respectively on this album as well.

May you get this CD and enjoy as much as I did! SMILE
88 comments| 88 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
James Taylor's Columbia holiday set is a gorgeous and friendly set that brings the smile of friends and good times to disc. Chris Botti's trumpet is lovely on the opener "Winter Wonderland" with James' voice oozing that warm friendliness that makes him sound like he's in YOUR living room singing just for YOU! James' voice is lovely on the gospel favorite "Go Tell It On the Mountain," "Shepherds watching over their flocks by night, out of the darkness shown a heavenly light." "Jingle Bells" is recast as blues funk track with some tasty lead guitar licks. The teasing duet with Natalie Cole on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" polishes the lovely melody with their voices playing well off each other. Joni Mitchell's classic "River" from her album "Blue" has now firmly become rooted in the Christmas cannon of modern singers with James' lonesome voice tailor-made (pun intended) for the tune. "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is stunningly beautiful with the melody boasting its hopeful cheer and James' voice a dear lament for days gone by. "Some Children See Him" with Dave Grusin's piano is beautiful in this sparse musical setting. "Who Comes This Night" is a new song penned by producer Dave Grusin that first appeared on James' limited-release Hallmark set. With my family attending to a loved one who is all too quickly passing this holiday, its lovely message brings tears to our eyes, "Who sends this song upon the air to ease the soul that's aching, to still the cry of deep despair & heal the heart that's breaking." It is simply a lovely melody, superbly sung. The set ends with a classic version of the great New Year's song "Auld Lang Syne." James Taylor's "At Christmas" touches the heart in ways only his music could. Treasure this one! Enjoy!
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on October 25, 2006
Whether you buy the original "A Christmas Album" or the new "James Taylor at Christmas" this is easily one of the best Christmas CD's you can find. 11 of the songs were produced by Dave Grusin, an accomplished composer and performing artist himself, "A Christmas Album" also features Natalie Cole, Chris Botti, John Pizzarelli and Mr. Grusin as collaborators. The songs are as enchanting as they are laid-back. There are gorgeous pop-jazz versions of "Winter Wonderland," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "The Christmas Song". There is also an engagingly simple new-age flavored version of "Auld Lang Syne", an Elizabethan flavored version of "Deck the Halls" (on the original ACA and on the special edition of JTAC) and a funk-blues version of "Jingle Bells". Dave Grusin and James Taylor make great partners, particularly on the gospel song "Go Tell It on the Mountain". While I like everything on this album, three songs stand out the most for me; the straightforward and graceful interpretations of "In the Bleak Midwinter" and "Some Children See Him" and the tropical-flavored cover of "Baby, It's Cold Outside". This duet with Natalie Cole is easily one of the best versions, right up there with Louis Armstrong & Velma Middleton's and Ray Charles & Betty Carter's. "James Taylor at Christmas" includes the breathtakingly simple and beautiful cover of Joni's Mitchell's "River", produced by James Taylor and Charlie Paakkari, which manages to be sad and hopeful at the same time. The same can also be said about "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," produced by Russ Titelman and originally recorded for the album "October Road". JT subtly brings out the pathos in the song without losing its essential optimism. There's a reason this music has proven so popular in any version, these performances are just so good, you can enjoy listening to them over and over, even after the Christmas Season is over.
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on November 29, 2006
It doesn't get any better than that.

Yes, there are some really fine songs here, with new versions of old favorites. But, the absolute best song in this collection has got to be the duet with Natalie Cole, "Baby It's Cold Outside". I don't know of any other Christmas song that is sexy. This one song is worth the price of the whole CD. It makes me want to sit down with a glass of wine in front of the fireplace and watch the lights on the tree and dream a little, even when I don't have time for that. But, it's always worth it.

This is my second favorite CD ever (first is Nat King Cole and his rendition of "O Holy Night", which is not at all sexy, but does make me cry it's so beautiful). Third, in case you're looking for more good xmas music, is Celtic Woman's "A Christmas Celebration", which is obviously a totally different sound but still so good you stand still and hold your breath.

I asked for this for Christmas, even though I already have a copy. That's a first. But, I don't want to take any chances on not having a good copy of this beautiful music.

