Wednesday, December 02, 2015

My Musical Advent Calendar

"What Christmas Means to Me" /
Cee Lo Green

I'm coming right out and saying it -- I hugely enjoyed watching Cee Lo Green as a judge on The Voice and I really haven't enjoyed the show since he left. Love ya, Pharell, but it's just not the same.

If anybody was going to breathe life back into the Christmas album concept in 2012, it was gonna be Cee Lo. I'm guessing nobody predicted that his Cee Lo's Magic Moment album would have been quite such a hit, but it makes total sense to me.

And of all its recycled (let's call them re-gifted) numbers, this one has to be my favorite.

Okay, for starters -- the original was written for none other than Stevie Wonder, for his massively wonderful 1967 Someday at Christmas LP (more on that to come in days to come). It was written for Stevie by Berry Gordy's brother George and sister Anna (who also married Marvin Gaye), along with Allen Story -- talk about good bloodlines.

True to songwriting convention, it's a catalog song, cramming in all the things he loves about Christmas -- mistletoe, carols, candles, holly -- with a love song subtext: she's smiling, she's giving him cards and kisses, and the new year looks pretty good if they can only be together.

But there's that bright and snappy Motown sound, swinging just behind the beat, with a great bass line, splashes of horns, and silky smooth backing vocals. And Cee Lo has the exquisite taste not to muck around with the essence of it. Where Stevie had a sweet harmonica solo, Cee Lo inserts some gospel-inspired scatting, and yeah, the production's a little more ramped up -- but give Cee Lo credit, he's an acolyte of the R&B DNA, and he's not about to fix what doesn't need fixing.

If nothing else, Cee Lo's Magic Moment  resurrected some classics of the holiday repertory for millennials who might otherwise never know "Baby It's Cold Outside" or "Merry Christmas Baby" (more on those later too!). One of the things I loved about Cee Lo on The Voice was his astonishingly eclectic range of musical knowledge; he's like the Atlanta version of Elvis Costello, listening to everything with greedy and receptive ears.

Oh, and -- let's not overlook this -- he just has a crazy rich soul voice, full of love and positive energy. Which, come to think of it, is what this holiday season should be all about. 


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