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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Charles Billingsley

It's Christmas Time Again

Review by Gary Hill

When looking for new holiday music, this album is a great place to start. The arrangement here are generally traditional (leaning toward jazz mostly, but also classical music). Charles Billingsley's vocals are silky smooth and so strong. While not everything here blew me away, there are no "skip" tracks really, either.  If there is a complaint to be made, and that's questionable, it's that the songs that fit into similar styles seemed to be grouped together. While it never interferes with the enjoyment of this release, I have to believe that separating them a bit and mixing it up would have allowed them to shine better, creating an even stronger release. Still, it's potent as presented here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
The Man With the Bag
They power things in with an energetic jazz arrangement. It drops back for the vocal section. This has classic vocal arrangements and some fiery horns. It's a lot of fun.
Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town
Here we get a bit mellower jazz arrangement. The drums have a shuffling texture. The horns are magical. This is a classic tune. It's delivered with classic style.
It's Christmas Time Again
A balladic arrangement, this is slow and quite pretty.
I Heard the Bells
Strings and piano make up the main elements of the instrumental arrangement here. This is a very traditional take on the piece. It's another ballad. The chorale backing vocals are a bit over the top for my tastes at times, but it's part of the charm of the cut, I suppose.
O, Holy Night
Chorale voices represent the backing for the lead vocal here. Now, on this cut, with this arrangement, that works better. This is a powerful rendition of a traditional song. It doesn't rethink anything, but rather brings a certain vitality to it.
A mellow jazz ballad, this is slow and so pretty. It both classic and classy.
Silver Bells
This is a fun, if expected, rendition of the classic tune. The backing vocals, piano and percussion all work extremely well. Those smooth lead vocals really sell this, though. The horn driven instrumental exploration later is purely on fire, too.
Dig That Crazy Santa Claus
Fast paced jazz meets rock and roll, this is a fun cut. It's very much a big band kind of stomper. It works so well, too. This is one of my favorite cuts here.
White Christmas
A particularly mellow rendition, this ballad is another that feels classic.
Silent Night
Here we get a very traditional and sedate rendition of the holiday classic. This is pretty.
Panis Angelicus
The lyrics to this are in Latin. The music is symphonic and quite beautiful and lush. While I can appreciate the beauty and majesty of this piece, it's not really my kind of thing.
Welcome to Our World
The musical tapestry behind this one is very much classical. The lyrics, though, are in English. While I can recognize the charms of this, I don't think it stands up to the first half of the disc.
This gentle little number is quite pretty. It really makes for a satisfying close to the set.
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