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  Vicki Yohe: Christmas Presence 
Artist: Vicki Yohe 
Label: Audio X (0241900052) 
Length: 10 tracks, 42 min. 

Vicki Yohe: Christmas Presence has six Christmas favorites along with four newer Christmas songs in a collection that will have you listening by a fireplace with warm cocoa. 

Vicki Yohe's voice can best be described as a combination of Barbra Streisand (emotionally loud) and Patti Austin (gospel beat.)  Yohe loves to let loose with her voice on everything and a bit of holding back on this album could have helped.  She is best with back-up singers and a band who temper the tendency to rattle the shingles on the house. 

"White Christmas" begins the CD in an easy listening style.  You want to lean back and dream of all the white Christmases you've ever known. Yohe doesn't use the usual phrasing here and it works.  By not breathing at the end of a phrase, but breathing in the phrase, she keeps the listener alert. 

"Christmas Presence" is a newer song and will soon be a favorite with lyrics like "Shine a light on us this Christmas Day, let the weary and wandering find their way."  The invitation to have Christ in your life all year long and not just on December 25 is emphasized by Yohe's strong pronunciation and guitar accompaniment. 

"I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Do You Hear What I Hear" are two examples of what can be done to a song.  Guitar and saxophone are used on "I'll Be Home" and Yohe's pronunciation of "Christmas," letting the "s" sound linger, makes you want to stay in the house all winter and listen to CD's.  "Do You Hear" is done slow and lazy as though the lyrics are drifting on wind currents.  Yohe carries this nicely almost to the end of the piece when she gets dramatic when it isn't necessary. 

On the other hand, "Silent Night" is the only clunker on the CD. It's pitched too high for the singer and the result is that the high notes on "heavenly peace" are almost a whisper.  "O Holy Night" also has Yohe stretching for high notes on the first stanza, but reaching them for the rest of the piece.  Using only piano accompaniment is a nice touch. 

The gospel-influenced selections are  "Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child" and Gaither's 'What Did You Say Was the Baby's Name?"  Both will have you clapping as singers and instrumentalists get into the beat with Yohe's vocals winding notes around the group.  Let's have an entire album of gospel sometime. 

A piece Vick Yohe wrote with Ruth Munsey and Brian Hardin is "My Gift Baby Jesus," a gentle Christmas song telling people not to be too busy for the Christmas season as her gift to them is the Baby Jesus.  The band is top-notch and includes Brian Hardin on keyboard, Jim Hammerly on piano and Sam Levine on saxophone. 

Copyright 2001 Marie Asner 



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