December

The Moody Blues

December, the Moody Blues' first holiday album, is a light and peaceful offering, a great Christmas gift for a fair-weather fan and a nice addition to the catalog for the collector. The orchestrations are lush, infrequently saccharine, but it's part of the Moodies' approach and, ultimately their appeal. Their longevity is based largely on the fact that they have consistently maintained a unique style of elegance and grace, even when they sporadically cut loose and rock out from time to time. There are only three original members left: vocalist/guitarist Justin Hayward, vocalist/bassist John Lodge, and drummer/wayward poet Graeme Edge. Vocalist/flautist Ray Thomas has apparently retired, although at times it sounds like he's sitting in on a song or two. Recorded in Italy, the trio gets plenty of support from the Orchestra of Carlo Felice, Genoa and keyboardist Danilo Madonia.

Altogether, the 11 tracks (five originals, five covers and a traditional piece with some alterations) are carefully shaped and molded without falling prey to overproduction or new age-like diversions. Who can't appreciate "In The Quiet Of Christmas Morning," a variation on J.S. Bach's Cantata No. 147, a radiant rendition of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," or a stab at Irving Berlin's "White Christmas"? Ok, so it's not Bing Crosby, but it's the thought that counts. The original compositions fit like a glove. Hayward's uplifting "Don't Need A Reindeer" and the more austere, spiritual "Yes I Believe" are both strong entries. Lodge rises to the occasion with the flourishing "On This Christmas Day" and "The Spirit Of Christmas," a commentary on the clash between Palestinians and Israelis at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. As the first studio album of the new millennium from the Moody Blues, December comes out shining like a pointed silver star Christmas ornament.

~ Shawn Perry

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