VINTAGE ALBUM: Francesca Battistelli “Christmas” Album Review

Francesca Battistelli

Prime Cuts: Heaven Everywhere, The Christmas Song, You're Here 

Overall Grade: 5/5

On her 2012 Christmas album, Francesca Battistelli floats back to the bygone times of cabaret greats where singing rather than guitar riffs is at the fore.  And she steps into a time where music is driven by transcending melodies that you could hum to your grandkids in 20 years time rather than non-descript ones that only re-vibrates radio airwaves for a flash.  

As the first note of Mel Torme and Robert Wells' "The Christmas Song" strikes, we are transported into a time warp harkening back to the jazzy days of Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby. The inviting tango calls of the brass section, Battistelli's tonsil testing vocal glory and the ever endearing words of "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire/Jack Frost nipping at your nose/Yuletide carols sung by a choir..." are enough to get us prancing with glee and nostalgia in the euphoria of the season.

Though it's almost customary these days for artists to interspersed their Christmas records with their own originals, Battistelli is of no exception. Here she offers 4 of her own compositions: preceding the parade is the lead single "Heaven Everywhere."  While songwriters struggle to put to words the transforming joy that Christmas brings, Ben Glover and Battistelli have made it palatable through offering some concrete flesh and blood examples of the difference Christmas brings: "It's the smile on a man who has finally found hope/It's the tears of a mother whose child has come home/It's the joy that we feel and the love that we share."

Battistelli's attention to details again shows on "Christmas Is."  In a season where we are most easily distracted by fighting for a parking spot in the mall, trying to remember not to burn the turkey and remembering to say "thank you" to the gifts we've returned, "Christmas Is" details all these jarring (and at times humorous) anecdotes.  Yet, the song's crowning moment comes when amidst all of these chaos, Battistelli sings "Christmas is Jesus," a clarion call that gets s back to the season's real reason.  

Moving away from the bustling tempo of "Christmas Is" is the touching ballad "You're Here." One of the most gruesome nightmares for a mother is to have your newborn baby being mistreated.  The slightest thought of someone inadvertently dropping your baby on the floor is enough to send tumours down a mother's spine.  So, how must Mary the mother of Jesus have felt when she knew right from the start that her newborn baby was to be mistreated, abused, humiliated and murdered in the hands of cruel men?  "You're Here" finds Battistelli exploring some of those emotions with a maternal exasperation that you could hear Mary's (and God's) heart(s) breaking with every syllable.

Though the accompanying DVD is dubbed as a live recording of Battistelli singing these Christmas songs, there are little variations Battistelli brings to her live renditions.  Other than some interactions with the audience at the beginning of the songs, the songs seemed to be lifted off from the studio recordings.  Also, the purpose of a live recording is to allow fans to be able to interact with Battistelli but here there were hardly any camera shots of the audience at all.  Other than the addition of "25th of December," the DVD is a luxury and not really a necessity.  Nevertheless, don't let this distract you from getting one of the most heartwarming and enjoyable Christmas CD to be released in the last couple of years. 

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