Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown is the 1994 Christmas album, Merry Christmas, by American singer, songwriter and actress, Mariah Carey. Does this album fill you with joy, or does it stand a snowball’s chance in Hell at making you feel festive? Read on…
This 11 track album opens with a gospel styled version of Silent Night. This version is a nice slow rendition of this classic song. Mariah manages to sneak in a few trademark high notes towards the end without going overboard on this song whilst piano and the choir carry the rest of the track.
Next up is the incredibly brilliant and original hit All I Want For Christmas Is You – a track that has probably become one of Mariah’s best known songs, and no doubt a steady earner as co-writer. The pace, the wall-of-sound style last heard on the Phil Spector Christmas Gift For You album, and the lyrics make this song so catchy and addictive.
In late 2019, with much media campaigning around the song, she filmed a new (and better) version of the music video. It wasn’t until December 2020 – 26 years after its release – that the song finally struck the UK #1 spot.
O Holy Night is the third track, opening with piano. This piano does remind me a bit of a simple plodding keyboard demo but thankfully the vocals really lift the track with both Mariah and the backing singers displaying some wonderful vocals. The track does feel like it drags on a bit at 4m 27s.
Next up is a cover of the Phil Spector-penned Darlene Love hit Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) which is more a-kin to All I Want… It’s bouncy and comes complete with sleigh bells and a saxophone section. It’s fairly loyal to the original 60s version, and Mariah makes light work of the song. I wonder what a Mariah and Phil Spector Christmas album may have been like?
A tinkling piano opens Miss You Most (At Christmas Time), which is one of the three original Mariah co-written tracks with songwriter and producer Walter Afanasieff. This is a great little track – delicate in its mixture of piano, strings, vocals. There’s even a video to accompany it.
The Christmas classic Joy To The World is the next to get the Mariah treatment, and whilst it starts off with her soaring vocals, it suddenly introduces a 1994 dance beat and gospel choir. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with the vocals, the music is dated and far too dance. This new shade of shame is courtesy of Clivillés and Cole (aka C+C Music Factory) who leave you with something sounding a bit like the travesty that is The Childliners‘ A Gift of Christmas.
Thankfully, we’re back to an acceptable Christmas track, albeit another original one by Mariah and Walter called Jesus Born On This Day. This time, Mariah is joined not by an erratic drum machine, but a children’s choir. This works really well, with them striking a great contrast between her higher strong vocals.
A Mariah Christmas album would be sorely missing this next track: Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, and it fits in perfectly. The piano is suitably crazy, mixed with the great bassline played by bass guitarist extraordinaire Randy Jackson. The children are back again for this song, although they’re sounding pretty whizzed up on sugary sweets at the end. Their parents will be peeved.
Hark! The Heralds Angels Sing/Gloria (In Excelsis Dea) medley is up next. Mariah’s vocals sound beautiful introducing Hark! with piano and when pitched alongside her backing vocals the song delivers some delicious sounding harmonies.
It’s full on gospel for penultimate track Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child – which in true gospel style, it has a false ending, and then an extremely fast real ending during which Mariah goes crazy, showing off her vocal skills both pitch and agility.
The album closes with classic God, Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. This version is stripped down with Mariah’s delicate vocals backed with her trusty backing vocalists. There’s no beats or other instruments here – just vocals. This makes it a perfect ending to a Christmas album that’s filled with gospel, wall of sound, and sympathetic renditions of classics.
Sadly, that dance-fuelled Joy To The World ruins the run of things. So, if you listen to this album, just skip that track. There’s also what feels like a few lazy piano sections here, and when reading the sleeve notes, you realise that most of the album is keyboard and synth instruments – I bet a full orchestra version would have made a difference.
Interestingly, despite the success of the single All I Want For Christmas Is You in the UK, the album remained outside the Top 30. It saw much greater success in many other countries and reached #1 in the USA and Japan, and #2 in Australia. That aside, it pretty much is essential Christmas listening.
In 2010 she released a follow-up Christmas album entitled Merry Christmas II You, but again, despite success in the USA, that reached #101 in the UK album charts.
- POP RESCUE 2014 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1994 UK CHART POSITION: #32, certified Gold.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store in August.