By Robert M. Marovich
My Colorful Christmas, the first yuletide album from GRAMMY Awardee Regina Belle, and issued on her own imprint, Tashi3 Entertainment, traverses mostly familiar holiday fare. Traditional carols and more recently-composed Christmas songs receive bubbly jazz and R&B arrangements tagged with improvisatory, and sometimes downright evangelistic, codas.
Indeed, the spiritual codas from Belle and her background vocalists are what distinguish this album from other Christmas collections by popular singers. For example, Belle tags the Latin-flavored “Silent Night” with a sobering allusion to Easter when she sings, “He was born to save me.” The musicians bestow an island vibe to “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” complete with real or simulated steel drums, as the background singers bake robust gospel choir harmonies into the score. A Latin rhythm, subtle but unmistakable, also informs “Away in a Manger.”
The album’s finest track is “A Baby Changes Everything,” a lovely duet between Belle and her daughter, the lithe-voiced Sydni Battle. In my opinion, this fascinating take on the virgin birth introduced in 2008 by Faith Hill is one of the cleverer carols to come out in recent times. The mother-daughter duet underscores the song’s metaphoric intent. “The First Noel” earns the superlative of the album’s prettiest arrangement of a traditional carol.
There is one original song, “I Had to Leave (A Song from Bernie),” which Belle co-wrote with her late brother, Bernard Belle. It’s not a holiday tune but a kindhearted, if wistful, ballad of gratitude and farewell with the soul of a show tune—ideal for closing a live performance.
My Colorful Christmas benefits from quality production with lush strings, acoustic flourishes, and vibrant singing from the timeless songstress. Her voice is as strong as ever. While not breaking new ground in the production of Christmas albums, it makes for enjoyable listening and will certainly please Regina Belle’s estimable fan base.
Four of Five Stars
Picks: “A Baby Changes Everything,” “The First Noel”