Though it may not intend to, with its title The Ultimate Relaxation Christmas Album addresses one of the biggest paradoxes of the holiday season: ideally, it should be one of the most joyous and relaxing times of the year, but thanks to shopping for gifts, social obligations, and heightened expectations, too often the holidays become stressful instead of pleasant. This collection of soothing instrumental and choral holiday favorites aims to restore some serenity to the season, and on at least one level, it succeeds; the gentle renditions of "O Holy Night," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and "The Christmas Waltz" have soft, lush arrangements that are definitely relaxing. However, the arrangements skirt dangerously close to the sappy, string-laden territory of Mantovani, 101 Strings, and countless other easy listening instrumentalists, and the cutesy harp, piano, and xylophone flourishes on many of the tracks threaten to push the album into kitsch. Of course, the Christmas albums by Mantovani, 101 Strings, and the like were hugely popular, and this album's nod to those sweetly bland holiday releases of the past could be intentional, adding to the built-in nostalgia that the season evokes. In some ways, the retro feeling of The Ultimate Relaxation Christmas Album is more refreshing -- and yes, relaxing -- than the new age-tinged holiday albums that may very likely sound nostalgic a few decades down the road. The purely choral selections are simpler and more dignified than most of the intstrumentals on the album, though a few of the orchestral tracks later in the album lose some of the more obvious easy listening tendencies. An ultra-traditional collection, The Ultimate Relaxation Christmas Album could be either stuffy or comforting, depending on your taste in holiday music and, quite possibly, how much eggnog you've had.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
|Cantata No. 147, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben," BWV 147 (BC A174)|
|Violin Concerto, for violin, strings & continuo in F minor ("L'inverno," The Four Seasons; "Il cimento" No. 4), Op. 8/4, RV 297|
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (adapted by W. H. Cummings from Mendelssohn's Festgesang for the Gutenberg Festival)
|Weihnachtsoratorium (Christmas Oratorio), in six parts, BWV 248 (BC D7)|