HO HO WHO: In the 1960s, Dionne Warwick had a string of hits in collaboration with the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In the 1990s, she starred in a series of horrible commercials for the Psychic Friends Network. Now, she has released an album of Christmas duets, Dionne Warwick & The Voices of Christmas, a project which, if you think about it, sort of splits the difference between “commercialized mysticism” and “bland easy-listening music.” Dionne Warwick, you’ve done it again!
DUET TO IT: “Jingle Bell Rock” is a duet with former Doobie Brother and Sleigher favorite Michael McDonald, who has never met a song he can’t make huskier. Warwick’s casual, muted reading of “Jingle Bell Rock” makes for a hilarious contrast with McDonald, who yowls his verses as if he were trying to pass a kidney stone. “Hooo, giddy up, jingle horse,” he moans at one point, sounding like a man who very much has to get to the hospital, pronto. The duet somehow works, balancing on the edge of “too much” before ultimately landing on “just right.”
JINGLE BELL BLOOPER: “Jingle Bell Rock” is not a lyrically complicated song, so I have to ding McDonald for flubbing a line near the end. “Ohhh, giddy up, jingle bell, pick up your feet,” he croons, accidentally substituting “bell” for “horse” and making me very confused in the process. Does McDonald think that the jingle horse is actually named Jingle Bell? Does he expect us to believe that this sleigh is being pulled by an anthropomorphic bell of some sort? Or did he just record his part in one take and not bother to go back and fix the flubbed lyric?
CHEER FACTOR: 7/10. “Jingle Bell Rock” is a stone-cold classic, and Warwick and McDonald make the song their own while not straying too far from the template that made the original version great.
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