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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Vanessa Williams

Silver and Gold

Review by Gary Hill

With Silver and Gold Vanessa Williams has put in a strong, if not entirely consistent holiday release. The disc has quite a few strong points, and very few songs that are weak. She is certainly best when wandering into an old-school jazz texture. One can hope that we hear more of this style from the singer because she pulls it off very well. There are certainly a number of tracks here that should stand the test of time and become songs we are all listening to during the holidays years from now. Vanessa Williams has given us all a great early Christmas gift.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 and also in Music Street Journal the Holiday Edition at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Silver and Gold
Williams puts in a laid back, fairly traditional rendition of this Christmas classic. The sax and her soulful performance later are strengths.
Joy To The World
She takes a bit of liberty with this one, taking it into soulful directions at first. That section is only so effective, but as it shifts to a funky, she turns in a duet rendition with Brian McKnight that really smokes. This one is definitely a highlight of the disc.
Mary's Little Boy Child
This one has an island rhythm. Hey, they celebrate Christmas in the tropics. This is an interesting, but not standout number.
Silent Night
A fairly classical approach starts this. As the familiar verse enters, it's in a dramatic and lush arrangement. Williams' performance is spot on, and this section works quite well. I think they take the arrangement a bit over the top later, but it's all a matter of degrees, and this is a strong rendition nonetheless.
Winter Weather
This is a swinging old-school jazz performance of a Carpenter's song and really leaves you wishing to hear Williams do a whole album like this.
Little Drummer Boy
Williams plays this fairly utilitarian at first, and it works well. As the gospel arrangement joins later, though, it just doesn't work so well. So, this one is a mixed bag. When it's on, it's on, but at times it misses.
Merry Christmas Darling
This is a slow jazzy number, but more of a sultry modern vein than "Winter Weather". Still this one is another highlight of the CD and includes a killer organ sound.
Rise Up Shepherd and Follow
This is a bouncy gospel sort of piece, but it leaves me a little unimpressed. It's not bad, just not as strong as a lot of the material on show here. Still, when they ramp up the intensity later it works better.
Prelude - I Dream A World
Based on neo-classical stylings, this short classy piece features Ossie Davis putting in an inspired reading of a poem by Langston Hughes. It's a nice touch.
December Lullaby
This is a funky, more straightforward R & B jam. It's not a standout cut, but entertaining nonetheless.
The Holly and The Ivy
This one takes on a rather Celtic texture due to the appearance of Irish duet Cormac Breatnach and Martin Dunlea. It's a strong number, but I have to admit that's partly because of it's one of this reviewer's favorite holiday songs.
Christmas Is
Here Williams goes back to the old school swinging jazz arrangement, and this one really smokes. Bravo, this is a new killer Christmas classic. It features some smoking solos and a down and dirty arrangement. This is my favorite song on the CD by a long shot.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
This fairly stripped down rendition (it does get a bit lush at points) serves as a showcase for Williams' potent vocal skills and as a nicely charming album closer.
 
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