I’m all for starting new traditions, especially when they tap my nostalgia bone. Which is near the funny bone. And when those traditions center around Christmas, well, even better. So this year, I’m bringing in the funk!
Last year, in my post-concert excitement (that apparently is supposed to last way past the actual concert date), I rushed to snatch up anything I could find that featured Chicago. And in that flurry, I found alot more songs than I already knew, I bought two concert movies, and even discovered Chicago’s Christmas album. Also in that flurry? I overlooked finding something Earth, Wind, and Fire.
Another one of those “the author took this picture” bragging moments.
Last week, amid the bustle getting ready to start my workday, I just randomly decided to look up Earth, Wind, and Fire and Christmas in the same search. No lie, I entered “Earth Wind Fire Christmas,” and I wasn’t disappointed. Not by a long shot.
Have you ever wanted a Christmas album that sounded remarkably like the 1970s, despite being released in 2014? Then Holiday is your album. Oh my goodness, is it ever!
Source: Wikipedia (By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47040032
Holiday is the twenty-first album (only Chicago had more albums under their belt before they released their Christmas album) for Earth, Wind, and Fire, and was released on October 21, 2014 (seriously!). It is also notable as it is the final album to feature co-founder Maurice White before his death in February 2016.
The album consists of eleven traditional songs of Christmas, and two re-worked Earth Wind and Fire songs from the 1970s – “Happy Seasons” (originally “Happy Feelin'” from 1975’s That’s The Way of the World) and “December” (you better know which song this was inspired by!). If you’ve ever wanted to hear Christmas with funk, you’re not going to be disappointed (I wasn’t at the initial discovery, and I wasn’t once I listened).
Uploaded by That Mimosa Grove
And for some reason, the final song on the album was cut off completely. And I’d be remiss if I forgot it!
Uploaded by Donald Becker
And if you’re really itching to hear more blaring trumpets for Christmas, I covered Chicago’s Christmas album not all that long ago.
A funky Christmas? Some traditions are meant to be funk-ified!
Allison stopped grooving long enough to write this part of the article. If you like what you’ve read here, she has Christmas-ified her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog year ’round on Facebook, and her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.
It’s the most obvious time of the year to be into Christmas music. And as I said in my previous article about Chicago’s Christmas albums, I like my staples, but I also like some unconventional Christmas music. Hence, the Chicago Christmas album…and All-4-One’s 1994 effort.
All-4-One. You remember them, right? They came after Boyz II Men, were based in the Los Angeles area (unlike Boyz II Men, who were based in Philadelphia, PA), and had a smooth R&B sound. Ranging in age from 20 to 24 at the beginning of their fame, they were beautiful, soulful, and they even had that one guy with the really deep voice. Now, I’ll confess, playing any music by this group will make me scream like it is the mid-1990s, I’m fourteen years old, and I’m popping their CDs into my Sony Discman.
And I may or may not have screamed the same way over watching All-4-One perform on one of the David Foster concerts.
Uploaded by All-4-One (Official Channel)
Ok, I definitely screamed like someone who would throw their panties (but that didn’t happen!). Why would anyone…
I’m sure it has happened, folks. No, I’ve never done that!
All-4-One, consisting of members Jamie Jones, Delious Kennedy, Alfred Nevarez, and Tony Borowiak – all of whom are still a quartet today – released their first album in 1994, a self-titled effort. So naturally, when you have a hit album, a Christmas album is probably circling nearby.
Case in point:
OMG, yes. This. This album. This album spent the whole month of December in my Discman. I didn’t own any “traditional” Christmas albums in 1996…I owned this. I played the heck out of this CD for at least three years. It also has the distinction of being one of my first CDs in addition to being the first Christmas album I ever owned.
All-4-One puts the soulful spin on the traditional Christmas songs, giving them a 1990s R&B sound. If you think all R&B music sounds the same, you’re not fooling anyone. 1990s R&B had a sound all of its own, and while these guys were probably pegged as riding Boyz II Men’s coattails, they knew how to stand out the right way.
I’d love for you to bask in the warm glow of 90s R&B, with an album that was truly All 4 Christmas.
You see what I did there?!
Oh fine, just click play.
Admit it, your Discman/Walkman-toting ’90s childhood came screaming back just a little, didn’t it?
So, I ask you fine readers: What was your first Christmas album back in the day? I’d love to hear from you!
You can contact me on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut to tell me what your first Christmas album was!
Allison was a Walkman/Discman-toting ’90s child, and she’s proud to admit it. She didn’t buy her next Christmas album until the year she graduated high school, but this was her first, and she’ll always treasure it…even if she can’t find her copy and had to listen to it on You Tube (thank goodness for You Tube!). If you like what you’ve seen/heard here, she’s got a whole blog of Christmas craziness (until December 25th, of course, then it just becomes craziness as usual!), over at Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.
She really would love to know what your first Christmas album was!
If you didn’t see any of this coming, then you really don’t know me that well, do you?
