BRETT ELDREDGE PUTS THE GLOW IN YOU AND THE MISTLETOE AND ME
Walking through Opry Mills in Nashville on the day after Halloween, “Run Run Rudolph” was playing overhead. Surely they were kidding. No one listens to Christmas carols for a solid two months. Yet despite the 80-degree temps outside that day, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas inside the mall. I remember when the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade used to be the official kickoff of the Christmas season. Now, at the stroke of midnight on Halloween, pumpkins turn into Christmas trees. It’s enough to make Charlie Brown say, “Good Grief!” I left the mall that day cursing all things Christmas and vowing not to listen to a single carol until after Thanksgiving. However, in the same week that saw the Cubs win the World Series, truly, anything is possible. In my Facebook feed, I discovered a video ad for Brett Eldredge’s new Christmas album, Glow. In it, he surprises trick-or-treaters on Halloween with a song off his holiday album, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas.” With a velvet red jacket, red microphone, and a big band sound, I was headed to Target for the exclusive release. #MoreMusic
If you buy the hard copy CD, as I did, the packaging is gift worthy in burgundy and gold. The CD itself is a shimmery gold, and the liner notes are a black tie affair. The album is full of nostalgic sound, a throwback to the sounds of Christmas Brett grew up with. Read his thank you note contained in the liner, one of the best I’ve seen, and you’ll understand where the heart of this project came from. It isn’t Christmas without Bing Crosby’s standard, “White Christmas,” and Brett’s love for the music began there. The strength of his family ties and their holiday traditions are all part of what he brings to the feel of the album. He made a point to thank the musicians who played on this and provided the sound of a century past, big band at its best. They are the perfect accompaniment to Brett’s seasonal-sounding voice. Glow brings swing, jazz, and traditional carols to the 21st century and makes them sound new again.
When the album opens with “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” it makes me want to don a red dress, find a jazz club, and hope for a tuxedoed Fred Astaire (or Brett Eldredge) to dance with. Big swing. Big fun. As long as the whiskey doesn’t run out, let it snow! “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a sexy duet with Meghan Trainor that heats up the room with vocals so smooth they glide over the orchestra. With these two young voices on an old standard, 2016 is the new 1944. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is a beautiful display of piano work with just a light touch of orchestral accompaniment behind Brett’s sublime voice. Magic! The spotlight is on the music in “The Christmas Song.” A jazzy arrangement gives it a loose feel and room for Brett to take his time and put his own inflections on the lyrics. The trumpet solo adds a touch of reverie in just the right spot. Very easy to get lost in the season listening to this.
Brett Eldredge and Ross Copperman wrote the album’s title track, “Glow.” It must have been a jazz standard in a past life. I can clearly hear Sinatra singing this through Brett’s vocal chords. Brilliant in its lyrics and throwback sound, “Glow” would not be out of place on the stage at Chicago’s Green Mill today or in the 1930s. Despite all the other traditional favorites on this album, “Glow” outshines them all. Vocal, lyrics, musical arrangement – spectacular! Alongside this, Brett sings the song that started his love affair with Christmas music and, he says, changed his love of all music forever. There was no attempt to copy the original version of “White Christmas,” and no need to. This laid back, jazz arrangement suits Brett’s voice perfectly. The soft touch adds sentimentality, and the ending is the icing on the cake. “Winter Wonderland” is a fun romp between Brett and the orchestra. The arrangement adds to the playfulness, giving music and vocal room to move around in. Brett’s personality shines in this one.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is a showcase of everything Brett brings to this album – exceptional musicianship, concise vocals that serve the music and are not overly indulgent, and respect for the spirit the song was written in. He sings this like a heartfelt serenade, and the music is its divine counterpart. The guitar solo midway through is unexpected and so sweet. “Silent Night” affords no room for fancy production or vocal swagger. With minimal instrumental support, every note is heard. Brett’s reverence for the song is evident in the way he sings it. Be still and listen carefully to this one. It’s music in its simplest form, as this song demands. “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” harkens back to the big band era when the interaction between the singer and the band was paramount. This doesn’t have the feel of a recording. It’s a live performance we’ve been invited to, and when it ends, I feel the need to applaud and ask for an encore. “The First Noel” never sounded so beautiful. There is such purity in Brett’s voice, and the orchestra serves only to lift up that voice. As I listened to this, I got chills, and I thought, “So that’s what majesty sounds like.”
