I thought BtH could use some Holiday spirit, so what better to review than the new Christmas album by everyone’s favorite gray-haired soul man Michael McDonald? My first introduction to the wondrous world of Michael McDonald was on the soundtrack to the film South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. His song Eyes of a Child was so ridiculous and over-the-top that I thought it was a joke; in fact, I thought it was the Michael McDonald from MAD TV, instead of a real, credible singer. Oh, that voice. I’m sure he could sing his way out of any predicament, just by opening his lungs and crooning into the stratosphere with that booming baritone of his.
He has endured newfound infamy after inspiring Paul Rudd’s character in the 40 Year Old Virgin to almost burn down the electronics store due to his concert being in rotation 24/7. While to some, that scene may have been their introduction to Michael McDonald, to us more fortunate souls, it was merely another indication of his awesomeness.
Well, he is back with his Christmas album, the creatively-titled This Christmas, complete with his best Season’s Greetings holiday card face on front. When I heard that he had a new Christmas album, my heart leapt to my throat and I was overcome with unbridled joy, the kind of joy that could ONLY be delivered by a new release from the man himself. And….the album doesn’t disappoint. While Bob Dylan’s new Christmas album is…well, strange and bizarre in a distinctly Dylanesque way, This Christmas is highly entertaining and hilarious, thanks to THAT VOICE. He even busts out some scatting (not unlike that famous 1990’s jam by the Spin Doctors) towards the end of White Christmas/Winter Wonderland, and it’s amazing. Some of the tunes on the album are either obscure Holiday songs or some of his own songs…which is somewhat disappointing since I’d much prefer hearing that husky angelic voice caress Frosty the Snowman or Little Drummer Boy, but I suppose it’s his prerogative to do his own thing. I mean, he WAS in the Doobie Brothers, and his song I Keep Forgetting is the background beat to Warren G’s legendary West Coast anthem Regulators. If I had that kind of history I’d do whatever the hell I wanted to on my Christmas album too.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman is another high point, as McDonald croons over a hushed slow ballad that is a pretty relaxing tune. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas closes out the disc, and this time he’s singing along to a light ukulele and some string instruments. It’s a nice arrangement, both tender and subdued. It’s a fitting way to end the album, with a standard everyone loves, instead of some song no one knows. Apparently some of these recordings have already been released on previous Michael McDonald holiday-themed records (yes, he has more than one!!), so this isn’t entirely a collection of new songs, which is probably lame to the hardcore Michael McDonald crowd out there, if such a crowd exists. Regardless, it’s a solid, albeit definitely cheesy, Christmas record.
I will say this: Michael McDonald has an extremely silly singing voice, with the low baritone and soaring high-pitched wailing that he does on just about every song. So silly, in fact, that I actually inquired into the potential cost of hiring him to sing a friend’s wedding, which may or may not happen sometime in the next few years, simply because of how entertaining we think it’d be if he showed up and started wailing away on the keyboard to Takin it to the Streets or What a Fool Believes.
This Christmas is a nice holiday album, all joking aside. There’s a reason Michael McDonald is still making music; despite all the good-natured ribbing dealt towards him in various pop culture avenues, he has endured for decades and routinely plays to packed houses filled with old people who dig his refined jazzy style. While us young punks can’t really appreciate him on a serious level, perhaps, he is still entertaining in his own right. Although, to be honest, hearing this album blaring every day at a department store would probably make me go completely batshit insane and either dance down the aisles in stupor or go all Paul Rudd and burn the store to the ground.
Well done, Mike, you win again.