Welsh musical theatre star John Owen-Jones is no stranger to Angry Baby, and I was thrilled recently when I heard he was releasing an album of Christmas songs. Simply titled The Christmas Album, the eleven tracks fall naturally into two halves; the classic tunes of the fifties and sixties that we all know and love, and a handful of new or lesser known songs that deserve a wider audience. This approach has been seen on a couple of John’s most recent work and it means something new is brought to the Christmas music scene.
Dashing straight into ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year‘ and ‘Happy Holiday / The Holiday Season‘, the album dives straight into the cheery lightness associated with these classic tunes that still stand the test of time – above all, at this time of year we demand good cheer and rollicking good tunes in our music and these two tracks give us this in spades. John is clearly having the time of his life with these songs, taking the opportunity to let his versatile voice rip, something heard to a greater extent in ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town‘. The sense of fun continues with ‘That Holiday Feeling’, a lost gem originally by late husband and wife duo Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, and performed here with Kerry Ellis.
A stand out song comes right at the end of the album and is from Chris Eaton (long time songwriter for Cliff Richard). ‘Now More Than Ever’ is a heartfelt song that taps into this spiritual time of year and this year particularly, reflects the uncertain times we live in. The beautiful melody and sound of John’s voice complement each other perfectly and rounds off the album in appropriate fashion.
Before we reach that point however, there are several other tracks that are highlights (I always have a problem with choosing favourite tracks from Christmas albums, I love them all) for me. ‘Lullaby for Christmas Eve‘ and ‘On Christmas Eve‘ focus on one of the most special nights of the festive period, namely the magical night of the year when children can’t wait to get into bed to ensure Father Christmas comes. The latter is an unreleased song from Les Reed and Bill Martin with a re-orchestration and reworked lyrics from John.
Finally, and I can’t believe I left it until last, what an utter delight to listen to ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales‘, written by Welsh singer songwriter Al Lewis and opened by the voice of Dylan Thomas himself! As the child of a Welsh father, I love the original prose and even named my son after the poet so I was super duper happy to hear both the voice of Dylan Thomas and the song itself.
However you like your Christmas music, there is something for everyone here – let’s face it, this time of year musically is not for the bah humbugs!
The Christmas Album is released on 19 November. Get your copy here.
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