Obviously, highly recommended.
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on January 12, 2007
Sorry, folks, I know this will make me unpopular, but this album goes way beyond bland! Sounds as though all involved had a jolly, old, subdued, old time. This includes the wimpiest version of "In the Bleak Midwinter" that could ever possibly be recorded. How can you take a tune as magnificent as that and turn it into mush, as they did on this album. If you want to hear a respectable version, one that does the tune justice, listen to the Moody Blues, "December" from 2003. I like Christmas music as much as anyone, but not if it is just vaguely warm and fuzzy, devoid of all feeling! sorry, James. I am ready for the "0 out of 20 found this review helpful" header!
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on January 11, 2007
Perhaps we can sometimes expect just a little too much from one of our greatest singer songwriters, James Taylor. With his trademark spellbinding chocolatey velvet voice (to which I am sure many a child has been lovingly conceived), James manages to stay just on the right side of being schmaltzy (if that's how you spell it). However, at the risk of sounding blasphemous before his millions of faithful followers, I confess that I was left feeling mildly disappointed. An album that is beautifully executed, beautifully performed and is yet ultimately rather souless and bland (albeit in a beautiful sort of way).

A christmas album with a lighter jazzier feel, but a christmas album nonetheless and one that will probably only be played once or perhaps twice a year. My recommendation is to audition first before buying... and yes, I would consider myself to be one of his disciples.
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VINE VOICEon November 13, 2006
This is a very good CD of Christmas music from James Taylor. Jingle Bells is my favorite track. I've never heard this song performed in a blues style before, and it sounds very good. Dave Grusin and Chris Botti lend their talents on the piano and trumpet respectively on the track Winter Wonderland. They give this song an unique smooth sounding quality. In The Bleak Midwinter is a new song to me. I love the sincerity in James Taylor's voice. Dave Grusin's piano playing is very good too. The musicial arrangement on this track is beautiful. I like the duet entitled Baby It's Cold Outside with Natalie Cole, because it sounds so romantic. Go Tell It On The Mountain is an upbeat song. This is the first time I've heard all the lyrics to this classic song, and I really like it. James Taylor plays the guitar as well as he sings on the track River. This is a song about missing a loved one at Christmas time. Auld Lang Syne is a beautiful track about the meaning and importance of friendship. James Taylor has always had the ability to touch people with his voice. The music on this CD is proof of that. It is simply delightful.
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on December 1, 2012
~ A Christmas album seems like a natural for James Taylor's voice and style. This pleasant Christmas CD merges Taylor's folk-pop sensibility with David Grusin's contemporary jazz arrangements and an eclectic selection of songs. The result may not be the perfect Christmas CD, but it is well above average; especially when you compare it to so many over-produced, schmaltzy Christmas albums pumped out by pop stars.
~ This CD is in part a re-release of his 2004 A Christmas Album using 10 of the 11 songs from that CD ("Deck the Halls" is omitted for some reason) plus 4 additional tracks - one each from 2002, 2006, 2008, and 2012.
~ James Taylor fans will be pleased hearing his warm, friendly voice and distinctive vocal style, which is well suited to most of the material.
~ Depending on your own personal tastes, you may find different highlights than I did, but for me the highlights are:
- instrumental backing and solos by Chris Botti (trumpet), Toots Theilemans (harmonica), David Grusin (piano), and especially the jazz guitar playing of John Pizzarelli as well as Taylor's own folk guitar playing.
- fine, mellow treatments of "Winter Wonderland", "Go Tell It On The Mountain", "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "Some Children See Him", "The Christmas Song", "Who Comes This Night", "In the Bleak Midwinter", and "Auld Lang Syne".
- not all of the songs work for me. Taylor's interpretation of Joni Mitchell's "River" pales in comparison to the original or even Holy Cole's haunting rendition on Dark Dear Heart. His duet with Natalie Cole on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" does not measure up to several other versions out there; most notably the Lou Rawls - Diane Reeves version on Jazz to the World. The bluesy version of "Jingle Bells", which completely recasts the melody, is odd and takes a little getting used to.
~ Overall, a recommended 'above average' Christmas CD. So grab some eggnog, light the fireplace, sit back and enjoy.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon December 22, 2006
I found this CD very soothing and calm, a nice alternative to the loud, screaming music some stores are playing. "James Taylor at Christmas" will put you in the Christmas spirit and give you some beautiful background music for you holiday dinner. I love this CD.
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on December 28, 2006
It pains me to the quick, for I am a huge JT fan. Musically, he can do no wrong, but there is something not right about this album. To my astonishment, most of these tracks sound bland and even trite, and lack the signature 'knowingness' of our beloved JT. When he has recorded more standard, mainstream songs in the past, he has managed to get around what could have been a canned sound. But not here. His renderings of these standard Christmas songs teeter on the edge of being cringe-making. 'Jingle Bells' is a flat-out embarrassment. However (!!!), 'River', 'Some Children See Him' and 'In the Bleak Midwinter' are beautiful; hence the three stars - I do not penalize for the rest. And Natalie Cole helps a lot. 'Auld Lang Syne' may well bring tears to the eyes, but for the wrong reason. I am nonetheless steadfast in my devotion and am glad to read here that others have heard this disc with less disappointment.
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