13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Much to like in spite of the effects of time,
This review is from: This Christmas (Audio CD)
The reviewer by the name of Katchy hit the nail RIGHT on the head.
It is only natural for us to expect singers (especially those that are famous) to sound the same over the years, even if logic and common sense tell us that people don't age the same way for the same reasons.
Aretha is my favorite vocal artist, male or female, living or not, any genre. I love many of her albums. This is not one that I love even after many spins. But there is much that I like about it.
First off, let's talk about The Voice. Aretha's subtle nuances are still one of a kind and cannot be duplicated by anyone. As with much of Aretha's art, these nuances may not be obvious on the first listen but are very clear on the "dry-down."
Even on the controversial opener with the questionable and sometimes scary interpretation of the chorus, 'Angels We Have Heard On High', we can hear these not-so-obvious moments. Aretha is at her best now when she can take her time. "And the mountains ... in reply" is a beautifully phrased line, with the caramel of her voice coming through. The last line before the final chorus is also beautiful in its vocal and phrasing - "while our hearts, with love we praise." In that one line she takes it from sounding like a young innocent schoolgirl to a seasoned woman that can teach the young 'uns. The subtle melisma on the word "praise" is like the vocal equivalent to watching cake batter fold on itself as it's poured in the bowl.
That gorgeous billowy quality, first noticed on Aretha 1980, is not something I have ever heard in anyone else's voice. Time and possibly personal lifestyle choices may have cut down the number of times we hear that from Aretha, but that quality - among with many other good ones - are still there, in spite of some admittedly missed vocal opportunities with this set.
Production values and the background vocals and arrangements on this CD are classy, polished and tasteful. It's light on the elusive "soul" factor, but this is a work that is very contemporary yet will stand the test of time. Producer Tena Clark should be proud.
My recommendation is to take This Christmas Aretha in its proper context: a living legend who has been pushing her voice to the extreme for decades is still with us and sharing what she has left. Take these performances for what they are. Don't give in to the easy temptation to unfairly compare 2008 with 1968 and expect Aretha to holler and carry on like some of the younger ladies do.
You just may realize that this set - on its OWN merits - is far from perfect, but still asserts in more than a few ways that the Queen Of Soul is entitled to her crown.
Long Live Queen Ree.