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November 26, 2012

Since the holiday season is upon us, I figured why not use the Mondays leading up to Christmas as a chance to review some holiday efforts.  Christmas is, by far, my favorite holiday!  There's just something about the glow of a Christmas tree and the warm feeling evoked by stockings on a mantle, plus the music of the season seems like a hug for the soul.  Wow.  That was really cheesy, but it's true.  So why not start with the first Christmas CD I ever owned...'s also my favorite.  Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas is a collection of classic Christmas tunes that we all know and love with a few new songs, as well.  Her voice is superb on this album and each performance substantiates why she is arguably the greatest singer of our lifetime (all time?).  With only 10 tracks, the album may be shorter than most yet it probably has the impact and focus all the others model themselves after.  Every year for as long as I can remember, this album has been played while we decorate the house whether it was at the home of my parents growing up or the house I now share with my wife and daughter -- this CD is the soundtrack to all of my Christmas traditions. 

I'll take you through each track to prove why you should press play on this work of holiday perfection as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is over every year.  If you've never heard it before, go get it.  Now.  I insist.
    1.  Silent Night  The album starts with one of the most recognized Christmas songs ever written.  Backed by a full choir (as she is for pretty much the entire album), Mariah's voice is pure and crisp blending with the choir yet soaring above them in parts.  A perfect introduction to the seasonal feel of the album.
    2.  All I Want For Christmas Is You  Even if you don't own this particular album, you've heard this song.  Many are surprised that it was actually written by Mariah herself... one of three from this album, in fact.  It's brilliant.  The throwback arrangement gives the impression it's been around forever and fits right in with the other classics.  It's heard all over the world and on almost every radio station at one point or another during this time of year.  Several artists have offered a cover of their own, from Lady Antebellum to Cee-Lo to My Chemical Romance to Michael BublĂ© to Justin Bieber and numerous others yet none of them come close to capturing the magic Mariah did when she initially recorded and released it in 1994.  Even those who don't typically find themselves drawn to Mariah's music sing along to this one.  It's catchy.  It's festive.  It's fun. It's genius.

    3.  O Holy Night  This is probably one of my all time favorite Christmas songs with this specific version being the one I'm always drawn to.  Here Mariah's voice opens up and explores what seems like every note there is to sing and she executes every single one flawlessly.  The first half she shows excellent vocal control and slowly builds into the second half where she sings with her full chest voice before sending a few high notes into the stratosphere and blows you away as only she can.  It's impressive how she's able to climb the scales and evoke so much emotion within a single song.  Your goosebumps will have goosebumps; this one is a must add to your holiday playlist! Trust me.

    4.  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)  The bells at the beginning of this song immediately scream Christmas and when the choir comes in to confirm you instantly have the urge to tap your foot.  Mariah is at her best with the playfulness of this one even matching the choir with a call and response section in the middle.  Play it in the background of a holiday party or just play it in your car, either way it's a good time.

    5.  Miss You Most (At Christmas Time)  The second offering of Mariah's writing abilities, this one is a classic Mariah-type ballad and was probably included initially to appeal to her fans (or lambs, as she affectionately refers to them).  Its subject matter is about coping with a lost love during the holidays, which everyone can relate to on some level and although the vocals are impeccable and she doesn't hesitate to deliver, the song is a bit of a detachment from the rest of the album.

    6.  Joy To The World  From the first note, Mariah stamps this rendition as her own... there is no hesitation to display her range right away.  The choir jumps in and the tempo picks up holding you by your ears refusing to let go until every vocal acrobatic is performed.   You'll be begging for more... and if you're not careful you'll be singing along without even intending to.

    7.  Jesus Born On This Day  The final writing contribution from Mariah and it's very well done.  Like All I Want For Christmas Is You, there's that feeling you've heard it before.  The children's choir is a nice touch, too.

    8.  Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town  The intro to this song is nostalgic and reminiscent of old school Christmas, but then Ms. Carey jumps in and digs deep vocally reminding you that Christmas is a celebration.  There's a youthfulness in this song that draws out the inner child in all of us remembering our own Christmas experiences from years past.

    9.  Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)  The piano compliments Mariah's voice extremely well and she starts out in that warm, velvet tone before building into that upper range that we've all come to know and love and expect from her.  Blending with the choir towards the end makes you almost forget you're listening to the best selling female recording artist of all time and just listening to a classic Christmas album... notice I said almost; she chimes back in right before it ends with a friendly reminder of whose name is on the front of this album.

    10.  Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child  This song... man, what can I say about this song?  Hands down, the best vocal performance of the entire album!  Mariah takes it to church and she does it effortlessly.  Every note she hits covers you like a winter coat warming you to the bone.  Amazing.  Absolutely flawless.  The ad libs are executed so well that you'll have them bouncing around in your head for days.  Her voice takes off towards the end soaring to new heights that you think those notes will never stop... and you don't want them to.  Perfection.
There it is... in my opinion, the best Christmas album out there.  Mariah is in good great voice throughout the length of the entire collection.  If you're only interested in a few songs, I would recommend O Holy Night, Joy To The World and Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child... that's assuming you already have All I Want For Christmas Is You in rotation. 

In 2005 during The Emancipation of Mimi explosion, the album was released again as a DualDisc that contained a few Christmas videos as well as two additional songs.  God Rest Ye Merry, Gentleman is performed a capella from a choir of Mariahs.  Her voice is layered showcasing the many different textures she's able to use when singing... I can only hope the Heavenly choir is compiled of angels that sound like the Mariah-choir in this song.  Beautiful.  The second song on the re-release is Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, a cover of the Jackson 5 version so it's different than the original offering of the initial track listing from the first release.  It's upbeat and fun.  The huge success of this album is probably what prompted Mariah to release her second Christmas album in 2010, but we'll get to that later.  For now, go get these songs and have them fill your house with the sound of Christmas this year.

Image Sources:  Merry Christmas, Reindeer

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