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HO HO WHO: Herb Alpert, the last of the old-time bandleaders, has lived a hell of a life: He co-founded A&M Records, sold tens of millions of albums with the Tijuana Brass, and helped show the world that whipped cream is sexy. Now he’s back with The Christmas Wish, his first holiday album since 1968. I do not think that anyone was really clamoring for a new Herb Alpert Christmas album in 2017, but Herb Alpert is old and rich and does what he wants. Just like Santa Claus!
TIMELESS TUNES: The album’s title track is a sonic throwback to the days where every respectable holiday album featured a full orchestra. A slow, jazzy, impeccably recorded ballad that features a nice Alpert trumpet solo in the middle, “The Christmas Wish” sounds like it has always existed. It summons good, nostalgic feelings. To listen is to be transported back to the Kennedy administration—which, according to respected holiday scientists, was the era of peak Christmas cheer.
WORLD’S WORST PRESENT: “The Christmas Wish” is the rare Christmas song that makes no mention of Santa, the Christ child, snow, sleigh rides, variously colored bells, homecomings, figgy pudding, or getting run over by a reindeer. What is it about, then? Hard to say. The lyrics are blandly sentimental, and occasionally very stupid. Take the opening stanza, for instance: “If I could gift-wrap a wish/ I’d write a card that would say/ This is the spirit of Christmas morning/ Open right away.” This cheapskate wants to give someone an empty box for Christmas.
CHEER FACTOR: 6.5/10. Most holiday songs straddle a line between sweetness and insipidity, and the production values here put “The Christmas Wish” on the jolly side of that line.