SWV

A Special Christmas

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SWV became one of the hottest American hit-making acts of the 1990s, scoring with a string of smash pop/R&B singles and three hit-laden albums. In 1997 they beefed up their catalog with their holiday offering, A Special Christmas, which turned out to be their final album. The endearing, sleek, soulful set finds the Sisters With Voices covering a sweet selection of holiday standards, and it differs from their previous albums because all three gals handle lead vocals (especially effective on their soaring rendition of "O Holy Night"). There is also a surprising innocence to this record, as if these were the neighborhood girls you'd see at church every weekend, which is all the more interesting because this trio established itself with street-wise, New Jack soul/pop songs. Highlights include the album's sole new song, co-written by the group's Cheyrl "Coko" Gamble," "Christmas Ain't Christmas," the Motown Christmas classic "Give Love on Christmas Day," the deliciously sweet "Silver Bells," "O Holy Night," and their take on "My Favorite Things," which deserves to be resurrected on future Christmas compilations. This album works because they treat the standards with respect and reverence, while still managing to put the SWV stamp on the recordings, and the sole new track is a highlight, instead of a bore, which many contemporary Christmas songs tend to be. A sweet, endearing, soulful set.

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