This Christmas: The Idea of North

ABC 476 5169

Reviewed by Barry Walmsley

If you want your Christmas to groove along with some stunning arrangements, then The Idea of North’s latest recording is an absolutely must.

This ensemble, known for its contemporary flavour and mellow vocal blend, has captured the joy of the season with a selection of traditional carols. American Christmas-themed songs (Have Yourself a Merry Christmas, The Christmas Song / Chestnuts Roasting, and I’ll Be Home for Christmas), also features along with some more modern numbers (Angel, Candlelight Carol), and are all mixed together with sophisticated jazz harmonies and some wonderfully rich orchestrations.

James Morrison’s inclusion (playing trombone) in Mary’s Boy Child lends an improvisatory edge to the setting, whilst the reprise of this song as a band mix has a more Latin feel. The title track, This Christmas, has an all-encompassing Christmas appeal (and some additional fine solo guitar work).

The inspirational song Angel (In the Arms of the Angel) has seen performances from all over the world, including from the song-writer Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Westlife, Angelis, The King’s Singers, and Katherine Jenkins, not to mention this Australian version, which is as powerful as those famous renderings before it.

Australia’s most recognised contribution to the Australian carol tradition is not forgotten either, with William James’s The Silver Stars are in the Sky, which shows the group’s ability to find new harmonic gestures throughout the lullaby-like verses.

The Christmas Medley seamlessly merges rhythmic responses of Once in Royal David’s City and Hark The Herald Angels Sing, with a more straight forward God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Poverty is hymn-like in its four-part traditional harmonies, giving a respite to the rhythmically energised arrangements that occupy the bulk of this recording.

Poignancy and simplicity is found in the Thad Jones signature tune, A Child is Born (complete with trumpet doubling the melody).

This CD should get a real workout this Christmas season, and become a favourite for many. Beautifully sung and meticulously recorded, The Idea of North has produced another gem in this recording, where every track has real musical magic.