Donny Hathaway: This Christmas
From A Donny Hathaway Collection (Atlantic, 1990)
John Legend: Jesus, What A Wonderful Child
From NBC Sounds Of The Season: The John Legend Collection (Sony, 2006)
Although the Donny track is quite well-known, it’s one of those songs that just can’t be overplayed. In fact, I find myself playing it year round. Sure, it has its checklist of Christmas references – fireside, trimming trees, caroling – but it never feels forced like so many non-traditional Christmas songs. The production is excellent with its uplifting horn arrangements and even that teaser fade out/fade in ending. I’m assuming it’s an Arif Mardin production, although I don’t have the liner notes handy. It’s amazing how little information there is available on not only this song, but a more in-depth look into Hathaway’s career as a whole.
On “Jesus, What A Wonderful Child,” John Legend channels his church background for a holy spirit-filled exercise. With just 88 keys at his fingers is where he really excels. This track is available on the 2006 Target-only release; if you’re lucky you might still be able to catch it at Target during the holiday season. Glory Hallelujah, indeed! If you can find the EP, I highly recommend getting it as it’s got other stripped renditions, including a beautiful performance of “Oh Holy Night.”
Merry Christmas and safe travels to all of you!