|Harry Connick, Jr. - Harry For the Holidays|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Dan MacIntosh|
|Tuesday, 28 October 2003|
Harry Connick, Jr. states that he’s harry for the holidays with the title of this seasonal release, and if you take into consideration that this album was probably recorded on some sunny summer day in July, far away from the noises of annoying relatives and greedy little kids, who can really doubt him? Instead of having a throng of cousins, aunts, uncles and kiddies clinging to his winter coat, Mr. Connick has gathered together a large band of musicians in order to create one swinging Christmas bash on Harry For the Holidays.
Much as with human weight limitations for adults using playground swing-sets, some items here fit into the swing of things, so to speak, better than others. For instance, “Frosty The Snowman,” with its fast horn jazz instrumentation and Cab Calloway-inspired call-and-response vocal arrangement, works a lot better than serious musical slices like “I Wonder As I Wander” or “Nature Boy.” Similar to most holiday releases, this set of songs is mainly comprised of familiar music. Nevertheless, Connick, Jr. still leaves his mark with a few new songs of his own.
Connick’s self-penned “The Happy Elf,” for example, brings a little joy to the workplace, as he sings and plays up a storm. “I Come With Love,” on the other hand, is a serious ballad that digs into the conflicted emotions of Mary and Joseph on that first Christmas night. Here, as with so many of Connick, Jr.’s ballads, he reaches for his best Frank Sinatra impression. On “I’m Gonna Be The First One,” he returns to a lighter, more swinging touch, and his voice this time sounds endearingly like Mel Torme, rather than Old Blue Eyes.
Although the majority of this album’s tracks hark back to those old Capitol Records days -- back when artists like Sinatra (and many others) took the Nelson Riddle full orchestral approach to seasonal songs -- there are a few notable exceptions on this release. “This Christmas,” which was written by soulster Donny Hathaway (along with Nadine McKinnor), has a really nice Philly soul feel to it, especially because of its backing vocal choir and string section. But even more unusual than that is one called “Nothin’ New For New Year,” which is also a song written by Connick, Jr. For this particular track, the artist traded in his extra large instrumental gang for a combo featuring minimal piano, bass, guitar and drums. And let’s not forget the pedal steel part and presence of country legend George Jones here, either. That’s right, boys and girls: this sad one is a teary-eyed duet with “No Show” Jones himself. Although Connick, Jr. will never convince anybody that he, the consummate urbanite, could ever be a legitimate chap ‘n’ hat-wearing cowpoke, this experiment somehow still works. He closes the album with an extra-bluesy version of “Silent Night,” which is highlighted by Leroy Jones’ sweetly warm trumpet solo.
Harry For the Holidays begins as a loose and jazzy office holiday party, and then ends with a few eclectic musical notes. It’s like somebody who started with the idea of decorating the Christmas tree with just a few choice matching colors, then just turned it all into an anything goes mishmash. It may not follow an exact prescribed theme, but it sure feels like home. So while this one might not exactly be the perfect replica of your father’s favorite jazz-pop Christmas album, it’s nevertheless a stocking full of gifts that will please fathers and sons alike.