Today’s Pop Rescue from an uncertain festive future, is the 1982 edition of the Christmas album Christmas With Boney M by Euro-Caribbean vocal group, Boney M. Will this album be full of Cool yule, or more ‘oh my Lord, no!’ mistake? Read on…
This 12 track LP opens with lead single Little Drummer Boy, and that’s a perfect starter with heavenly choir vocals. It builds slowly, from the initial and constant male ‘puh-ruh-puh-pom-pom’ vocal line that weaves the track together. The vocal harmonies on this are wonderful and it’s a brilliant start to the album. It was also the album’s lead single in 1981, but wasn’t released in the UK.
Next up is second single Zion’s Daughter, and this is not a song that I’m familiar with (but it turns out that it’s based on a piece by composer Handel), but the Boney M sound is certainly familiar. The track is nicely up-beat with some great vocal harmonies, but the end result is a song that’s not particularly very catchy. The track was also not released in the UK.
Classic When A Child Is Born follows this, and it opens with a few dramatic chords before settling into a familiar bouncy Caribbean style sound that’s synonymous with Boney M. The vocals are once again wonderful here, and they deliver this Christmas hit with seemingly great ease.
The group’s huge hit Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord is next, and was a UK #1 hit for them back in 1978. The track is a masterpiece, instantly recognisable, and its inclusion here is perfectly placed, if not least to give shoppers another reason to buy this whole Christmas album. Excellent.
That’s followed by instrumental original track Winter Fairy-Tale, written and performed by the album’s keyboardist and musical arranger Harry Baierl. Essentially, it’s a nice enough track with what sounds like a combination of space birds and a Casio keyboard playing a sort of missing Jean-Michel Jarre song. It’s a filler, but nice enough.
Side One comes to a close with I’ll Be Home For Christmas, and this sees a male lead vocal for the first time so far, in the form of the group’s producer, German Frank Farian. He’s not even on the cover, or in the group (as advertised), but he throws his vocals in for a song that sounds like a cousin to Stop The Cavalry meets a 1970’s children’s TV show character song. It has a few childishly catchy moments, but you’ll soon forget it.
Side Two opens with Feliz Navidad, and this is a belter. There is no way that anyone can resist singing along in the repetitive and simple catchy-as-Hell chorus, or at the very least jiggle about a bit in their seat. The catchiness is added too by a recurring kind of flute or pan-pipe sound (probably on keyboards) that weaves itself through the track and into your brain. This is a brilliant side opener.
We’re treated next to a medley – consisting of Holy Night, Snow Falls Over The Ground, and Hear Ye The Message. This 6m 25s track begins gently with the familiar Silent Night lyrics and yet more beautiful vocals. The vocal harmonies are once again shining here, and the minimal backing track allows these vocals and the songs’ simplicity to have space to breathe. After some German vocals, and the latter two segments of the medley fade, the result is a nice little trip for me across two unfamiliar tracks.
The Irving Berlin classic White Christmas follows that, and we’re given a more up-beat and funkier guitar and bass sound, but given the beautiful vocals we’ve already heard elsewhere on this album, I feel that this song is left a bit dull and lacking in its attempt to genre-shift.
Darkness Is Falling and despite the sinister title, the track begins with a piano and yet more beautiful solo vocals. It’s a downbeat track, but that doesn’t stop it from being a lovely sounding track. Once again, vocal harmonies are expertly delivered and well placed.
The Caribbean sounds return for Jingle Bells – the classic Christmas time song that’s not about Christmas, but about the thrills of reckless joy-riding instead. Those of you familiar with Boney M’s UK chart hits will feel reassured with the return of ‘their sound’, and it results in a nice catchy track.
The album closes with Petit Papa Noël, sung, unless I’m mistaken, entirely in French like the 1946 Tino Rossi version. It’s a gentle little song that fits perfectly at the end of the album.
Over all, this album may be a Christmas album, but the song choices are not those that the UK audience would necessarily associate with Christmas albums. There’s plenty of songs here that I’m not familiar with, which is always nice to find, but the Christmas feeling lacks a little.
That said, the Boney M ‘sound’ is a delight, and when they do use it, the tracks are great – the unmistakable glory of Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord is undeniably great, but so too are their versions of Feliz Navidad and Little Drummer Boy. The vocals on When A Child Is Born and Holy Night (both from Liz Mitchell) are magnificently heavenly.
There are few lesser tracks here – Zion’s Daughter, a genre mis-step of White Christmas, and the nice but mis-placed Winter Fairy-Tale detract from the 5 stars, but whilst none of them are wildly off the mark, you’ll be listening out for the others.
- POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1982 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: Did not chart in the UK.
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.20 from an eBay seller.