Bobby Womack

The Right Stuff Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It almost seems unbelievable that it has taken Bobby Womack this long to release a Christmas album - but his recently-released disc Traditions is indeed his first foray into the holiday music market.

For someone who is a cornerstone in modern soul music, it's that much more surprising. And once you listen to this disc, you'll realize that it was worth the wait, as Womack shows some people just what it means to record Christmas music with a more urban flavor. There are very few mistakes made on this disc, and is a pleasant surprise addition to the market this year.

Womack kicks things off with an original composition, "Dear Santa Claus," a track that is both charming in its lyrical content as it is solid in its performance. He later puts an interesting spin on the same track when Cheyenne Womack makes her recording debut, turning the song into a letter to Santa asking that her father be given his own toys - to keep him from the gifts left for her. ("I swear, I was just making sure the batteries were installed correctly, sweetheart...")my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Womack puts his own spin on many of the holiday's classic songs - and he comes close to making them his own. Songs like "White Christmas," "Joy To The World," "Silent Night" and "O Holy Night" all benefit from the gospel-tinged backgrounds that Womack brings to the music. If I had any one complaint, it would be that I wish Womack had tried to hold out the higher notes on "O Holy Night" to punctuate the hymn. Otherwise, no matter where you live, you might find yourself surprised at just how charmingly addictive Womack's version of Christmas soul really is.

Even tipping his hat to the upcoming new year, Womack turns "Auld Lang Syne" into a gospel-like celebration that is sure to get you clapping your hands in joy. The fact is that, with only one exception, Womack plows through these songs like a snowblower with ease, and infuses them all with the joy of both the season and the genre he's both helped create and master.

Ah, the one exception. In a way, it's really not a big deal, but the electronics that turn his voice into something reminiscent of Alvin and the Chipmunks on "Jingle Bells" is surprisingly annoying. Oh, sure, it probably kept the children's choir interested and focused on the song, but it's rather strange hearing Womack's normal vocals in the background and the high-pitched robot-like voice up front in the mix. It's almost as if Womack had one of those megaphones that alters your voice, and was playing with it in the studio. Sorry, Bobby, but cute as it might have seemed at the time, it might have been a good idea to take it out in the final mix.

Still, this is one minor point on an otherwise excellent album - and, might I add, one that easily could put any hip-hop based Christmas album to shame. Traditions is a disc that will soon live up to its name, as families will undoubtedly make this disc one of the Christmas albums they will make sure to listen to each holiday season. It might have taken Womack a long time to get to this kind of a project, but he can at least take comfort in the fact that it's 99 percent perfect.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The Right Stuff Records, and is used for informational purposes only.