James Taylor

A Christmas Album

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A Christmas album seems like such a natural for James Taylor that it's amazing he got more than 35 years into his recording career before making one. When he did, he pacted with Hallmark and sold it through their greeting card stores. For the recording itself, he teamed with Dave Grusin, which results in arrangements of Christmas favorites that mix Taylor's folk-pop sensibility and Grusin's contemporary jazz tendencies. Not all of the treatments work. Taylor doesn't exhibit much chemistry with Natalie Cole on their duet of "Baby, It's Cold Outside," and the bluesy version of "Jingle Bells" (a sole Taylor arrangement) that completely recasts the melody is odd. But much of the time the disc sounds like what a James Taylor fan would expect, Taylor applying his warm, friendly voice to a batch of Christmas carols. He remains a distinctive vocal stylist, and his singing is well suited to most of the material.

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