Cocktails and Christmas

Posted on 09 Dec 2010 at 5:28pm

Pink Martini serves up deliciousness with their holiday album ‘Joy to the World’

RICH LOPEZ  | lopez@dallasvoice.com

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PINK CHRISTMAS | Pink Martini delivers an unexpected but welcome Christmas gift by giving holiday songs that classic movie feel.

4.5 Stars
JOY TO THE WORLD

Pink Martini
Heinz Records

This season, you may find yourself dreaming of a pink Christmas more than a white one, thanks to eclectic jazz band Pink Martini. They bring their classic sound to a handful of carols in Joy to the World — and boy is it. Martini will make you feel like you’re stepping into the world of any classic Christmas movie, and you may not want to leave.

The CD is a hefty 14 tracks, mostly of familiar carols and songs. Pink Martini doesn’t stray too much out of the box, but when they do, it’s dreamy. They start as classic as you can get. In the two-part opener of “White Christmas,” they set the mood with lush arrangements. Saori Yuki sings on part 2 and adds a delightful delicacy. Gay frontman Thomas Lauderdale leads the band with such patience, that the languid feeling is akin to the comfort of a Snuggie.

“Shchedryk (Ukranian Bell Carol)” translates into the more popularly named “Carol of the Bells.” The layering of voices and crescendo to a breathtaking high in this third track finish off a trio of beautiful opening carols.

People may get me on this, but Madonna’s “Santa Baby” sticks out as the best version, though China Forbes gives her heavy competition without relying on quirk. She sings it straight and lets the music do the bibbity-bopping. Forbes still winks, but you listen closer to what she wants more than brushing it off as a cute seasonal song.

While nothing is overly wrong with the next few songs, the approach gets slightly weaker on “Little Drummer Boy” and “We Three Kings.” They stick with the original compositions and add their flairs, but “Drummer” is a little too slow even with its underlying “Bolero” beat. The song never takes off with the pride that’s behind the lyrics.

“Kings” is rendered beautifully, but Forbes and Lauderdale keep the same patience as before with it and it loses some of its epic flavor. The punctuating trumpet almost turns it into something darker. The guitar keeps it afloat but when the song trails off, it ends up a bit weak.

music-2-2Martini goes original with “A Snow Globe Christmas,” which is one of the best attempts in a long time. Most artists try too hard to create that new Christmas song. Without the pressures of mainstream play, Lauderdale and company nailed it. They composed a throwback that could fit into any MGM musical. Every instrument creates the aura of innocent Technicolor romance and Forbes is the ideal leading lady looking out her frosted window onto the snow. Pink Martini is that good in creating an ambience in this album.

The one staple everyone looks for is “Silent Night” and Pink Martini includes it here. As they do with other tracks, they mix languages through the verses. Here, “Night” is sung in German, Arabic and English. This might put off some who need a good old-fashioned version of it, but the lullaby is just as delightful. Initially, we hear Forbes’ voice, but the final English verse is the one we all know and is sung by the Pacific Youth Choir, giving the end nice sweetness.

Pin Martini finishes off with a samba-esque “Auld Lang Syne” featuring the percussion of the Lions of Batucada. It is sung in English, Arabic and French (clearly, their thing), and I challenge you not to smile during this rendition. The fun energy is your best option for ringing in the New Year, if not just to put you in a good mood.

Pink Martini may have released the least expected Christmas album, but they might have also released the best one.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

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