The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

by: Take 6

A cappella recordings are the exception rather than the rule in Christmas music -- for that matter, they are the exception rather than the rule in most areas of music -- but an absence of instruments can serve Christmas music well if it is done right. In fact, the a cappella approach yields enjoyable results for Take 6 on 2010's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, which is their first Christmas album since 1999's We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Only on a performance of pianist Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time Is Here" (which features pianist/singer Shelea Frazier as a guest) does this 33-minute CD use any type of instrument; the rest of the album is strictly a cappella, and that's a good thing because the lack of instruments really makes Take 6's delightful vocal harmonies jump out at the listener. Those harmonies are as captivating on arrangements of 20th century Christmas pop standards (including "Sleigh Ride," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," and the title track) as they are on some pre-20th century European carols (among them, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and "I Saw Three Ships"). And Take 6 have a lot of fun with "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," which is easily the disc's most humorous offering. Listeners who acquired We Wish You a Merry Christmas when it first came out back in 1999 will find that The Most Wonderful Time of the Year isn't any less appealing. ~ Alex Henderson

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