Darlene Love and Christmas go together like peanut butter and chocolate. I welcome any opportunity to hear her church-trained pipes taking on the trappings of the season, and It’s Christmas, Of Course finds her in stellar form. From her choice of material through her vocal performances, from the cover art to the range of styles, Love has assembled a fine, fine holiday album here.
There’s less gospel or religious themed material then you’d think. If any performer could make me care about hearing another version of “The First Noel,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” or “What Child Is This,” it would be Love. There’s only two of the twelve songs that center around religious imagery or feature lyrics that mention Jesus directly, “Christmas Must Be Tonight” and “Night of Peace.” “Night of Peace” is the stronger of the two as it features Love’s voice quacking with restraint, emotional devotion and tenderness.
The rest of the material is assembled of covers of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Christmas All Over Again”), James Brown (“Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto”), the Pretenders (“2000 Miles”), and John Lennon (“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”), just to name a check a few of my favorites. Her version of “2000 Miles” drips with the emotional longing and melancholy of the song, while her “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” is equal parts empathetic and emphatic. Yet it’s her version of “Christmas All Over Again” that announces itself as best of the pack straight out the gate. It’s refreshing to hear Love sing straight rock and roll, and her big voice adopts itself to Tom Petty’s rollicking song quite fetchingly.
Sure, the production here is more staid and generic than any of her well-known Spector classics, or her team-up with the E Street Band for “All Alone on Christmas,” but it’s still a uniformly solid album of seasonal material. Props to Love for releasing a new Christmas album without a “Silent Night” to be found, and for going with a colorful cover that forsakes the traditional red, green and white color palette. It won’t rival “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” but it also only adds to her artistic legacy and domination of the season.
DOWNLOAD: “Christmas All Over Again”