Anthony Hamilton • Home For The Holidays • RCA • US Release Date: October 21, 2014
Every year, I purchase at least one new holiday album. This year yours truly has been behind on the annual pursuit of holiday additions to my collection, but let it be known that December 6, 2014 that Anthony Hamilton’s Home For The Holidays joined the holiday collection. No it wasn’t solely an attractive purchase price of $7.99 (thanks for that iTunes), but it was also because Anthony Hamilton is the dude! The man has golden pipes – a grittiness unmatched in today’s age. Unsurprisingly, Home For The Holidays doesn’t disappoint either.
Bucking the trend of tradition to some extent, Home For The Holidays features six originals and some classic soul covers. This is something of a risk given the fact many buy holiday albums just because they love traditional Christmas music. While the lack of “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night” may dissuade some, give Home For The Holidays a listen and it will quickly persuade you of Hamilton’s exceptional musicianship.
Personality definitely describes Home For The Holidays perfectly, particularly on the covers. Look no further than “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto,” where Hamilton does James Brown justice, no questions asked. He also does The Emotions exceptionally well on the moving ballad, “What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas,” which gets new, fresh life in Hamilton’s hands. Of course Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home For Christmas” is splendid look for Hamilton. Speaking of that same Brown classic, Kelly Clarkson also did a fantastic job with this old school standout on her Christmas album, Wrapped in Red.
What about those originals? “It’s Christmas” gets things started solidly, while the funky “Spend Christmas With You,” proves to be a perfect match for Hamilton given his classic sensibilities. It interestingly sounds like a cover, but is a newbie. Hamilton also goes outside his genre, collaborating with soulful pop singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw on “Home For the Holidays.” “Tis The Season” sounds like standard Anthony Hamilton fare, rivaling his fine adult contemporary R&B/neo-soul work. The backing vocals add an extra dimension, not to mention Hamilton’s sick falsetto. Other originals include “Coming Home” and the closer, “Spirit of Love.”
But Hamilton doesn’t avoid traditional carols, even if he reboots and refreshes them. “Little Drummer Boy” gets an aggressive, up tempo soul interpretation. The even stronger “Away in a Manger,” brings in ZZ Ward and has a folksy, southern gospel edge about it. “Away in a Manger” ranks among the set’s most intriguing. And of course there’s that duet with the one and only Chaka Khan, where the two prodigious vocalists take on the ubiquitous Christmas standard, “The Christmas Song.”
Through and through, Home For The Holidays is an enjoyable Christmas album. The fact that it doesn’t rely solely on the carols sets it apart and gives it more personality than more standard, often predictable albums. Vocally, Hamilton is on autopilot.
Favorites: “Spend Christmas With You,” “Santa Claus Go Straight To the Ghetto,” “What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas,” “Away in a Manger”