If you buy Glow at Target, you get an additional three bonus tracks, #MoreMusic, that are well worth skipping the convenience of a digital copy. “Blue Christmas” alone justifies the hard copy. This is like a history of music and celebration of musicianship all rolled into one enthusiastic blues rendition with a shot of big band swing for fun. The guitar solo in the middle is a “Look what you do to me baby” have mercy! “O Holy Night” is a big song that requires some pretty confident pipes to tackle. Think The Three Tenors version of the song. You’ll be hanging on his every word in this one. The vocal soars on “O night divine” as Brett delivers a Carnegie Hall/Konzerthaus-worthy rendition. Divine indeed! The final bonus track is an A cappella version of “The First Noel.” Picture Brett Eldredge standing alone on the stage at Carnegie Hall, no musicians, no backline. The only instrument he has is his voice, and what an instrument that is. A singer doesn’t get any more vulnerable than this. You either have the chops or you don’t. Brett’s mettle is on full display here, and his voice gave me chills listening to this. ‘Stunning’ seems a bit of an understatement.
I had no intention of listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving or writing a review of a holiday album. The extreme commercialization of the season had soured me on it, making me forget the things that once made it so special. Brett and I grew up in towns not far from each other in the Midwest, where family life and simple traditions were coveted. Christmas was all about family traditions, and the music of the season was a big part of that. My father turned me on to Bing Crosby and “White Christmas” just as Brett’s did, and it was a holiday tradition to put the vinyl on the turntable for the first time the day after Thanksgiving. Musicianship was as divine as the singer, and we sat listening to their magic as it came through the speakers and filled the room. Glow is a reminder of what the season should mean, and Brett’s appreciation of those traditions is evident in what he brought to this project. Musicians were once heralded, not hidden, and Brett gives them their due on this album. The manor in which he chose to record this is a testament to his heartfelt appreciation of their talent. The arrangements of the songs show great respect for the original recordings and the singers Brett idolized. His vocals are never gratuitous, yet exceptional throughout. He has a voice from another era, and we are fortunate he’s chosen to carry that sound tradition forward into the 21st century. Look outside the mall this Christmas, back to the days when there was a “five-and-ten.” Listen to Bing Crosby, then listen to Brett Eldredge. Decorate the tree to the sounds of Glow. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas as it should be, albeit a little early this year. Who knew a trip to Target could hold such serendipity.
Album Produced By: Jay Newland and Rob Mounsey
Arranged and Conducted By: Rob Mounsey
Piano and Keyboards – Rob Mounsey
Electric and Acoustic Guitars – David Spinozza
Electric and Acoustic Bass – David Finck
Drums – Dennis Mackrel
Concertmaster – Antoine Silverman
Violins – Adda Kridler, Sean Carney, Sylvia D’Avanzo, Yuko Naito-Gotay,
Paul Woodiel, and Jonathan Dinklage
Violas – Isabel Hagen and Chris Cardona
Cellos – Anja Wood and Clarice Jensen
Bass – Tim Cobb
Harp – Tomina Parvanova
Alto Sax – Aaron Heick and David Mann
Tenor Sax – Charles Pillow and David Riekenberg
Baritone Sax – Roger Rosenberg
Lead Trumpet – Nick Marchione
Trumpets – Tony Kadleck, Barry Danielian, and Scott Wendholt
Trombones – Michael Davis, Randy Andos, and Nick Finzer
Bass Trombone – Jeff Nelson
Download Glow on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/glow/id1164422851
(Although I highly recommend the Target exclusive!)
Visit Brett’s website: http://www.bretteldredge.com/glow?ref=http://www.bretteldredge.com/
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