Come Home For Christmas proves that there is, after all, always room for another Christmas album
Come Home For Christmas
indie label / MBK
5 tracks 17:28
Call me Scrooge, but at this point in my life I’m not looking for more Christmas music. Now don’t get me wrong, I welcome the thought of carolers appearing at my front door, singing seasonal hymns in church, and even listening to the classic renditions while pretending my TV is actually a musical fireplace. The truth is, I’ve collected enough metal, prog, hip-hop, R&B, pop, jazz, orchestral, a cappella and instrumental Christmas collections to more than fill the holiday season several times over. So why would I be interested in another one? Two words: Tim Miner.
When I heard that Tim Miner was working on a Christmas EP, all of my Scrooge-ness melted away and I knew that something wonderful was going to be added to my Christmas playlist. Miner’s production style, blue-eyed soul vocals, and instrumental chops puts his work in the must-hear category, and it’s been way too long since we’ve been able to indulge - so this is a Christmas present, indeed.
Remember that we’re talking about a Christmas album here, so you know that there will be some classic songs, but we’re also treated to a pair of new compositions that have ‘classic’ written all over them.
The album starts off with an intimate jazz combo setting on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Miner’s fluid and soulful vocal phrasing interweaves with elegant piano (Ian Oakley), bass and drums, while innovative harmony parts (all done by Tim Miner, sounding a lot like Take 6) decorate the song like a feathery, falling snow.
“What if Christmas was more than this?” The question has been asked many times in many ways, but “What If” poses the poignant query in the form of a smooth, elegant ballad, rich with vocal texture and harmony (this time it actually is the extraordinary Take 6, in fine form). The lush orchestration recorded at Abbey Road Studios, was conducted by the aforementioned Ian Oakley, who co-wrote the song with Miner and Kenna West. There’s a kind of sad melancholy to the build-up of the melody, and Tim Miner’s passionate delivery allows the question posed by the lyric to linger in the listener’s heart.
Hints of BeBe Winans, Sam Cooke, and even a sliver of the great Al Green seem to inhabit Miner’s rhythmic interpretation of the familiar “Away in a Manger.” The arrangement is fairly straightforward light R&B, and features delightful backup vocals and a very tasty guitar solo to amp up the sophistication level. A very radio-friendly track, I think.
The title track is an exercise in how to write a memorable song. Great chords, terrific, simple melody, a great hook, and heartfelt lyrics. “Come Home For Christmas” presents a familiar theme - in a way, it’s the flip-side of the opening track, expressed beautifully in a classic ‘band’ setting. The addition of some very ‘churchy’ Hammond B3 licks (once again, by Oakley) add an extra injection of soul to the mix. Miner’s emotional and dexterous upper-register phrasing is the icing on this musical cake. A very personal and emotional song, Miner wrote the lyric with his late mother (who passing happened several years ago during the holiday season) in mind - the sentiment is universal, though, and easily relatable on many levels. Without question, this song could become a standard.
Of course, since congress passed that law, every new Christmas album has to include “The Christmas Song,” but Tim got around that by doing “Chestnuts” instead. Okay, okay - there’s no such law - but “Chestnuts” (aka “The Christmas Song”) is the closing track on the album, and gets a mildly funky mid-tempo groove to roast those suckers on. Hey, kids from one to ninety-two will enjoy this one, especially sitting by an open fire with Jack Frost nipping at your nose. It might be a staple, but at 2:10, when Tim asks, “can I play a little bit of this?” and creates a beautiful instrumental/vocal moment, the song becomes his.
Come Home For Christmas is a delightful musical holiday treat - and what major treat it is to get some new music from the legendary Tim Miner (see what I did there with the major / Miner thing?). Tim played all of the bass, guitar, and keyboards except where noted. Drums on “What If” were played by Jason Palmer. Come Home For Christmas proves that there is, after all, always room for another Christmas album - especially if it’s done with originality and heartfelt soul, and with respect for the source material. Miner hopes to issue a series of Christmas EPs over the next few years, and that’s just fine with me - go figure. Gee, I’m even ready for a hymns album now, Tim!
For concert photography by Bert Saraco, visit: www.facebook.com/express.image