SalvadorChristmas HopeSalvador lays down some holiday soul, wades into the tricky waters of rock bands doing Christmas, and emerges intact...

Hope was Born
Lucid Artist Records
10 tracks 33:27 minutes

They say that three things are inevitable: death, taxes, and a Salvador Christmas album. Well, that's not exactly what they say, but it goes something like that. At any rate, the Latin/gospel/pop/funk band gets into the holiday spirit on this entertaining collection of songs celebrating the season and salvation.

Starting off with "Feliz Navidad" (you did realize that this one was mandatory, didn't you?), Nic Gonzales leads the band through familiar Christmas songs ranging from the sacred ("Hark! The Herald Angels Sing") to the saccharine ("Sleigh Ride") with a couple of originals ("Happy Holidays" and "Hope Was Born) for good measure.

A couple of projects back, I put a some coal in the Salvador Stocking for going a little too poppish and wandering from their funky roots. The band redeemed themselves on Make Some Noise, and now on Hope Was Born they still show evidence of funk but have a Chicago-like commercial approach that puts them into a good place – and it is, after all, a Christmas album.
Gonzales' vocals are fluid but gutsy, with some nice Latin soul. The arrangements manage to keep the familiar melodies intact while injecting new rhythms and modern embellishments. Basically, it's a lot of fun – especially "Happy Holidays," which keeps things light and features a pretty cool Christmas gift to the listeners: a juicy Phil Keaggy guitar solo, coaxed on by a buoyant, "Come on, Mr. Keaggy!" from a delighted-sounding Gonzales.

Gonzales is joined by Jaci Velasquez on the reverent "Noche De Paz," a Spanish-language rendition of "Silent Night" that sits right in the middle of the project, appropriately stating what the celebration is all about.

Coming in at a little over a half-hour, Hope Was Born is an enjoyable Christmas album - a little bit funky (but not intrusively so), a little bit fun, a little bit warm, soulful, and celebratory. Salvador has managed to wade in the dangerous waters of rock bands doing Christmas and they've come up with a winner.

And, yes – they end with "We Wish You A Merry Christmas," but in a funky big-band kind-of way.

Bert Saraco