Boyz II Men followed their hugely successful debut, Cooleyhighharmony, with Christmas Interpretations, which is a pretty intelligent choice, given that Christmas albums by established artists tend to sell year after year, while pop albums tend to sell mostly at the time of their popularity. So this album of all new Christmas material (written by the Boyz themselves) certainly helped the Boyz flesh out their catalog. There aren't any interpretations of Christmas classics to be found on this record, save for their a cappella rendition of "Silent Night." This album is pure, lushly produced quiet storm and, because of the lack of traditional favorites, could be played at any time of year. This set differs from typical Boyz II Men albums in that it's very subdued, and vocal histrionics are kept at a minimum. This set also differs from traditional Christmas albums in that the songs generally deal with more melancholy subject matter, such as depression and suffering ("Why Christmas") and loneliness and poverty ("Cold December Nights"). It's also balanced with songs about the joys of giving (the elegant "Share Love," "Do They Know") and, of course, love ("You're Not Alone," "Who Would Have Thought"). This set also features "Let It Snow," a Top 40 duet with maestro Brian McKnight, who co-produced nearly every song on this album (it should have been titled Boyz II Men featuring Brian McKnight). This set is a cozy, velvety, and hip quiet storm Christmas album with touches of jazz, nostalgia, and melancholy but, at times, one yearns to hear the Boyz' lush harmonies wrapped around traditional favorites. Nonetheless, a nice chapter in the saga that is Boyz II Men.
Jose F. Promis, Rovi
There's always a debate going on about country, what it's supposed to be or not supposed to be, whether it's called traditional country or new country or rock and pop slipping south to impersonate country, as if there were an exact place and time (and sound) when country was, well, the most country. Meanwhile, underneath all this debate, artists like Colt Ford have been out there going to mud-bogging parties and realizing that just plain folks, country or otherwise, are listening to a lot of different kinds of music, from country to metal anthems to urban rap, and any and all of it could come blasting out of one of those trucks as it leaps and swerves through the mud -- it's a weekend party and no one cares about the appropriateness of the music that's playing; no one is saying, hey, you can't like country and still like rap, or vice versa. Ford gets this, and his own brand of country/rap is hardly concerned with genre preservation so much as he's trying to document what really goes on out there in the fields, mud bogs, and back roads of what passes for the country in the 21st century. Ford is also a skilled businessman. He runs his own label, Average Joe's, and he understands that you can sell as many CDs at a mud bog fest as you can at a mall. This set is essentially an Average Joe's sampler with a holiday twist, and it includes Ford's own "Home for Christmas," the Lacs' "Santa in a 4-Wheel Drive," Nappy Roots' "Nappy Holidays," the Mauldin Brothers' "Beer with Santa," and other muddy and snowy holiday gems.
Steve Leggett, Rovi
The second studio album from the Canadian Tenors (Victor Micallef, Clifton Murray, Remigio Pereira, Fraser Walters) features 12 holiday classics, including “Silent Night,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “What Child Is This? (Carol of the Bells),” and “O Viens Emmanuel" (O Come Emmanuel). The aptly titled Perfect Gift was released through Decca in 2009 in North America, and in 2010 in the United Kingdom., Rovi
Following Lost & Found, an album that earned Ledisi a pair of Grammy nominations, Turn Me Loose partially roots itself in the singer's past work and otherwise branches out from it. The album's title, as well as its cover, indicates a new, brash direction -- one that makes up only a portion of the set. Throughout the opening "Runnin," "Knockin'," and stretches of a couple other songs -- not to mention a charging, howling cover of Buddy Miles' "Them Changes" -- Ledisi and her band deliver rocking funk that cooks as hot as Labelle's "Messin' with My Mind" and "What Can I Do for You," or anything by Van Hunt. Here, Ledisi wails and belts with a kind of power previously untapped -- in recorded form, at least -- all the while maintaining remarkable finesse. "I Need Love," one of the collaborations with Ivan Barias and Carvin Haggins, is another highlight, seductively melancholy over a slick and slippery rhythm, while the title track's bluesy Southern soul backdrop seems just as ideal for Ledisi's voice. Most of the material that is in the vein of the subdued, sophisticated R&B showcased throughout much of Soulsinger and Lost & Found is fine, if sporadically tepid -- something that really comes through when heard with the harder material. Verve Forecast might be a little sheepish about their artist straying from the style that brought them success; on the sticker affixed to the album, the label singles out three songs, none of which break a sweat. They really should help her expose the versatility as much as possible.
Andy Kellman, Rovi