Monday, December 19, 2016

High Nostalgia, Mediocre Musicality: A Christmas Together By John Denver & The Muppets!

The Good: Moments of vocals, Moments of arrangement
The Bad: SHORT, Some of the vocals, Not overly original for a number of the songs
The Basics: A Christmas Together is an accurate soundtrack of the John Denver and The Muppets Christmas special that is a tougher sell on its own.

The winter holiday season is a time filled with nostalgia and in my household there is more than a little irony. My wife and I have over a decade between us, yet it seems one of our common experiences are seeing many of the same holiday specials on television and having a familiarity with the soundtracks to those specials. The irony comes from the fact that most of those specials were new when I was a child and I have no real emotional attachment to them, but my wife is a fan and given the opportunity to have music on tonight, she eagerly suggested A Christmas Together by John Denver And The Muppets.

A Christmas Together is a fun Christmas album for anyone who loves The Muppets, but it is not an extraordinary musical experience. Unlike some Christmas albums that showcase the vocal talents of those involved, A Christmas Together tries to find balance between The Muppets (and, let's face it, it is hard to consider Beaker and Dr. Honeydew as great vocalists!) and John Denver. Some Christmas albums attempt to give the primary artist a chance to show off their songwriting talents in the attempt to try to make an iconic new Christmas song; John Denver fails to make the next great holiday song with "A Baby Just Like You." The result is an album that is marginally fun and high on nostalgia without a lot of objective quality or originality to it.

With only thirteen songs, clocking out at 35:25, A Christmas Together illustrates the problem with converting old albums to c.d.; it is very short for the capacity of a c.d. and does not use the medium incredibly well. John Denver shares vocal credit on most of the songs with The Muppets (vocalized by the likes of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, etc.) and John Denver plays guitars on most of the tracks. The Muppets are accompanied by an orchestra and neither Denver, nor any of the Muppets, were involved in producing A Christmas Together; this is a very true soundtrack for the television special by the same name.

Instrumentally, A Christmas Together is very traditional and straightforward. While the guitars are more noticeable and folksy on "The Christmas Wish," that is the exception to the rule for the musical accompaniment on the album. The piano, flutes, percussion and string orchestral accompaniment is very straightforward on A Christmas Together. Despite the cover of "Little Saint Nick," most of the tracks are traditional Christmas carols that are familiar in their tunes and arrangements. The album features two (essentially) original tracks in the form of John Denver's "A Baby Just Like You" and a medley that begins with John Denver's appeal to listeners to protect the environment (which is relevant even now!), but continues with two arrangements of other Christmas carols.

On the vocal front, A Christmas Together is a celebration of nostalgia as opposed to great vocalizations. Miss Piggy leads "Christmas Is Coming" and the whole ensemble of The Muppets breaks out on "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." The rest of the songs have a few Muppets and John Denver performing and vocally Denver is the quality voice. For those not familiar with Animal, the sound of him providing backing vocals is not a revelatory musical experience. John Denver is able to showcase his smooth vocal talents on "Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913." Most of the rest of the album is good, but a mix of vocal stylings that are more nostalgia-evoking than objectively wonderful.

That is the success and failure of A Christmas Together; those who love The Muppets are likely to love the album, but those who do not have the nostalgia tied to it are more likely to be indifferent, at best, to the music. The best track is "The Peace Carol," the weak link is "When The River Meets The Sea."

For other Christmas albums, please visit my reviews of:
The Gift - Kenny Rogers
Oh Blue Christmas - A Fine Frenzy
These Are Special Times - Celine Dion


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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