Andrea Bocelli

Mi Navidad

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You might think that the voice of crossover tenor Andrea Bocelli would make a perfect fit with Christmas music, much of which occupies the middle ground between classical and pop that is Bocelli's stomping ground. It turns out to be partially true. This album, released by the Universal conglomerate's Latin division, is mostly in Spanish, with several pieces in their original English and only one, "Caro Gesu Bambino" (track 13) in the singer's native Italian. U.S. listeners may enjoy the Spanish translations of such standards as "White Christmas" (Blanca Navidad) and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" (Santa Claus llegó a la ciudad). The best news is that, as he has in the past, Bocelli shows that grasp of how to sing in Spanish that sometimes eludes Italian singers. His Spanish is by no means accent-free, but he just has an appealing way of wrapping his voice around the sibilants. Less attractive is the sound of Bocelli's lower register in pieces like the traditional Gloria in excelsis Deo (track 2, with the verses also sung in Spanish); it has a strange buzzy quality. He does better in English-language pieces when teamed with the likes of Natalie Cole (whose own middle register has darkened splendidly in late middle age) and even Mary J. Blige. These duets have not been Bocelli's strong point in the past, but here they bring out the conversational quality that makes his fans swoon. Probably they'll do that no matter what, but this is in many ways an attractive Christmas release, especially for Spanish speakers. The booklet contains lyrics only in the language in which they are sung.

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