So we’ve officially kicked off the holiday season, which began with the carving of a giant bird, which later moved into attacking people in stores for that 55″ television you just had to have. But for $250, it was a steal, and that old man couldn’t possibly run that fast. So as you scream “Survival of the fittest, pops!” you run off while dragging that box behind you…
Whoah, where was I going with this?
None of this actually happened, folks. I’m just trying to set up the season for you. Don’t mind me, apparently I’m a better fiction writer than I give myself credit for!
Anyway, the evil subject at hand…the actual evil subject!
Naturally, when I begin to compile my Christmas playlist – I run with all of the staples and favorites – Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and the like. I’ve begun to expand my Christmas playlist to the likes of Anne Murray and Judy Collins, but I’m more apt to shy away from anything that sounds novelty or cartoonish, with the exception of anything that comes from A Charlie Brown Christmas or How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
Don’t make me ever listen to anything from Alvin and the Chipmunks, unless you like to see a quick descent into insanity.
A few years ago, my parents gifted me with Michael Buble’s Christmas album, which mixed the classics with the crooning of Mr. Buble. I’ve been a fan ever since, and since I’m convinced alot of things I like wind up being gateway drugs for other things, I began to take a liking to David Foster, Josh Groban, and became more appreciative of Kenny Loggins and Chicago.
This article all about that group I write way too much about.
I dislike snow, cold weather, and everything that has to do with winter. Conversely, I like Christmas music that sings of all these things. Oh, and there’s a place I’d rather not spend a moment of my winter or Christmas in…Chicago. However, there is one group I’d like to spend my holiday season listening to – the band Chicago.
You knew where this was going long before you started reading. You chose to stay.
Chicago conquered it all – horn sections, the 1970s, creative album covers that didn’t need to feature the band on them, roman numerals. So it was only natural that they had to conquer the holiday season, but it took them until 1998 to do so, and the result was Chicago XXV: The Christmas Album. The album was released in August of 1998 on their label, Chicago Records (perhaps they were wise to have their own label after the debacle of that unreleased album), and later re-released in 2003 by Rhino Records as What’s It Gonna Be, Santa?, with six additional tracks. This re-release in itself came of the effort to possibly record an entirely new album of Christmas music, which was scrapped due to cost factors.
The original album featured fourteen tracks, with the re-released album containing twenty. Adding to the festivities and joy of the season were the songs featuring a children’s choir for the songs “Children’s Prayer” and “One Little Candle,” both of which originated on the original version of the album, and featured some of the band’s children – Kate and Sean Lamm (daughters of Robert Lamm), Sarah Pankow (daughter of James Pankow), Dylan and River Loughnane (children of Lee Loughnane), and Ryan and Alex Bittan (children of Roy Bittan), among others.
The re-released album (containing six new tracks) also gave Keith Howland his first lead vocal contribution for “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.” Howland, until that time, had been backing vocals since joining the group in 1995 (he’s still with the band today).
From Howland’s My Space page (https://myspace.com/keithhowlandmusic)
And what would an article about music be without, well, music?!
Here’s the original album:
Uploaded by mistermister668xmas
And the six tracks that were added to the re-release in 2003 (All Uploaded by Chicago – Topic):
As far as the albums go, all the standards of Christmas are covered. The arrangements are nice, and very much what you’d expect of any Chicago song, except the horns really add to the festiveness of the season.
I particularly love the total opposite song of the bunch, “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.” This was lead guitarist Keith Howland’s first lead solo since joining the group in 1995, and it definitely didn’t disappoint – I love the more contemporary edge he gave the song. Chicago managed to re-invent their sound as the 1980s and 1990s progressed, and this is a great example of how they did it through the post-Cetera years.
And there are the beautiful children’s choir songs – the young voices in the songs “Child’s Prayer” (accompanied by Jason Scheff) and “One Little Candle” help them stand out among the trademark sound Chicago is known for.
And of course, if you ever want to hear a great group effort of vocals, “Sleigh Ride” has a four-part harmony of Robert Lamm, Jason Scheff, Bill Champlin, and Lee Loughnane (whom you’re more likely to see doing his impressive trumpet and flugelhorn work – it’s always nice to see him sing!).
I don’t think there is anything about Chicago I could ever not be impressed about – from their early hits in the late 1960s and 1970s, to their re-invented sounds of the 1980s and 1990s, to Christmas music, love songs, breakup songs, tributes to bassists that were bigger than a big name, and collaborations with other groups to combine sound and style, I just continually am impressed with with a find. I’m still not a fan of “Colour My World,” but that’s a minor detail.
Christmas, Chicago, Chicago music, and Christmas music as sung by Chicago…what could be better?
You came because you were lured in by Christmas music, and you got yet another of Allison’s fangirl articles about Chicago. But that’s ok, you stayed long enough to read this part. If you’d like to read more of Allison’s stuff, she’d love for you to visit her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and Allison is also on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut. She mixes up her articles with random observations, and keeps the politics out of her tweets. She prefers it that way. Why would she want to discuss that when she can discuss a topic of her “happy place,” which is music.