A Perfect Christmas Project | Posted October 14, 2012 Staff Reviewer
The ascension of Francesca Battistelli's concise yet lengthy career has been nothing short of astounding. Having become the fastest selling Christian female vocalist in five years with her 2008 release My Paper Heart (which was certified Gold this past Summer--a rarity these days) she also was crowned Artist Of The Year at the 2011 Dove Awards--one among a slew of other awards including a GRAMMY nod.
Even with two albums under her belt and a handful of No. 1 hits, Francesca still had one goal she'd yet to accomplish, a goal she'd had in mind ever since she started doing music: Record a Christmas album.
Now a wife and mother, her brand new holiday release, simply titled Christmas, holds a whole new meaning for the acclaimed songstress.
"I am beyond excited about this Christmas album," she said. "Christmas is my favorite time of year, and I hope that this album is one people want to listen to year after year."
Holiday classic "The Christmas Song" begins the project on an unusually bouncy and upbeat note. The song, made notorious by Nat King Cole, is frequently covered and very little is done to change its rich, mellow vibe. Francesca breaks that tradition however by making it a lively and bouncy piece that is sure to leave a smile on your face.
"Heaven Everywhere," one of the handful of original tracks on the project, speaks of the openheartedness humanity allows themselves to feel around the holidays with a childlike tinker. "Christmas Is" points out the at-times humorous routine moments Christmastime offers, ultimately reminding us that the reason we can celebrate all these moments is because Jesus was born to die for us.
"The First Noel" is a classic rendition of the beautiful carol, and is a breath of fresh air before diving into the spectacular big-band piece, "Marshmallow World." It's hard not to think of a large Broadway production when hearing its grand scale, and is one of the best versions of the song recorded to date.
"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is personally one of my favorite Christmas carols, and I hold everyone who records it to a high standard. Francesca more than achieves that standard however, by mixing a haunting yet peaceful melody against the backdrop of the legendary worshipful and passionate lyrics.
A fun, piano-driven version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" lends itself nicely to the project, while the moving original "You're Here" sings out the thoughts that must have ran through Mary's head right after Jesus was born.
Acoustic and light, "Joy To The World" sounds like a fireside carol sung with family and friends around the Christmas tree.
My favorite song on the album comes in the form of the 1940s nightclub lounge-esque, "Christmas Dreams." It captures Francesca's signature diary-like writing style by beautifully capturing all of the warm feelings a family feels in the final moments leading up to Christmas morning. It's sure to strike a chord with parents and become a song that is played among the holidays for years to come.
The classic "Go Tell It On The Mountain" leads us to the end on an uncomplicated note, and almost sounds like a spontaneous jam session with spot on vocals and simple acoustics. A fantastic way to close to project.
I've long awaited a holiday album by Francesca Battistelli. From the moment her soulful vocals hit the airwaves, I knew if she were to ever attempt a project of the sort, she'd knock it out of the park, and she's done exactly that with Christmas. Fun, beautiful, and at times deeply moving, this is without a doubt one of the must-own Christmas projects of 2012, and one I can see going on to spawn a holiday classic in "Christmas Dreams."
Do yourself a favor by picking up this nearly flawless album this holiday season. It will be one you and your family will listen to for many Christmases to come.